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Believing in ‘soulmates’ may make you more likely to ghost someone, study finds

Even if it wasn't 'destined,' it doesn't mean you can treat someone poorly, though.


Published May 2, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 4:57 pm CDT


If you’ve ever had someone you were dating disappear from your life without a trace, you’ve most likely spent plenty of time wondering why people ghost their partners — and who can blame you? Not only is it confusing AF, but it can really hurt. But if you thought that ghosting is just something people do because they’re rude, I regret to inform you that it might not necessarily be that simple.

“While the consensus is that people who ghost are insensitive jerks, I’ve always thought differently,” Jonathan Bennett, Relationship and Dating Expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. “While ghosting is insensitive, many people who ghost do so because they lack the courage and assertiveness needed to be direct. Ghosting is the easy way out and most people will take that route if it creates them the least hassle. They might even feel that ghosting is a more humane option than telling the truth.”

To get to the bottom of the mystery of why certain people are OK with ghosting and others aren’t, Gili Freedman, a postdoc at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, conducted a study of over 500 men and women, asking them to fill out a questionnaire about their love lives. In particular, she asked them about their experiences with both ghosting and being ghosted, as well as their belief in “destiny” versus “growth” — destiny meaning a belief that everyone has one soulmate, and growth meaning a belief that people change over time, and a relationship on the rocks can still be salvaged.

Freedman found that those who were “strong” believers in destiny were actually more likely to be OK with the practice of ghosting: compared to those with a weaker belief in destiny, they were 22 percent more likely to find ghosting acceptable in a short-term relationship, and 63 percent more likely to find it acceptable in a long-term relationship. But is believing your soulmate is still out there somewhere a good enough reason to disappear on someone who cares about you?

“[Regarding] a belief in destiny, just because you believe that something is predetermined doesn’t excuse you from being a polite, kind human being,” Bennett says. “You can believe someone isn’t your soulmate and still let him or her down more easily. So, destiny is likely an excuse at this point.”

The study also found that stronger believers in destiny were 24 percent less likely to think poorly of a ghoster, and 43 percent more likely to consider doing it themselves. On the flip side, stronger believers in growth were 35 percent more likely to think poorly of a ghoster — but were no more or less willing to ghost someone themselves.

“My guess is that those with a growth attitude not only work on relationships but also their own self-improvement,” Bennett says. “And, they expect it from others. So a believer in fate might not think [they] need to worry about being a better person or expect it from others. But a person with a growth mindset probably expects more from other people and themselves, including being assertive enough not to ghost. They will make this effort due to their personal values, even if it makes them uncomfortable.”

So what does it all mean? While someone who believes in destiny might be more willing to act decisively (read: initiate a breakup via ghosting) when they come to the conclusion that their partner isn’t “The One,” those who believe that people and relationships can grow and change over time might be more likely to put in the work to get a relationship back on track when things aren’t going smoothly.

Ultimately, though, how you view relationships and conduct your own dating life is totally up to you. Whether you’re firmly in the no-ghosting camp, think it’s A-OK, or you’re on the fence about it, at least try to follow the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated.


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*First Published: May 2, 2018, 5:30 am CDT