A ‘heartbreaking’ new dating phenomenon combining two toxic relationship trends is causing trust issues among people using online dating apps.
Ghostlighting, a combination of gaslighting and ghosting, has popped up on dating apps and for people in long-distance relationships in recent months.
Ghosting is when communication abruptly stops without explanation. Because of this, the person who was ghosted often wonders if they did something wrong.
Meanwhile, gaslighting is a manipulative technique where someone deceives another person and creates a false narrative that makes the other person question their own judgment or sanity.
In “ghostlighting,” one stops talking to the other person altogether and, as soon as he returns, makes him think he’s done nothing wrong.
“The person returns, but doesn’t take over the ghosting [and] highlights the person and really creates a lot of uncertainty and questions for the individual,” Dr. Carolyn Rubenstein, a licensed psychologist in Florida, told DailyMail.com.
“It’s a whole new level of manipulation, and it’s pretty horrible and scary to watch.”
Ghostlighting is a combination of ghosting and gaslighting. Ghostlighting is when someone stops talking to the other person altogether and, as soon as they come back, makes them think they didn’t do anything wrong
She’s noticed this more and more over the past three months, and these patients are usually in their 20s or 30s.
Some people meet ghostlighters on dating apps, while others notice it during long-distance relationships.
Dr. Rubenstein said that when someone is illuminated by a ghost, it induces a sense of self-doubt and paranoia because the perpetrator makes them think there is something wrong with them and that the problem is their fault.
“They start to doubt themselves a lot, which can damage confidence. They’re starting to feel low self esteem… very anxious in general because there’s a lot of uncertainty’
“It’s really heartbreaking.”
Someone who is ghostlit is also more likely to develop trust issues, even if the relationship hasn’t had a problem so far.
“There’s almost going to be hypervigilance in relationships where you start looking for red flags when maybe you weren’t before,” Dr. Rubenstein said.
“It’s going to be a very, very alarming landscape for relationships.”
It’s not entirely clear where ghostlighting comes from and why there’s been a recent resurgence, but the online dating landscape has made it easier to fall into that trap.
“People are becoming more and more liberated, if maybe they were more manipulative, to hide that part from further until the relationship and they got to know the person,” Dr. Rubenstein said.
“Then you’d see the ugly side.”
To find out what might drive someone to ghostlight, Dr. Rubenstein focused on ghosting and gaslighting separately.
About ghosting, she said, “I see a lot of people who are very anxious doing it because they don’t want to hurt anyone, so they think ghosting is the most fun way.”
Gaslighting, however, is a different story.
“The person who does is usually a manipulative person, not a nice person. You might see a bit of narcissism in it,” she said.
“You see it a lot with someone who honestly may have tried another relationship that didn’t work out, so this is like a backup and they’re not really in it.”
“They don’t really feel emotions and are more or less superficial with the person and won’t take responsibility.”
If you think you’re being enlightened by a ghost, try talking to someone who is neutral about the situation, such as a friend or a therapist. Putting the experience into words can help put it in a different perspective.
“You don’t just feel it, but you’re logically able to investigate it,” said Dr. Rubenstein.
‘Be protective of yourself. Be very, very protective of yourself. Don’t let anyone break you down. You don’t deserve that; no one does.’
“I think there’s just a basic level of respect that we all deserve.”