The unfortunate pairing of ghosting and gaslighting has unfolded as the newest alarming dating phenomenon: “ghostlighting.”
This feared fusion of deceit and sudden absence comes as a double shock for individuals seeking romance.
“Gaslighting is implying that someone’s emotion or comprehension is the issue. Ghosting occurs when communication ends unexpectedly,” relationship advisor Cher Gopman, also known as the NYC Wingwoman, explained to The Post.
“The two often coincide, as ghostlighting typically leaves the targeted individual feeling it was their own fault.”
Ghostlighting shouldn’t be mistaken for “being zombied,” which resembles ghosting but the match reemerges after a few months.
In the chilly seasons, this dodgy behavior is also labeled “winter coating,” referring to an old flame returning just in time for the coupling season, only to discard you when spring arrives.
These dating practices, however, significantly differ from the newer, more feared ghostlighter – the key lies in their manipulative strategies, experts informed The Post.
“Ghostlighting typically leaves the targeted individual feeling it was their own fault,” relationship advisor Cher Gopman claimed.
Ghostlighters often love bomb, then vanish — only to resurface later, denying they ever disappeared.
Individuals unfortunate enough to encounter a “ghostlighter” often enjoy what they perceive to be a “wonderful relationship,” Gopman detailed, but it rapidly degrades.
A love bombing phase begins — an emotional deception characterized by over-the-top affection or gift-giving — followed by vanishing and a reappearance “as if nothing transpired.”
The “ghostlighter” refuses to accept accountability for the initial disappearance, which can ultimately lead individuals to experience anxiety, depression, and insecurity — they might even foster trust issues or self-doubt.
“This leads the recipient to feel insufficient, ‘inferior’ or not good enough,” Gopman said, adding that after being “ghostlit,” the person on the receiving end “starts to question every action they took.”
The ghostlighter can also shift the blame to the other party, triggering a cycle of self-doubt and trust issues.
Becoming ‘zombied’ is the latest dating trend — and it’s more severe than ‘ghosting’
In the direst scenario, it could affect the individual’s future relationships, inducing a fear of being “ghostlit” again and, consequently, becoming emotionally reserved.
“Ghostlighters lack emotional intelligence, particularly empathy,” New Jersey relationship expert Rachel DeAlto informed The Post. “They prioritize conserving their emotional energy over addressing any distress they may have caused.”
Although ghostlighters are likely conflict-avoidant and unwilling to confront their behavior, sociologist and intimacy coach Jenn Gunsaullus advocates for open dialogue with the supposed ghostlighter.
“Branding someone’s behavior as ‘ghosting’ may make them defensive, but if you were fond of the person and it seemed like they ghosted you and then reappeared, it’s appropriate to just ask, ‘Hey, what happened? Our interactions were pleasant, and then you vanished for a bit,'” she suggested to The Post.
“This could elicit a more truthful reply to your real query.”
Two people fighting while sitting in the living room
“Ghostlighters lack emotional intelligence, particularly empathy,” relationship expert Rachel DeAlto pointed out.
Ghostlighting is just the latest dating pattern to emerge, as single individuals devise an increasing number of ways to mishandle potential romantic pursuits.
“Fizzling,” which surfaced earlier this year, is the more malicious sibling of traditional ghosting that lets the flame gradually, well, fizzle, rather than abruptly severing contact.
Guide to Ghostlighting
What is Ghostlighting?
Ghostlighting occurs when someone you’re dating suddenly disappears (ghosting) and, upon their return, manipulates the narrative (gaslighting). The ghostlighter might deny their disappearance or blame you for their absence, leaving you confused and questioning your reality.
Identifying ghostlighting isn’t always straightforward, as it often involves subtle manipulation. Key signs include:
Sudden disappearance without explanation.
Inconsistent and misleading responses upon return.
Feeling responsible for their absence without reason.
Doubting your memory or feelings about the relationship.
Ghostlighting can leave deep psychological scars. It can lead toReduced self-esteem and self-worth.
Trust issues in current and future relationships.
Emotional distress and confusion.
How to Respond to Ghostlighting
Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it probably is. Trust your feelings and experiences.
Seek Support: Talk to friends or a therapist who can provide an outside perspective.
Set Boundaries: Clearly communicate your boundaries to the person. If they continue to disrespect them, it might be time to walk away.
Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize your well-being. Engage in activities that boost your mood and self-esteem.