Why is being ghosted after sex so much more painful?December 16, 2022
Written by Amy Beecham
Being ghosted is never easy to come to terms with, but after being intimate with someone it becomes particularly painful. Can we ever learn to get over it?
When Alice*, 27, started dating James*, who she met on Tinder in 2019, she thought she’d finally cracked the online dating code. “It was easy from the get-go,” she says. “We went on three dates in the same number of days, and every time it felt like our connection and chemistry was strengthening.”
But after they slept together for the first time a few dates later, Alice says that she immediately noticed a change in his behaviour.
“It was like a switch had been flicked and he was distant and distracted,” she shares. “Even as we were saying goodbye that night, he was making comments about how busy he was going to be for the next month and that we wouldn’t be able to see each other.”
Alice says she knew then that she’d likely never hear from James again, and her suspicions were correct. For weeks, her messages and attempts to reconnect went unansweredbefore she eventually gave up hope and deleted his number. “I felt used, like he’d laid it on thick until he got what he wanted and then just ditched me,” she admits. “It made me seriously wary about people who love-bomb you with only one thing in mind.”
In the dating world, ghosting is nothing new, and the record use of dating apps has only made it easier. A 2019 study by various US universities found that respondents had ghosted 29% of the people they had dated, and had been ghosted by 25% of dates themselves. In addition, 74% of respondents said they believed that ghosting was an appropriate way to end a relationship.
Whether it’s during a talking stage or after a few dates, being ghosted is almost always a confusing and painful experience. But after being intimate with someone? It can feel all the more excruciating. This is because sex heightens our emotional connections, releasing oxytocin, a hormone that strengthens attachment, which makes it even more hurtful when that bond is broken.
Interestingly, oxytocin is thought to be found more abundantly in females, which plays into the stereotype that women are more emotionally attached than men after intercourse.
But while sex can deepen an existing bond between two people, the thing that actually makes us feel attached is the sense of intimacy and chemistry. Things like looking into each other’s eyes or sharing personal stories with one another can also create the same type of bond.
Why does being ghosted after sex hurt so much?
“The feeling of rejection can be really hard to deal with when it comes after you’ve had sex,” Ed Buhler, director at sexual wellness brand Bodyjoys, tells Stylist.
“Being ghosted plays on your doubts – the lack of explanation leaves you stuck with your insecurities, picking at the parts of yourself that you’re unhappy with to work out if that’s what caused them to ignore you. And of course, it bruises your ego, making you question whether the ghosting is directly related to the sex, your performance or your body.”
It’s true. Not only are you experiencing sadness that you’ll no longer be spending time with someone you were interested in, but you’re also left feeling bad about yourself. Your self-esteem takes a real hit and you might even find yourself being put off dating to avoid getting hurt again.
However, Buhler insists that speculating the reasons behind the ghosting isn’t worth the emotional turmoil it causes.
“Of course, there could be any number of reasons why they ghosted you, and most of them have nothing to do with you. That won’t necessarily make it any less painful if you really liked them, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t reflect badly on you – in all likelihood, the reason for the ghosting lies with them,” he adds.
According to Alice, time was the biggest healer when it came to getting over her ghosting. “It’s cliched but true, after obsessing over how and why it ended, I eventually just thought about him less and less.”
Buhler agrees, adding that the key is to be kind to yourself. “Accept that your emotions are legitimate but try not to dwell on them – regardless of their justification for wanting to end the relationship, the cold method of ghosting reflects badly on the other person, not you.”
And don’t let the experience put you off dating, he says. “There’s no reason to think that because it happened once it will happen again, and you deserve to be happy.”
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