No one wants to get ghosted. It sucks and genuinely hurts if you’re into someone (even just platonically) and they suddenly stop talking to you. I can’t tell you a magic phrase that will leave someone feeling happy that you’re cutting them out of your life, but at least you can face them with maturity and honesty.
Ghosting someone isn’t the answer, and it’s a pretty dick move to make. No one has to wonder what they did wrong or cling to false promises. It will still probably hurt, but at least everyone can let go and move on with their lives.
“I’m not in a good place right now.”
We all have bad days, and some people have bad months and even bad years. It can be tough to muster the energy to be around people in those bad times. It isn’t a good idea to isolate yourself, but if you need to just have contact with a small handful of close loved ones, that’s okay.
Forcing yourself to be around people you aren’t interested in being around anymore isn’t fun for anyone. Odds are they’ll be able to tell anyway and either try harder to get your attention, they might lash out, or they’ll just be hurt and could internalize the negativity.
Admitting to someone you need some time to yourself because you’re just not in a good place is a great way to distance yourself without ghosting them. You can sort out your thoughts and really decide if you want to continue separating yourself or if you think you can give the relationship another go.
“I need to focus on me.”
This is pretty similar to not being in a good place and is bordering on cliché, but if you’re gentle/ firm when you tell someone there isn’t much they can say to argue. It can be overwhelming just to exist and try to keep up with everything going on in life. Taking time to evaluate where you’re at and how you’re doing is essential every so often.
Focusing on yourself especially makes sense if you’ve recently gone through stressful/ traumatic events. A new job, losing someone you care about, grieving, starting at a new school, etc.
When you make it clear that you’re the problem and not them, it makes it a little easier to accept what’s happening. After all, they can try to change themselves, but it’s a lot harder to try to change you.
“I feel like I need to prioritize other relationships/ my career/ etc.”
It can be a struggle to balance intimate relationships, family stuff, and school or work. Sometimes you’ve gotta make tough choices and cut back on one or more where you can just to have the energy to get through the rest.
Even if you do have the energy for it, maybe you’re just not feeling it. They’ll understand a little more if you let them know where you want your priorities to lay, and any sane person will acknowledge that and want to find people who will prioritize them. Playing second fiddle in an unhappy relationship isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.
It’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to put more time and effort into your career, and it’s a sign of maturity to realize that will probably take time away from maintaining your current relationships.
“I don’t think I can give you the time you deserve.”
The gentlest not-quite breakup I ever experienced was when someone admitted they were really into me and wanted to date me, but they just didn’t have the time for a relationship. It was honest, it was kind, and most of all, it didn’t feel like a cringe euphemism for “it’s not you, it’s me (but really it’s you).”
Telling someone you can’t give them the time they deserve lets them know that you still care about them, that they’re still worthy of good things, and most of all, it lets them know they didn’t do anything bad. It doesn’t mean it won’t still hurt, but at least it feels like something that’s out of everyone’s hands and not a conscious choice because they suck.
Letting someone know you just can’t give them enough time also means you can naturally drift apart without ghosting them. It can be all at once if you want, or it can be a gradual thing, but either way, they know it’s coming.
“I don’t think we want the same things in life.”
More for romantic relationships than platonic ones but effective, nonetheless. You can want different things out of life from your partner, but if what you want is too different, it’ll be hard to stay together.
You’re not asking them to change who they are or what they want; you’re just letting them know that what they want isn’t what you want any more, and it’s better to part ways now rather than down the line where it could get messy.
In the event they try to say they’ll change for you, you can evaluate if that will help (probably not, but hey, maybe it will if they actually stick to it) or firmly tell them you don’t want them to change. A natural part of growing is growing apart, and it’s unfortunate, but even relationships with people you still love can fall apart.
In the end
No matter how you choose to put distance between you and someone else, it’s best to let them know something is wrong before you vanish in a puff of smoke. I know it can feel like a huge confrontation, and confrontations suck, but it sucks even more to lose someone you care about without knowing why. In fact, Zoe Chance, Ph.D., wrote a whole article for Psychology Today on how ghosting is more harmful than we think.
You may not owe anyone a reason for your decisions, but it doesn’t hurt to let them down gently with these phrases. Ending your relationship without ghosting may be tough, but it will be the kind thing to do in the long run.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to distance someone, check out our blog on what makes a good friend to help you decide. It’s easier to cut out someone who is a bad friend than a good one, after all.
Would you rather ghost or be ghosted?