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Over the past few months, the term 'ghosting' has started to pop up more and more in the dating world. But what does it mean?

Though it may sound like an adorable Scooby Doo-esque caper that involves unmasking a disgruntled fairground owner, ghosting actually refers to a particularly cowardly form of breaking up with someone where you suddenly and without warning stop having any kind of contact or communication with them.

Some 'ghosters' try to justify this method as a way of ending a relationship with someone without hurting their feelings, because they don't have to have 'the talk'; really, it's a sign of immaturity and a lack of respect. It's like the emotional version of having your bra strap pinged at school. But worse.

So how do you know that you're heading for a ghosting, and what should you do if you find your relationship ends without a word?

The signs:

Though it can seem like a ghosting situation often comes out of the blue, there are some signs that you can be on the lookout for. If you take them on their own, these signs don't necessarily point to the end of a relationship, but once you put them all together, things can look a little different...

1. You're the one prompting all communications.

Obviously, people are busy sometimes, and they aren't always able to chat. But if you find that, more often than not, you're the person breaking that lengthy silence, it could be an indication that they're really not as invested in your relationship, and are already withdrawing.

Of course, some people just don't find it easy to communicate. But if they've never struggled in the past, and their responses are getting fewer and further between, it's a sign that something could have changed - and not necessarily for the better. Especially if...

2. Their replies are much, much shorter than yours.

Not everyone can (or necessarily wants to) write lengthy love letters over WhatsApp, or enjoys detailing every single part of their day. But someone who doesn't occasionally ask about what's happening in your life doesn't seem like someone who is particularly interested in you, which, when it comes to making a relationship last, isn't ideal.

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Lots of, 'Hah', 'Nope', 'K', and other monosyllabic, closed-end responses indicate that they aren't open to creating any kind of dialogue with you, perhaps because they don't want to get drawn into a situation that they will find it harder to get out of later.

A few short messages here and there are nothing to worry about; one-word answers every time are maybe a bigger cause for concern.

3. They're really hard to pin down on future plans.

Whether it's a drink that evening or your friend's wedding three months down the line, a ghoster isn't going to be keen on planning too far in advance. They might avoid the question; they might make generic excuses; or they might actually seem really keen but kind of vague on all the details.

If you notice that someone who used to really love making plans to see you and do things with is now dragging their heels, it could be a sign that there's something that needs addressing.

4. They find it easy to block out other people that they care about.

Though it can be easy to convince ourselves that someone we like would never treat us the way they treat other people, watching someone's behaviour around other people can be very telling. If you know that they were once close to someone, but now, for some reason they've never really explained, they never see or speak to them anymore, it could be a sign that they find it easier than most to withdraw.

Obviously, there could be more complex reasons, but if you find that this seems to be a pattern that's happened more than once, it could be something to keep an eye on.

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What should you do?

If you suspect that your partner is withdrawing, the most important thing that you can do is to confront them about it face-to-face. Not in an aggressive, I-know-what-you're-doing-and-I-won't-have-it kind of way, but tell them that you've noticed a change in their behaviour, and it's concerning you. Encourage them to speak to you openly, without judgement, and without getting defensive, because this is your best chance to learn the truth.

It could be that everything they've been doing isn't actually related to your relationship at all, and is because of other problems or stresses in their life. If so, ask them to tell you more about what's going on, because it will help you to understand how you're best able to support them.

If they refuse to answer, or insist that everything is fine, then, according to your own judgement, you can ask them is if they want to end the relationship. You may think that this is giving them the easy way out, and in a way, it is; but it's also giving you the easy way out, too.

Would it be more painful for you in the long run to have them say everything's OK, then drop off the face of the Earth, or to agree mutually to break up so that you can get some closure?

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Of course, that may not be what they want at all. But if they insist that that isn't the case, explain that the way they've been acting isn't making you feel secure in your relationship, and that if they want it to continue, they need to address why they've been doing it.

If you find that, after all this, your relationship still ends in a ghosting, at least you can reassure yourself that you tried your hardest. It's very easy to come away from a situation like this blaming yourself, because you've never been given any reason as to why it happened, but the truth is, they did this because they were too scared to see what your reaction to the break-up would be face-to-face. It truly is a case of, 'It's them, not you.'

Plus, you could always respond to their silence by sending endless GIFs from Ghostbusters.

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Have you ever ghosted someone, or had it happen to you?

Let us know more in the comments below.

Written by Sammi Cole / Lovehoney

Featured Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

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