How to Break Up Like an Adult and Avoid The Despicable Art of Ghosting

Many of you might be familiar with a fairly recent term, "Ghosting" that we often overhear when people speak of the dating world.  This notion of "ghosting" refers to someone suddenly and virtually "vanishing" from the life and radar of the person whom they're dating.  As I sit in the therapist chair, I hear of this phenomenon almost daily--the idea of someone, with whom you were in some type of a romantic relationship--even if merely a fledgling one--becoming no longer reachable or in contact with you, with little to zero warning. Thus, the "ghoster" becomes someone whom you just never see, again, unless by accident.  A relationship ends before you may have even known it might end, at all, and you never get to hear any sort of reason or explanation as to why this person no longer wishes to see you or be in your life.  Sounds callous, doesn't it?  It sounds callous because it is.  Not only is it callous, but I argue it telegraphs a clear message of disrespect and a lack of empathy.  Let me clarify, that if someone has only had 1-3 dates with you, and you never hear from them, again, I'm willing to let that slide as acceptable behavior--provided you had no other friends in common or connection to each other aside from those few encounters. As a therapist, I receive news of ghosting from both ends.  I empathize with those patients who have been ghosted on.  I also basically am asked for feedback and validation on if ghosting someone is acceptable.  While my job as a clinician, I believe, is more to hold up a mirror rather than to advise, I always make it quite clear that I never advocate for ghosting.  I would tell that patient that that behavior is downright cowardly and nothing short of despicable.  Why?  Because it lacks in any sort of consideration or empathy for the other person--particularly when this person is being broken up with. While I always would want to question the motivation of a person through a non-judgmental lens,  I would still have to argue that in life there are right and wrong ways to handle things according to our moral compasses.  Ghosting seems to lack any sort of care for another person's feelings.  People may ghost for different reasons, but if you ghost on someone purely to avoid the discomfort that might come about with having to sit someone down and have a break-up talk, then that is clearly a selfish act.  Also, think of the person whom you're breaking up with--that person might not even realize a breakup is even imminent.  That person is doomed to have their feelings hurt, just by virtue of being the more interested party.  Do not get me wrong, if you feel the need to cut someone out of your life due to safety issues or anything like that, that is a different story.  If you choose to ghost purely because you don't feel like having the "break-up talk", that is something else--and we can call that the ultimate act of selfishness.  

The larger point is if you choose to date, mate, and relate, at all, there always lies some element of risk that you'll either hurt, get hurt, or experience uncomfortable feelings.  And, yes, you'll be inconvenienced.  You'll get to have adult relationships in return, though.  By choosing to put yourself out there, into the adult arena, however, the expectation is you'll try your best to act like an adult.  The deal is, however, that many of us never got the memo on how to break up, maturely.  Ghosters are their own entity; but I also meet a huge amount of extremely well-meaning people who never learned how to break-up with someone in a mature fashion, and I'm constantly asked to help coach them through this.  I relish in the task, because I want the world to start breaking up like civilized people, once and for all.  Here are a few guidelines I give to patients who take on the task of ending a relationship:

Be Clear:

False hope is simply not fair.  If you maintain with absolute certainty that you want to end a relationship with someone, the most considerate thing to do is make it clear that you're doing exactly that.  Vague statements such as 'maybe we should slow it down' might lead the person you're breaking up with to feel extremely befuddled and confused on what to do next.  Be sure to put into words that you want to end this relationship at this point in time and that there is no confusion about that.  It might seem harsh, but giving someone the gift of clarity can actually be a gentle and kind gesture since it leaves no room for speculating or agonizing.  

Be Truthful:

I have found that very little insults people more than being told a line that sounds like an excuse, rather than the real reason for the breakup.  Telling someone you don't feel the connection is strong enough can have a less hurtful impact than a bullshit statement such as 'I have a lot going on right now, at work'.  People do break up due to hectic schedules, all the time, but often if you want things to work out with someone, you'll try to work around your schedule.  If you really want to end things with someone and use some insincere excuse, it, too, will lead to false hope--which may hurt your partner more, in the long term.  For instance, breaking up due to a hectic schedule at work might leave someone hanging on that in hope that things lighten up at work, you'll be more available and open to dating.  Additionally, if someone detects an insincere reason for the breakup, it might drive him/her crazy trying to imagine what the real reason was that you simply could not say.  In most cases, the truth shall set you free.  Just work on sending the message thoughtfully and delicately, and you should be fine.  

I can give dozens more pointers on the logistics of these talks, but, like anything, they're best handled on a case-by-case basis, as each situation is its own animal and deserves individualized guidelines.  


I'll happily self-disclose and draw on my own life experience to illustrate the point, here.  A few years ago, I briefly dated my very good friend's brother for a very short period of time.  Dating your friend's brother is always a risk, so I was determined to handle the situation with care.  Upon realizing the connection wasn't strong enough for me, I immediately had a conversation with him--and he actually responded to my decision to break it off with both maturity and decency.  I'll never forget that when I shared this experience with another friend, her response was "did you do all that just because he was your friend's brother?"

"Absolutely not", I replied.  "I didn't have the talk with him because he was my friend's brother.  I did it because he is a human being."  

At the end of the day, a  break-up talk is rarely something we feel up to doing.  But, we have to do it.  We have to sit through the discomfort, the awkward silences, the general feelings of ickiness that come up for us when we tell someone we don't want them, anymore.  We really have to do it, and we have to do it because it is simply the right thing to do.

Denise Limongello, LMSW



How to Deal with an Unexpected Pregnancy


Pregnancy, as we know, can be one of life’s most exciting times for a married couple.  Unexpected pregnancies, however, can be a different experience. Just because a couple finds themselves with a baby on the way, does not necessarily mean that they are ready to start a family.  

Here are some coping tips for married couples that find themselves suddenly and “unexpectedly expecting”:

You can complain

Many married couples report an unexpected pregnancy as stressful due to feelings of guilt about keeping the baby, despite not feeling ready for parenthood. A couple might feel guilty complaining simply because they feel as though they are complaining about the baby, itself.  You can be disappointed about a possible drastic life change that you didn’t see coming, however.  

If you are a married couple and find yourselves stressed out about an unexpected pregnancy, taking the time to share this with your partner can be a cathartic experience for you both. Just because you learn you are able to have children does not necessarily mean you feel ready to commit to this decision.  Having an open and honest talk with your spouse can not only have therapeutic value but can also bring you closer. A conversation where your share your fears about parenthood can also help you make a decision on how to move forward with this news, together, which can promote solidarity as a couple.     

You can adjust

Studies show that couples who started families by virtue of a surprise pregnancy often report having to make major adjustments as they commit to their new decision. You might have many “adult” plans on the calendar such as weddings or travel plans. While it might be overwhelming to cancel plans and possibly lose money in the process, it is highly likely that adjustments can be made, so you might not have any big penalties or problems in doing so.

With time, learning to make adjustments can get easier. Making adjustments, together, as a couple can also be a bonding experience as you both go through the changes – together that can prepare you for parenthood.

You can take a beat

Research shows that most surprise pregnancies are discovered within the first trimester. Not every couple who experiences an unexpected pregnancy determines what to do about it right away. If you find yourself in this position and are unsure how you feel about it, you might want to take a moment to process your thoughts and emotions on the matter.

Jointly deciding to delay your decision can possibly help you make a better decision than if you were to rush into it.  Waiting until you feel ready to make a decision, together, can be a good idea to make sure your aren’t letting your feelings of being emotionally overwhelmed cloud your judgement.  

How to Improve Communication Within a Marriage

How to Improve Communication within a Marriage

January 6, 2017

Studies indicate that happily married couples often cite communication as the leading reason of why their marriage is successful.  Effective communication can help to significantly reduce fighting and avoid a great deal of conflicts, altogether.  Here are some ways to improve communication with your partner:


Clarification can be one of the most important parts of the communication process. People often do not take the time to make sure they’re hearing their partner, correctly, during conversation, and may report “nodding yes” even though they’re unsure of what their partner is asking of them. Taking the time to make sure you truly understand each other can be a key part of successful communication. Asking following up questions to your partner’s requests can be a great habit to get into to prevent misunderstandings. What may seem tedious during the communication process can end up saving time and misunderstanding in the long run.  

Abstain from the profane

Research shows that using profanity can prolong and worsen the severity of arguments.  Studies  also show that people often report increased anxiety when being “cursed at”.  Elevated anxiety is known to lead to heightened arguments between two people.  Avoiding offensive language, therefore, can be a great way to keep things calm, light, and respectful.   Provocative language is often seen as disrespectful and can often worsen communication, so avoiding this language, altogether can be a great habit to get into.  Even if you feel angry or frustrated with your partner, words are likely to be more effective if they lack profane language.  Profane language is more likely to seem aggressive and, therefore, might not be as well-received.

Establish ground rules

Delicate topics such as past relationships or past mistakes are often brought up during arguments.  Taking the time to communicate with your partner about what topics make you uncomfortable can be a great way to improve communication with your partner, overall.  If your spouse continually brings up topics that make you uncomfortable and that you feel are irrelevant to your current life together, it might be worth mentioning to your partner so that you don’t have to worry about these topics coming up, at all.  Establishing ground rules, together, can be a great way to make sure you both do not enter arguments with your partner, in fear, and that the collective aim is to problem-solve during arguments, rather than to merely fight.  



The Importance of "Date Night" in a Marriage

We all know that relationships require work.  Studies show that couples who report satisfaction in their marriages often report “working” at their marriages.  Working at a marriage can come in the form of putting effort into communication and problem-solving, but it can also mean making time for each other, romantically.  Having regular “date nights” can be a great practice for couples to get into from the beginning, to ensure that they can keep romance alive and consistent.  

Here are some tips for planning regular “date nights” with your spouse:

Anything goes

Many couples, specifically couples with children, report difficulty in finding time to have consistent date nights.  Couples whose time is limited can get creative and think outside the box when planning dates.  Even a night working out together at the gym can be romantic by virtue of just spending time, alone, together.  When you plan unusual dates that are more geared toward your busy schedules within the week, there can be great opportunity to make quality time for each other.

Same time, each week

Studies show that doing something at the same time each day can increase the likelihood that you can commit to it, regularly.  Try to practice your new habit of date night at the same time each week, so you can’t make excuses that you don’t have time for it.  Making “Date Night” a part of your routine can help make you both see it as a priority rather than an occasional treat.  Of course, adjustments can be made if sudden, unexpected shifts in your schedule take place; but, for the most part, planning date night for the same time each week can increase the likelihood that you’ll consistently make it happen.

Dress it up

Research shows that dressing up can improve your mood.   Dressing up for your partner can not only improve your own mood but can also send a message to your partner that you are putting energy and effort into making the evening special.  Even if you are planning something low-key for the day or the evening of your date, there is still an opportunity to change your appearance in some way and make your appearance-change noticeable to your partner. Even parting your hair, differently can get your partner’s attention, so make sure you make your appearance as much of a priority as the actual date, itself.  

How to Achieve Financial Unity in a Marriage

It is well known that couples often fight over money. Research indicates that many divorced couples report disagreements on finances and economic stressors as a leading cause on why they believe their marriages failed. Being a united front on finances can be crucial in making both partners feel safe and equal within the marriage. Cohesion on financial matters can also be a reminder that you are working toward long-term goals, together.  

Here are some guidelines on how couples can arrive at financial cohesion and unity:

Set a dollar amount

Studies show that happily married couples often report that creating ground-rules can help build levels of trust when tackling important life issues. Creating ground-rules around money can help both parties feel safe and trusting of each other’s spending habits.  Agreeing to let each other spend freely only up to a certain dollar amount can be an example of a ground-rule around money. A couple can agree and promise to consult each other anytime spending exceeds a certain number—a number that the couples agrees on and determines together.  Negotiating and determining the ground-rule together can also help to create feelings of solidarity and teamwork.

Get a joint credit card

Studies show that couples with joint finances often report feeling support, trust, and unity with their partners.  A joint credit card can be a great way not only to foster a feeling of sharing within the relationship, but it is also a way to build credit together.  Building credit together can be a great way for the couple to feel as though they are working toward long-term financial goals and building a life together that has a future.

Save for a rainy day

Studies show that perceived rewards can not only improve mood but can also increase motivation. Couples who save together can enjoy the opportunity of rewarding each other for working together toward a financial goal.  Couples can set savings goals together and then reward each other with gifts or a night out together once they have arrived at their set savings amount.  Additionally, the act of saving together can also help to make a couple feel closer.  Joint savings can, therefore, be a great goal for any couple–and rewarding each other for a job well-done can be a great motivator to help you both keep up the good work.

Follow these steps, set financial goals together and come close together as a couple.