Married and Ghosted: What to Do

Ghosting isn’t a new phenomenon. In the dating world, it sometimes happens that one person abruptly falls off the face of the “relationship planet.” It may be a misunderstanding. It may be a breakup strategy. The reasons behind ghosting are as varied as the people who do it.

But being ghosted by a spouse is altogether different. If you’re a ghostee, you may wonder how the person you’ve vowed to spend the rest of your life with emotionally – and sometimes even physically – could vanish from your relationship in such a blatant way.

What does ghosting mean in a marriage?

In today’s dating world, ghosting generally means that a person's partner cuts off communication with their romantic partner without warning. It’s not only confusing and frustrating, but it can leave the one who has been ghosted feeling vulnerable and low on self-esteem. They may wonder what they did to warrant the sudden avoidance or breaking off of contact.

Ghosting in a marriage can be similar, but it doesn’t always mean physically breaking off contact. It can mean breaking off that integral emotional connection that keeps your marital structure intact. The well-being of your marriage is threatened, and its future is uncertain.

In marriage and other serious relationships, ghosting is more than just getting the silent treatment from your spouse. It can feel like a deep and painful absence. And in the context of a marriage, it can raise more than just a few vulnerabilities and insecurities. It can have a profound effect on the success of your long-term relationship.

Getting to the bottom of marital ghosting

Is your spouse emotionally or physically missing in action? Unfortunately, you’re not alone in this heartbreak. Quiet quitting a marriage can happen when one spouse is no longer emotionally invested in the relationship but also reluctant to end it. This can leave you in limbo with no idea where you stand.

What do marital ghosting experiences look like?

  • Communication is virtually nonexistent. Your spouse may stop initiating any substantive face-to-face conversations or simply stop responding to your attempts.
  • The silent treatment you got as a response to a disagreement goes on and on. You can’t reignite communication or interest.
  • Your spouse withdraws physically and emotionally. There is no longer any affection or intimacy.
  • Your spouse prioritizes other activities that don’t include you. They generally avoid spending time with you. 
  • Your spouse physically leaves without telling you. While it may be a short-term “time-out,” some spouses disappear altogether for a lot of time or even permanently. 

If your spouse has ghosted you, chances are you don’t know what happened. You don’t know where you stand or if your marriage can survive. Re-establishing contact and honest and open communication with the ghoster is critical if you want to understand what happened and possibly fix it. 

Decide if you want to pursue conflict resolution

It’s time to get honest about the situation. Did something specifically happen to cause this disconnection? Is there something you can do to get beyond these feelings of animosity between you? Do you believe your spouse’s feelings are temporary or permanent? Are other people getting in the way of your relationship? 

It’s also important to check in with yourself. How do you feel about how your spouse has handled this? Has it opened your eyes to problems you might not have wanted to look at in your romantic relationship? Is your spouse prone to ghost others? Have they done this to ex-partners? Can you look back on the relationship and spot previously unnoticed signs that this was coming?

Fixing the problem(s)

What can you do if you want to resolve the problems that caused your spouse’s ghosting behavior?

  • Remember that you have feelings, too. If your spouse ghosts you, you have every right to feel hurt and confused. Give yourself permission to feel these feelings, and remember that your own mental health and well-being matter.
  • Try to communicate openly and honestly with your spouse. Express your desire to work things out.
  • Actively listen to their side of the issue. Try to do this without blaming or getting defensive.
  • After hearing their side, do some thinking. What do you believe was the root cause of your communication breakdown?
  • If possible, agree to work together to find a solution mutually.
  • Establish boundaries. Think about what a healthy relationship means to you. Let your spouse understand what you will and won’t accept.
  • Set a deadline. If things aren’t working, there’s no sense in wasting time on hold. 

If your spouse is agreeable, you may both benefit from couples therapy. A therapist can offer a safe space for both of you to address your underlying issues and help find ways to resolve the impasse and get communication and intimacy back into your relationship. 

That said, if your spouse is physically gone, you might be forced to consider other options, including ending your marriage.

Read: Is Your Communication Style Harming Your Relationships?

When ghosting leads to divorce

Relationships require two active participants. If your spouse has checked out, you’re left with one. 

If talking things over hasn’t been successful, you might consider a trial separation. We suggest putting some ground rules in place for both of you before you do that. When you take the time to set ground rules for a trial separation, you both operate from the same playbook. Examples of good ground rules include how long you will stay apart, how you will behave in the interim (everything from paying bills to childcare to whether you’ll pursue new relationships), and when you will check back with each other to re-evaluate your future relationship.

At Hello Divorce, we offer online divorce plans and other professional services to help couples navigate through and beyond their marital difficulties as affordably and efficiently as possible. Let us help. Schedule a free call to talk about your options. 

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.