3 Needs That Motivate a 'Ghostlighter' To Manipulate You

Why do people vanish without an explanation only to reappear the same way?

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | November 20, 2023

'Ghostlighting,' a term born from the fusion of 'ghosting' and 'gaslighting,' entails abruptly severing communication with someone, then returning to manipulate or deceive them by deflecting accusations of one's disappearance onto factors other than oneself.

Sometimes, when someone who previously ghosted you reappears, it can seem like a second chance, making you feel valued and desirable. This can blind you to potential gaslighting or manipulation, leaving you vulnerable to negative and controlling behaviors.

The rollercoaster of emotions and self-doubt experienced by the target can be profoundly distressing. Repeated ghostlighting can erode trust, making it challenging to form healthy relationships in the future. Furthermore, continuous manipulation and gaslighting can significantly impact one's self-esteem and self-worth. But what motivates ghostlighters? Here are three primary reasons why they do what they do.

1. They Do It To Avoid Accountability

A primary motivation behind ghostlighting is the desire to shirk responsibility and accountability for one's actions. Ghostlighters resort to this as a means to evade the consequences of their past decisions, particularly their abrupt disappearance.

When they choose to reappear, it is often accompanied by fabricated explanations, excuses or even shifting the blame onto the other person. This manipulative behavior creates an environment where it becomes challenging for the affected individual to hold the ghostlighter accountable for their actions.

Avoiding accountability allows them to bypass uncomfortable conversations and maintain a facade of innocence, protecting their ego and avoiding the repercussions of their actions. It's a method to shield themselves from the weight of their own behavior and maintain a semblance of control over the narrative.

2. They Do It For Manipulation And Control

Ghostlighting is often driven by a desire for control. Ghostlighters might resort to isolation or disappearance to establish dominance over their target's emotions and decisions. As ghostlighters want to hold the upper hand in the relationship, like any manipulator, when they reappear, they intentionally employ gaslighting techniques to sow doubt, insecurity and confusion, creating emotional instability in the target. A 2021 study published in Acta Psychologica links ghosting behavior to people possessing dark personality traits, who are known to be adept at exploiting ambiguous situations to their benefit.

Manipulation empowers ghostlighters with a false sense of control and influence, ensuring the other person remains emotionally dependent, often to fulfill their own desires for validation and control. It's a means to perpetuate dominance in the relationship and foster a sense of superiority while keeping the other person emotionally entangled and unsure of themselves.

3. They Do It As A Means Of Avoidance

According to a study published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, individuals with an avoidant attachment style can resort to emotional avoidance when they feel ill-prepared or unwilling to navigate complex emotions or confront challenging conversations. In situations where a relationship becomes entangled in complications or discomfort, ghostlighters opt for temporary withdrawal to evade addressing the underlying issues.

The act of reappearing at a later time allows them to uphold the connection while circumventing emotionally challenging discussions. Their act of avoidance often arises from their own unresolved emotional insecurities and a reluctance to engage in conversations that might lead to uncomfortable confrontations or expose their own vulnerabilities. In such cases, ghostlighting becomes a means of self-preservation, albeit at the expense of the other person's emotional well-being.


Ghostlighting is a harmful behavior that can have severe consequences for those on the receiving end. Understanding the reasons behind ghostlighting can help individuals recognize and protect themselves from such manipulation. It is crucial to be aware of the signs, set boundaries and prioritize one's emotional well-being when confronted with ghostlighting. Remember that healthy relationships are built on trust, open communication and respect and you should settle for nothing less.

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