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Why Ghosters Always Come Back and How to Deal with Them

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

What happens when your ghost comes back to haunt you? So you’ve gone on a date, perhaps even a few, and thought things were going well. You may have planned on seeing each other again and exchanged more messages – but then they just cut you off. So far, so ghosted. But in a strange twist on this now-famous dating trope, the ghoster comes back after a while and tries to reinitiate the interaction.  This is called called zombieing: let’s check out how to react and try to understand why ghosters always come back.

Will they come back after ghosting you?

Despite the feelings of confusion and rejection after being ghosted, it’s natural to hope for a ‘when he/she ghosts you and comes back’ scenario. You may have felt there was really something there and you lost the opportunity to explore it. In this scenario, you may be wondering, ‘how long until a ghoster comes back?’ There’s no set answer. It can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months. The ones missing just a few weeks may not even be aware they ghosted you while those who’ve been out of the picture for longer will know – and hopefully regret – what they did. What percentage of ghosters come back? While a BankMyCell survey revealed 56% of respondents had experienced ghosting1, little research exists into how many returned. But we can offer some psychological reasons for why ghosters always come back, the motivation behind it and its sociological significance. 

The real reason behind why ghosters always come back

So why do these “zombies” return for the grave to come back into your inbox? There are several possible reasons.

They don’t realise they ghosted you

This can be forgivable over a short period. Sometimes life just gets in the way. They may also just have a looser communication style and don’t think not contacting someone for a couple of weeks is out of the ordinary. You can at least understand their reasoning.

They got bored

Ghosters by nature have short attention spans and aren’t shy about playing with people’s feelings. They’re easy to spot from their half-hearted tone and glib attitude. Block these people immediately.

They feel lonely and you’re just there

A lot of people reach out to old flames and connections when they’re lonely. But it’s just fishing and if you respond, it’ll show a lack of self-respect and they’ll most likely never value you.

They realized they made a mistake and miss you

Maybe they had other priorities and, while they liked you, just couldn’t see you in their life for whatever reason. This can be positive, as long as they hold themselves accountable and you feel like they’ve changed. 

Something made you pop back in their head

Another reason why ghosters always come back is that even if they’re not on your socials, you still might live in the same area. Maybe you popped up on a dating app, appeared in their their Instagram feed or they spotted you on the street and wondered, ‘What went wrong there?’

They’ve changed their approach to commitment

When you first met them, they may have been afraid it would get serious and didn’t have space for it in their lives at that point. This can show they’ve grown as a person but be cautious.

They’re looking for a hookup

They’ll generally try to underplay the ghosting and set up some last-minute plans. It’s up to you if you’d like something casual but these people are generally toxic daters.

They get a narcissistic thrill out of

When he or she ghosts you and comes back  it can often be a blatant power play. You taking them back will boost their ego but once that fades they’ll lose interest again. These are the worst kind of zombies.

They’re on the rebound

When people break up and get over the initial mourning period, they often put out feelers to old connections. According to a Gitnux study, the failure rate of rebound relationships is around 90%2.

Regret is really why ghosters always come back

Sometimes ghosters will realize they lost an opportunity but may have been too nervous to get back in touch because they know they may have hurt you. This can be a positive sign but you should be cautious.

What to say to someone who ghosted you

So, you’re wondering ‘Will they come back after ghosting me?’ and then, poof, they’re back. You may be angry, confused, curious, excited or a strange mixture of all of these emotions. 

But let’s look at some scenarios when to not answer, when it may be okay and some examples of what to say to someone who ghosted you.

When you definitely shouldn’t answer

  • Their message is only three words – The reason why ghosters always come back is that many of them like to cruise old dating opportunities looking for anyone who’s up for it
  • They act nonchalant – This person either isn’t in touch with reality or they just don’t respect you. Either way, they’re bad news
  • When they can’t account for ghosting you – They should be able to offer up a decent explanation even if it doesn’t completely excuse their actions
  • They blame you – Nearly always nonsense. You messaged them last, they didn’t respond, andt he onus was completely on them
  • They want to go back to how things were – This person should already know they’re starting at square one. They’re either self-centered or delusional 

When you might want to consider it

  • You were still early in the dating process – If there weren’t any great expectations, you may hear them out and be interested in giving it another try. But don’t expect much from anyone who ghosted you in the past
  • They have a good excuse – Losing a phone isn’t good enough when they could’ve found you on social media. Rather, they need an understandable human reason for their behavior
  • You want closure – It’s okay to want answers and to understand what went wrong, even if you know you won’t accept them back
  • You felt a real connection – Proceed with caution, this person has already hurt you once. Make sure to establish very strict boundaries
  • You want to give them a piece of your mind – When a ghoster comes back, it’s natural to want to tell them how inconsiderate and mean their actions were. Don’t be shy ­– you owe them nothing

Some examples of how you could reply:

  • Be direct: “Hold up. Before this goes any further, I’m going to need an explanation.”
  • Be honest: “When you ghosted me, it really hurt my feelings. So I need some rules and an apology before we can chat again.”
  • Be sassy: “Ah! It’s a zombie!”
  • Be sarcastic – “I’m sorry, are you sure it’s me you were texting?”
  • Be realistic – “I just can’t trust you again. You clearly don’t respect me or what we had so why would I believe anything’s changed?”

Of course, you can always just ignore them, which often is the most sensible course of action.

Stop wondering why ghosters always come back

It’s up to you if you choose to entertain a zombie who has decided to stroll back into your life. You may have your reasons, depending on your emotional place and relationship needs. But one thing we’d definitely advise is to go into the situation with your eyes open and on high alert for red flags. The reason why ghosters always come back is often that they’re not healthy daters.

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