Today's dating terms can be confusing, and the effect they have on people can leave some long-term consequences.
Today, there is a name for everything, so it’s only natural that new terms have been invented for everything to do with dating. These new terms include cuffing season, ghosting, haunting and zombieing.
They reveal psychological processes that help us make sense of what’s happening in the dating world, so it’s worthwhile knowing what they mean.
Let’s begin with a timely one – cuffing season. Cuffing season refers to the winter months, when people who are usually happily single start to seek a committed relationship.
With the days getting shorter and the nights longer, the temperature dropping and the trees becoming bare, it’s the perfect time for cosy nights in with your loved one, building a relationship.
It is the optimal time of year for past partners to creep up on you, too.
If an ex-partner is single, they might try to come back you to spend these cosy nights in with you.
Clinical psychologist Seth Meyers explains that ‘our energy levels are lower during the colder weather and we are moodier’, so we have less motivation to organise interesting dates.
This, coupled with poor winter weather, means we have fewer places to go and things to do.
This makes us seek out an easier option, such as a past partner.
This may help to explain why ghosting in relationships is on the rise. Ghosting refers to when an individual ‘disappears’ without a trace.
One day, two people are communicating as normal, and the next, one of them just stops.
Ghosting someone can be a way of avoiding your own emotional anguish. However, it can also be passive-aggressive and intentional; it’s a cowardly way to end a relationship.
Being ghosted is painful and means the person who has been ghosted has no closure. They may have several questions for their partner – why did you do this? Don’t you love me any
more? What went wrong?
While ghosting refers to current relationships ending abruptly, there are also terms to describe past partners creeping back into your life. This is done indirectly by haunting or directly by zombieing.
Haunting refers to when – after a substantial amount of time and no communication – a past love begins to subtly resurface in your life. This is done, for example, by liking your posts on social media, which makes you think of them without them actively communicating with you.
Why are they following me on social media? Why are they liking my posts? These ghosts from past relationships usually only stop haunting you when they have found someone else to fixate on.
Unfortunately, there is no ghostbuster that we can call for you to get rid of them. So, keep an eye out and ensure you don’t engage with a haunting ex.
Cushioning is the act of actively pursuing someone who is already taken, keeping them close to you. Imagine the person you like is in a steady relationship.
You don’t flirt with them but you talk to them regularly, you have inside jokes and shared memories, and you tag them on social media.
But you have an ulterior motive. You are preparing to be their ‘cushion’ if things don’t work out with the person they’re with.
Or you might prepare someone to be your ‘cushion’ if your current relationship ends – this can be seen as infidelity.
The opposite is breadcrumbing (or ‘Hansel and Gretteling’, after the fairy tale with the dark twist). This means sending out flirtatious, but noncommittal, text ‘breadcrumbs’ to lure someone in without expending a lot of effort.
There is no point getting your hopes up about a breadcrumber; they’re just bored.
Benching happens when someone is unsure about being in a relationship and doesn’t want to commit to you, so they stop contacting you and start cancelling dates at the last minute, making excuses not to meet up.
However, they don’t want to commit to replacing you and end up regretting their decision so they keep you on the bench, just like a substitute in football. If they can’t find anything better or they finally decide they want you, they’ll take you off the bench.
Kittenfishing means showing inaccurate photos of yourself: for example, Photoshopped photos, photos using filters, or photos taken years ago that don’t show how you look now.
It can even mean changing your personality depending on how you think your partner wants you to be, and lying about things you are interested in.
Kittenfishing is more prevalent now than in previous years, due to an increase in the number of apps that can make you look slimmer, alter your skin tone and change your appearance with the click of a button.
Even more extreme than kittenfishing is catfishing. This term originated from a 2010 film, and it often begins due to a lack of self-confidence. Individuals use a fake identity and someone else’s pictures for their profile on dating sites and social media, and go the extra mile to make another person believe their fake identity is actually them.
Love bombing is when a relationship starts out as a whirlwind romance, all hearts and grand gestures.
It is highly manipulative and can be a way to gain control over another person.
They will tell you they love you very early on, and that they’ve never felt this way about anyone. You may be flattered, and think you feel the same about them – but when you start
to reciprocate, they will lose interest in you.
They enjoy the chase but as soon as they manage to catch the person they are after, they start looking for the next chase.
The final term is known as stashing or Jekyll and Hyde-ing.
‘Stashing refers to the act of dating someone seriously, only to have them hide you away from everyone they know’
They are affectionate when they see you, but they don’t tell their friends and family about you, and don’t share pictures of you on their social media; they ‘stash’ you away.
Maybe they’re benching you, maybe they’re cushioning someone else, but they are definitely not committing to you, so it’s time to move on to someone who wants to tell the world about your relationship.
This research was conducted for Seventy Thirty dating site by Dr Georgina Barnett