Thanks to the dating apps, social media likes and Instagram story views, millennial dating can often feel like an absolute minefield. Here’s our guide, which should help you identify any mixed messages you’ve been receiving of late…
Back in the good old days things seemed pretty simple. If you had the hots for someone, you simply had to actually talk to them and arrange to go on a date where you could, y’know, get to know each other and decide if you had that elusive spark.
These days, things are… not so simple. Frankly speaking, it’s a bloody minefield.
Thanks to apps and social media, our means of communicating with each other have changed and therefore so have our dating methods.
But although there’s no denying that being ghosted, marleyed or submarined feels a tad depressing, we’re choosing to roll with the punches here, naming and shaming these dating trends for what they are so that you can spot them a mile off and say a big ‘no thank you’.
Has that hunk or hunkess you went on a few nice dates with stopped replying, but is continuings to like your pictures or watch your stories, driving you up the wall? Or what about the non-committal dater who keeps you sweet with emoji filled messages but never puts their money where their mouth is?
Well, let us tell you, you’re not alone and, chances are, the behaviour that’s got you completely baffled has a name. Take a read of our comprehensive dating dictionary and you might just recognise some of this behaviour in your date - or even in yourself.
We all fell head over heels for Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s titular character when Fleabag hit screens in 2016. She was real, raw, uncomfortably funny and made a lot of relatable life decisions – the majority of which fell under the brackets of relationships, as she made a habit of dating men who clearly weren’t right or good for her.
It was compelling to watch, not least of all because most of us have made these same mistakes at one point or another. Whether it be staying in a dysfunctional relationship for far too long, or choosing to pursue someone you know is trouble, none of us are immune to making bad decisions.
So what is Fleabagging then? Well, essentially, the term refers to the act of dating those people we know are wrong for us. The term was coined by dating site Plenty of Fish, whose experts revealed that women are much more likely to ‘Fleabag’ than men. Indeed, according to the dating site, 63% of women have admitted to doing it, vs 38% of men.
So, if these stats are to be believed, why do we like chasing people we know are bad for us? There is a plethora of reasons, but Gregory Louis Carter of the University of Durham thinks it could be related to our instincts reacting to typically male qualities that ‘bad boys’ often seem to possess.
Carter explains that the kind of men who we tend to perceive as under the ‘bad boy’ category often present character traits like confidence, arrogance and charisma. As such, he theorises that “women may be responding to a men’s ability to ‘sell themselves’; a useful tactic in a co-evolutionary ‘arms race’ in which men convince women to pursue the former’s preferred sexual strategy.” Hmm.
As the weather turns colder and Christmas is suddenly just around the corner, it’s said that single people can feel more attracted to the idea of being in a relationship. Maybe it’s thanks to all the talk around ‘snuggling up’ to watch the new festive specials on Netflix, or the prospect of seeing your nan on Boxing Day, who will most certainly demand to know why you’re still single.
Either way, it has sparked a phenomenon known as “cuffing season”, which runs from November to March.
For those who haven’t heard the term before, “cuffing” is used to describe the act of jumping into a relationship in autumn or early winter to enjoy the holidays with someone.
Psychology Today explained the phenomenon aptly, writing: “people tend to feel lonelier during these months. You see, when the days get shorter and colder, people head straight home from the places they absolutely have to go to, like work, school, or Starbucks. This makes socialising a little more difficult, and feelings of isolation can start to set in. For many, the solution to this problem is finding a guaranteed special somebody.”
How can you tell if someone is wanting to cuff you to them for the winter season? Well you might notice that they’re overly keen to speed the relationship up, pushing for you to meet their already coupled-up friends, inviting you to family events, and wanting to get lots of Christmassy dates in the diary.
Ultimately, though, you can’t guess someone’s intentions or presume that they’ve premeditated a relationship to last until spring, and as Psychology Today writes, “If you have a plan you are working on, such as getting to the next level in your career, a relationship will take some of your focus away. Don’t let the allure of cuffing season keep you from accomplishing what is important to you”. Most importantly, though, remember to take things at a pace you feel comfortable with.
We’ve all heard of ghosting (if you haven’t, see below for a detailed description), but what if someone isn’t replying to your messages (therefore alluding that they’re backing away from the conversation) but continue to send reactions (such as likes or emojis) to any comments you make on their posts or messages that you send?
This, dear readers, is a soft ghost. We spoke to Louise Troen, VP of International Media and Communications at Bumble (the female-first dating app) to get her opinion on soft ghosting and how to deal with it.
Apparently the key is to keep a calm head and not jump to conclusions: “Although technology has given us the ability to communicate all the time, it does not mean we are available all the time.”
Troen recommends reaching out once more if you feel confident in the connection you have with that person, and if they’re from a different country to you, make allowances for any cultural differences or language barriers. She also thinks it’s helpful to be clear about what you want, and to make it obvious that you’d like to arrange a meeting.
She adds: “If you’ve not set plans to meet up, this doesn’t automatically mean they’ve ghosted you. Some people do need a more clear call to action so ignoring the liked messages and diverting to a meeting to assesses their seriousness is a good move. Suggest a time and place and judge the reaction from there. If there is no response – it’s likely a soft ghost and you can move on knowing it would have been a waste of time anyway.”
More than anything, though, Troen reminds us that if someone is playing so hard to get that it’s having a negative effect on your mood, to put yourself first and leave them to it. After all, if they can’t recognise a good thing when they’ve got it, they’re not worth your efforts anyway.
We all knew Ariana Grande’s break-up song Thank U, Next was big news at the time of it release, with a music video loaded with nostalgic film references and shriek-worthy cameos. Since then, though, the song has become its own point of reference to explain any situation you feel empowered to move on from, seeing the phrase ‘thank u, next’ pop up in social media captions and Whatsapp groups aplenty.
Now, the song has inspired a new, surprisingly positive, dating trend: Grande-ing. Huff Post reports that Grande’s song has influenced a new school of thinking behind break ups, that encourages millennials to respect and cherish the positive aspects of their past relationships and use them to grow as a person.
Essentially, the song is inspiring us to be on better terms with our exs in order to let go of any bad feeling that might be holding us back when going into future relationships. Which for a millennial dating trend, all actually sounds pretty healthy.
This one can be done by either party - and is one you’ve probably seen on your Instagram feed a lot already. Being an Insta-gator is when one half of the couple uses their social media to take the relationship to the next level, showing their friends that they have a partner and at the same time showing that partner that they’re invested.
Ever tried to bring up a crucial question with someone that you’re dating and used text to make it a little bit easier to ask? We’ve all been there. But whether you’re trying to pin down where the relationship is going or check if plans are definitely on for the weekend, it’s beyond irritating when they ignore that subtly planted question and respond everything else in the message instead.
Are they outright ignoring it? Did they just forget? Sounds like they’re deflexting.
What do we know about vampires? Well, they’re most deadly at night of course. Those blood suckers will drain the life out of you come the nocturnal hours and if you’ve ever received a booty call, you’ll know that these after-dark traits are also found in those that think it’s okay to pop back on your radar when they want something strictly sexual.
In other words, if you only receive messages from someone after dusk, they’re the closest thing you’ll meet to Dracula.
We all remember the mean old man in A Christmas Carol, whose clenched fist deprived him from all the joy of the festive season. Well, this dating trend is a bit like that, but instead of receiving visits from ghosts of Christmas past, you’re more likely to just be ghosted.
According to research by eharmony, almost one in 10 people have avoided getting too serious with a partner just before Christmas so that they don’t have to buy them a present - with men aged 18-24 being the worst offenders. According to the survey, 11% of men (versus 7%) of women will start to retreat in the weeks before Christmas, before breaking off the relationship in time for the big day. Not exactly a picture of seasonal cheer is it?
Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony, says: “We know that relationships can often become less of a priority in the run up to Christmas. It’s also a time when dating significantly slows down. In fact, a quarter (24%) of Brits agree that it’s a time to prioritise family and friends above romance.
“However, it seems particularly miserly to end a relationship simply to avoid buying your partner a present and indicates that you weren’t ready for a romantic commitment in the first place. There’s no excuse for this type of behaviour. There are a huge number of purse-friendly presents on offer, which some of these ‘Scrooges’ might consider before pulling the plug.”
Ah, the mother of all millennial dating trends. It’s a tale as old as time really. What was probably once referred to as ‘the silent treatment’ has been renamed ‘ghosting’ to reference the complete and utter disappearance of a potential love interest from your life, with zero warning, almost as if they’d died.
It can come at any stage, from a few dates in to the spectacularly terrible story of a woman who came home to an empty house after her boyfriend upped and left without any communication.
That’s a severe example, but ghosting is usually done by one person very suddenly ceasing communication with the other over texts, by point blank ignoring them. At this point the one being ghosted will likely not hear from the ghoster again in the near future, which leads us nicely into the other dating trends…
Sometimes, after things go south with the person you’re dating, it’s like they have a twisted alarm that goes off in their head just as you’re starting to get over them and the ill-fated interaction you shared.
It could be a breezy text, pretending not to have noticed that the two of you stopped talking in the first place, or maybe it’s a not-so-casual Facebook friend request or the like. Essentially, it’s a nudge to say “hey, remember me?” just like a zombie, returning from the dating dead.
Speaking to the Washington Post about the phenomenon, dating coach Francesca Hogi explains: “As our technology advances and it becomes easier to contact people out of the blue, we see it more often.
“All these very casual ways of reaching out and contacting people, I think it gives [people] permission to say: ‘Hey, the risk is very low. She’s not going to curse me out on the phone and hurt my feelings.
“She’s just going to ignore my text message.”
So, should we ignore the Zombie – aka the flake who’s eager to reconnect?
Not according to Hogi, who argues that we should be less cynical: sometimes people really do miss connections, make mistakes, or dismiss people too quickly.
Addressing the potential zombies among us, she says: “If you are thinking of someone you lost contact with or might have ghosted, you should reach out to that person if you have any regret or curiosity but acknowledge the passage of time and your responsibility for it.”
And, perhaps most importantly, she adds: “Just do it respectfully and like a grownup .”
Although it’s great to have an abundance of hungry singles at your fingertips when you’re ready to meet someone, having so much choice does create a certain type of problem. With another match just a swipe away, connections can start to lose meaning and feel easily replaceable.
Enter the term benching, which refers to the behaviour of someone who’s still on the lookout in case someone ‘better’ comes along. Stringing you along, a bencher will keep you sweet with pleasant replies but stagger out dates or interactions over a course of weeks so as to slow down momentum.
In a nutshell, if you get the sense that you’re a back-up for somebody because of their non-committal behaviour, there’s a chance they could be leaving you on the bench, ready to tag in when they have time.
Ever had an old flame slide into your social media, pique your intrigue with a series of non-committal likes or Instagram story-views, only to never actually talk to you? Then you’ve been orbited.
The term comes off the back of ghosting, and describes the social media attention-seeking of someone who might have abruptly stopped replying to your messages, but continues to sporadically like your pictures, retweet your tweets or watch your stories.
We spoke to We-Vibe’s Relationship Expert, Dr Becky Spelman, to get heropinion on why someone might exhibit this sort of confusing behaviour.
Surmising on some of the possible thought processes behind orbiting, Spelman says: “There may be various factors at play. They may feel that they are letting the other person down more gently if they maintain a degree of contact in this way and think that they are being kinder than if they simply cut them off completely.
“They may feel that they are keeping their options option by showing this sliver of interest, and that if the dating scene gets lean at some point in the future they might be able to pick the relationship back up again. They might be going through photographs in the hope of having their ego boosted when they see signs of distress or upset on the part of the other person, or simply take a voyeuristic pleasure in peering into these windows on their life.
“Thankfully, there is actually no need to question or explore this behaviour in detail, because we can respond to the discourtesy of ghosting by decisively removing the person in question from our online community of friends and blocking future invitations from them!”
This dating trend specifically applies to the festive period, a time universally acknowledged as one for cuddling up and snuggling down.
When Christmas rolls around and the engagement posts start flooding your Instagram feed, it can make some of us suddenly wish we had someone to kiss under the mistletoe. Combine this with copious amounts of mulled wine and being back in your home town for the week, and you’re met with a recipe for an ex-disaster.
Coined by dating website eHarmony, “Marleying” refers to people who contact their ex over Christmas in the hopes of rekindling their romance for a fling – or more.
Speaking about the new trend, dating expert Laura Yates pinpoints Christmas as being “synonymous with memories, romance, couples and goodwill”, which can “trigger potent feelings of sadness, especially if you’ve recently gone through a breakup”.
Explaining why so many people reach out to an ex over the festive period, she adds, “You might compare this year to happier, coupled-up times with your ex, overlooking what happened in the first place to cause the breakup. In turn, this makes you feel vulnerable and there’s a strong desire to want to relive some of those times - even if it means settling for a few text exchanges.”
We’ll set the scene for you: you’ve been talking to someone online and progressed to real life dates. Things are going pretty well. They’ve met your family, friends and even some of your work colleagues – and everyone’s gotten along just fine.
But you’ve not been introduced to a single person from their life. Not one.
The confusing part is they’ll share a snap of the dinner you guys shared on Instagram – but they won’t tag you in it. They’ll take to Facebook and check themselves into that cool, new bar you guys are hanging out in – but you’re not ‘with’ them. And they’ll phone their best friend to talk about their day – but your name is never mentioned.
If any of that sounds remotely familiar, then we have news for you: you’re being stashed. Stashed in a cupboard to take out for the good times, but not as a consistent part of their life.
This is a classic move of a commitment-phobe, and the optimistic among us could argue that as time progresses they’ll introduce you to other aspects of their life.
Images: Getty / JD Mason