Cushioning – and other dating trend behaviours you might be guilty of


An article on HuffPost recently delved into a dating trend called cushioning. Like most dating trends, I believe it’s not so much new than it is a naming of a behaviour we simply haven’t coined properly yet.  

Cushioning – otherwise also known as backburnering – happens when you’re in an established relationship or marriage and you’re in constant communication with someone else you might be considering for future romantic possibilities in case things don’t work out with your current partner.

It’s a rather apt description since it’s essentially a back-up plan to gently fall back onto when you don’t want to hit the floor that hard and when you’re looking for a rebound to help you bounce back.

The cynic in me can’t help but wonder why be in a relationship then when you can play the field and date as many people as possible without the pressure of being in a relationship, but I suppose there are many reasons for it.

In fact, someone I know, *Katlego explains why she has people on her backburner list:

“I started dating my boyfriend a few months ago which doesn’t seem like a long time but things got serious really fast. Getting into the relationship also happened really quickly. I think we started making it official after three dates. So the process of getting into the relationship didn’t give me enough time to transition from the single life where I was already involved with a number of people. I was very active on Tinder and was going on dates with various people. So when I got into this relationship the only thing I did was stop going on dates and delete Tinder but I still text the Tinder matches that have my numbers. Most of them know that I am in relationship and don’t seem to mind being cushioned. I’ve also gotten the 'text me after your relationship ends' texts from one of them.”

Like I said, nothing new, but certainly another modern term we can add to the milllenial dating lexicon.  

But what other kinds of dating “trends” are out there? Are you familiar with any of them, and most importantly, which behaviour have you knowingly or unknowingly engaged in? 

We highlight a few below:


Probably one of the worst things you can do to someone, Breadcrumbing happens when someone flirts with you but not enough to want to make a commitment to you. You’re basically offered the trimmings of what comes with a relationship, but not an actual relationship.

Think flirty texts, promises to meet up – all tactics to reel you in but without any intention of catching you. 

Dorothy Black, relationship and sex columnist for W24 says that breadcrumbing can take on a form of gaslighting in that when people are called out for flirting and not making a move, they’re quick to dismiss it as a figment of the breadcrumbee’s imagination.

It’s cruel in the sense that you’re not even given an opportunity to move on to find something better because you’re being led to believe that you have a chance with the person who is breadcrumbing you. 

Dorothy adds that another awful defining behaviour of breadcrumbers is that when their target is finally ready to move on, they strike again. In other words, the moment you become “unavailable” is also the moment you start looking attractive to them.

Read more on breadcrumbing here.


To be honest, I’m not sure which is worse: being strung along, or someone no longer wanting to spend time with you without having the decency to tell you.

The art of ghosting is a pretty miserable way to break up with someone, because the person doing the breaking up simply stops contacting you. 

He/she won’t answer their phone (in fact, they may even change their number), won’t sms/email you and certainly won’t let you know they’ve broken up with you because for them, their silence says it all.

If you’ve ever been a victim of ghosting – this story of how a man who ghosted his wife for 20 years should cheer you up just a little and would make anyone think twice before opting for the going silent route.

WATCH: Ghosting: The Missed Warning in the Back of the Dating Manual


This one is actually nothing new, but simply just has a new name. The act of haunting (aka online stalking) refers to when you’re no longer in a relationship, but you or your ex are still keeping tabs on each other through social media.

Think liking posts, viewing instagram stories and generally tracking what you’re up to through your different social media channels. It might at first seem like it’s harmless, but You Magazine notes that it can be seen as invasive

Think of it this way: if you parted with someone and you no longer want them in your life in any capacity whatsoever, wouldn’t that include unfollowing that person in every capacity? 

Also, for me it also seems as if this behaviour gives off “I’m watching you" vibes. Keeping a close watch on them might show that you’re over the relationship, but have you really moved on?

Read more about haunting here.


A trend I would best describe as “I don’t really want to date you, but am at least curious about what you get up to on social media,” orbiting may actually be the least offensive out of our entire list – well, depending on whether or not you wanted a second date that is.

So what is it?

Orbiting happens when you’ve dated someone once or twice, and have decided not to get in touch again, but don’t want to be rude so you keep up with them on social media instead. 

The likes, and comments aren’t invasive because you don’t know the person all that well, so the person doing the orbiting is relegated to casual-acquaintance-who-I-once-tried-to-date-and-who-I’d-still-like-to-greet-on-the-streets status.

So is this a good thing or not? Does it point out to still being creepy anyway, or is it flattering for the other person in that it indicates FOMO?

Or maybe, as my colleague Marisa says, it shows that we aren’t completely heartless and “care about the people we have discarded IRL.”

Read more on orbiting here.

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