Not everyone is interested in forming lasting romantic attachments, and modern daters have devised some creative terms to describe some harsh mating behaviors that seem new but may have existed in one form or another for generations. Millennials in particular seem relatively tolerant of a variety of relational behaviors that older generations would not dare speak of, much less accept. Specifically, new technology and virtual communication have presented some ingenious if indirect ways of beginning the end of relationships that no longer satisfy one partner.
Here are four examples:
Cushioning is just what it sounds like — plumping up your network with potential “fall-back” partners, so that if your current relationship doesn’t work out, you’ve got a safe, cushiony place to fall. Someone might have a core group of potential partners on whom she relies for support, or with whom she flirts even when engaged in a seemingly monogamous relationship. While it may not be considered to be “technically" cheating, there is enough evidence that once you begin to consider other options, on some level you have already left a relationship.
Stashing refers to the situation in which you believe that you and your significant other are an “official” couple, but you realize that she has avoided introducing you to her family, her friends, or other significant people in her life. You may feel like you’ve been “stashed away” in some corner of her life, hidden away from the rest of her world. She may avoid posting your inaugural “couples pic” on her Snapchat or decline to Facebook herself into an official relationship with you.
Sometimes a person gets “stashed” because his partner feels that she is “dating down” by choosing to go out with him or is somehow ashamed of her partner. Sometimes it happens when someone is trying to keep a relationship on the down low to avoid creating drama with her family, or if she’s friends with an ex or someone who wanted to be the one dating the partner. Sometimes, though, one person may “stash” a partner to remain on the dating market, just in case someone more appealing shows up in her life. She’s able to have her “stash” available when she wants it, but also able to convey a sense of singlehood to potential partners.
Ghosting is surreptitiously evaporating into thin air when you are ready to end a relationship without any drama or actual confrontation. It’s about ignoring calls or texts, “unfriending” or “unfollowing” someone, and quietly disappearing from their life. It can be a relief in some situations — those who prefer to avoid conflict feel that this is a “safe” way to end a relationship. But those on the receiving end of ghosting may feel that they are being cheated out of a final face-to-face opportunity to win someone back. Victims of ghosting see this as the most unforgivable method of ending a relationship — there is no closure, just residual resentment.
Breadcrumbing is a variation of ghosting even more irritating to those who are being left the crumbs. It is characterized by a person leaving a very sparse or sporadic “trail” of continued interest. They give the bare minimum of response to someone, to still be considered “in the picture,” even though both parties eventually realize that the breadcrumber has already left the picture. Waiting around for the next crumb can become an obsessive hunt for “proof” of feelings that really are no longer present. The breadcrumber may feel less guilty for backing out of the relationship gently; unfortunately, it may actually be crueler as the crumb finder may pin unrealistic hopes on the few crumbs tossed his way.
Virtual Heartache Hurts Just as Much as Face-to-Face Heartache
Relationships once relied on presence and engagement in the real world, but today relationships can exist almost fully in the virtual world, depending on distance, schedules, and time available to invest in each other. Unfortunately, the human heart has not kept up with the lightning speed of technological change, and although there are a million simple ways to use technology to insert distance into a relationship, the resulting heartache isn’t any easier to absorb than it was a generation ago.