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Lingo and Love

Am I being left in the cookie jar?

Courtesy of Pixabay
Source: Courtesy of Pixabay

Language serves as a way to communicate. It is a cultural tool, by which information is passed down and spread. Language is also symbolic, as it allows us to label behaviors and ideas.

My personal interest is in how language is used in relation to dating. It seems as if every time I read an article about the world of online dating, a new term pops up. As I enjoy anything related to sweets, I’d like to unpack the term used to describe one of 2019’s newest dating trends: cookie jarring.

What is “cookie jarring”?

Cookie jarring is essentially keeping a person (the one who is cookie jarred) on the back burner. The one who is doing the “jarring” is out in the world looking for new partners, but always has that potential back up option, or “another cookie in the jar.”

It makes me think of yo-yo dating (which is so 2016) and is when a person has a partner, breaks up with him/her to see someone new, and then goes back to that same partner when the other, newer relationship ends. In the case with cookie jarring, the initial relationship is never completely cut off, and the jarred person is kept there waiting, which can be very painful, as it leaves him/her in limbo.

Why might one be put in the cookie jar?

The “paradox of choice” describes a scenario in which having too much choice makes it more difficult to come to a final decision. Schwartz and Ward (2004) have found that for some people, more choice creates a situation in which it is more challenging to make a selection, as they feel pressure to come up with the best possible option.

This is common on dating sites, as people are presented with a multitude of options. When presented with all these options, there may not be a clear "best choice”. People currently in a relationship may even feel a pull to dip back into the dating pool to search through eligible options in fear of committing to someone who is not the best fit for them. With cookie jarring, people are keeping a person on the back burner, while exploring other potential alternatives.

Another potential reason why we may cookie jar a person is the media. We are constantly being bombarded by movies in which the main character ends up with his/her “one true love”. This is not reality- most relationships will not lead to a flash mob and a bouquet of roses. This unrealistic view of love may lead to us to constantly search for the next best thing, and when we fail to find it, go back to what was comfortable and familiar (which we are keeping available to us).

How can we stop?

To break the habit of cookie jarring, you must focus less on comparisons and keeping your options open. Instead, it is important to be present in your current relationship. If you are able to say with confidence that you are feeling loved, cared for, and fulfilled, there is no need to "shop around". You should value what you have. If you don't feel this way, it is important to find a better relationship and not turn back.


Schwartz, B., & Ward, A. (2004). Doing better but feeling worse: The paradox of choice. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (86-104). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.