Anyone who's been single in the last few years knows that the singles scene has become a much more complicated place than it was in days of yore. Along with the hard-won victories women have claimed in the fight for gender equality and equal rights have come new questions about our role in the dating game.
The traditional dynamic, which casts the male partner (in heterosexual relationships) or the partner with a more masculine gender expression (in same-sex relationships) in the role of pursuer or aggressor is about as outdated as the notion that a woman's place is in the home. (Uh-huh.)
It's like Uncle Ben said: "With great power comes great responsibility." So, it's up to us to figure out when to make the first move and when to wait it out; when to initiate the postdate text convo and when to leave that to our crush; when someone is actually really busy with work and when they're pulling a fade-out. So, we decided to make it just a little easier for you to navigate the pitfalls of 2017's virtual dating game. And while we can't implant a chip into people's heads that lets us read their minds just yet, we can help you understand what's happening when it's happening.
Here are 2017's biggest dating trends (and the lingo you need to talk about them).
So, you've gone on a couple of good dates with someone, and all of a sudden the momentum stalls. They keep texting you or Facebook messaging you, but there's no talk of planning a third date. Or, if there is, something always ends up getting in the way. You sit there scratching your head because, well, this person obviously likes you enough to keep chatting, so why don't they want to see you again?
More likely than not, you've been benched. Your paramour has met someone they feel more strongly toward, but that's not a sure thing yet, so they're keeping you on the back burner until that dynamic plays out. Now, there's always a chance this person actually did get really busy with work or has been slammed with best man/bridesmaid responsibilities, but when it comes down to it, we make time for the things we value. Let that inform how you move forward with someone who makes you feel benched.
2. Layby (also known as Breadcrumbing and Cushioning):
A layby (pronounced lay-by, not lay-bee) is similar to the shopping term layaway. Say you went on a date or two with someone months or years ago—or maybe you just met through friends and flirted, without ever taking things further—and a few months later, thanks to social media, you found out they were dating someone else.
Now, they've started to reach out via text or Facebook messenger to start seemingly innocuous conversations—"What's up? How are you? What's new with you lately?"—all of which are intended to set the groundwork for you to get invested in this person. But why not just ask you out? Well, because the layby is a tactic for those who aren't comfortable enough with themselves to be alone.
This person is still in a relationship—and either it hasn't been going well, or they're getting bored. But because they need a significant other at all times, they'll keep you on the hook until their current relationship goes south—to cushion the blow of that breakup. They give you just enough crumbs of conversation or flirtation to keep you interested, without crossing any boundaries they couldn't justify if their current partner found out. Just remember, if someone will do this to their current partner with you, they'd just as soon do it to you with someone else.
3. Catch and release:
So, you met somebody who seemed really into you and you started off a bit ambivalent. You hung out a few times, and their charm and attentiveness won you over. But as soon as you started to act interested, to really like the person, they were suddenly very busy. They texted less and stopped calling altogether. So, what gives?
The catch-and-release method, like cultivating lay-bys, is a tactic used by people who need constant affirmation and validation. But for catch-and-releasers, there's often a fear of engulfment or codependence that causes them to run at the first sign you could really care about them. The other possible cause of this type of behavior is a subconscious belief that only people who don't want you are worth having. It usually stems from having an absent or unaffectionate parent. So, until these folks work through their issues, they'll play out the issues of their parent/child relationship over and over.
4. Slow fade:
The slow fade is a lot like ghosting and often has very similar causes to the catch and release. Imagine you've been dating someone and it's been going well. You're ready for the relationship to evolve—to introduce them to your parents or start spending nights at each other's apartment or, you know, join his coed softball team. As soon as you voice these desires, your S.O. starts to back slowly away.
Rather than saying, "Hey, this is moving faster than I'm comfortable with. Can we slow things down?" the slow fader takes the coward's way out. They just become less available, then you stop seeing them altogether. There are halfhearted attempts at conversation via text or Facebook for a little while, but eventually even that stops.
The slow fade can also result from someone just realizing they're not that into you. But know that this behavior, no matter the cause, is never your fault or something you "deserve." Everyone deserves the respect of honesty, even when it's uncomfortable.
Say you experienced the slow fade from an ex, and then, months or years later, you notice they're liking your Instagram photos a lot, or commenting on your status updates, or—God forbid—adding you as a LinkedIn connection. This stems from the mistaken notion that because you never "officially" cut ties, there's plausible deniability if they suddenly decide they have time for you again.
I went on one date with a guy about a year ago, and we never hung out again. A couple of months ago, he started liking all of my Instagram photos and eventually asked me out. Since I am what people would call "not shy," to put it mildly, I flat-out asked him, "You didn't think we had potential when we went out a year ago. Why are you reaching out to me now? What do you think is different?" His response, "Well, I was just looking at your pictures and remembering how cute you are." Thanks for the honesty but not good enough. Which is exactly what I told him.
With guys like this, just keep in mind that if they slow-faded you once, they'll absolutely do it again. And giving them the time of day a second time is telling them you're OK with it.
6. Drafting season:
We all know what cuffing season is by now. (It's basically just winter.) But in terms of dating, it refers to the time of year during which people who would otherwise be happy playing the field find someone with similar needs to snuggle up with until the snow thaws. Drafting season happens in late summer and extends into early fall. It's the time of year that cuffers are dating up a storm and then begin to narrow down their prospects in hopes of having a guaranteed cuddle buddy by the time the first snow falls.
Even Drake is in on the cuffing game: "Damn, is it the fall? Time for me to revisit the past, there's women to call."
And speaking of the emcee of your heart... You know that friend you have who is always dating someone (or several someones) and always seems to be unhappy with how things are going? They're the ones who post cryptic, melancholy lyrics on all their social media platforms, like "I never had you, although I would be glad to. I'd probably go and tattoo your name on my heart." That person's Draking hard.
It really just means waxing poetic about your relationship drama and hoping it comes across and sensitive and soulful rather than whiny and self-pitying. Unfortunately, this only works when Drake does it.
8. Throwback dating:
As a reaction against the ever-more techno-centric dating landscape, more and more daters are kicking it old-school. This could mean anything from rejecting online dating altogether and challenging themselves to make IRL meet-cutes happen to going tech-free on dates (meaning, keep your phone on you, because, safety first, but put it on airplane mode or silent).
However you want to interpret this trend, it's definitely one we'd like to see stick around.
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