“Cushioning” Is A New Dating Trend — Here’s What You Need To Know About It

There plenty of bad dating trends out there already, but now there’s a new one: cushioning. What does it mean for you if you’re on the dating scene and how can you tell if your partner’s guilty of it? Read on so you can hopefully avoid it altogether.

  1. What is cushioning? Cushioning is when a guy’s in a relationship with you but keeps women on the side who he flirts with just in case he needs them at a later stage, like if your relationship ends. Gross.
  2. It can be used to lead you on. If a guy’s dating you but keeping his options open, he could really just be leading you on until he gets what he wants. Cushioning you gives him the chance to set up romantic opportunities with other women and easily leave the relationship with you if it starts to go downhill. Not exactly a vote of confidence, eh?
  3. What if things don’t go downhill? Then he sticks with you but continues chatting and flirting with these other women because in his mind, he just never knows what may happen. It’s even worse than him just outright breaking up with you. Ugh.
  4. It could explain ghosting. The cushioning trend could explain ghosting. If a guy’s not 100 percent committed to your relationship, it might make it easier for him to get out of it once he knows he’s got someone else waiting for him. The sick thing is that he has to take the time to build an almost relationship with this other person while he’s supposedly committed to you.
  5. It’s a relationship escape hatch. Cushioning is a way for guys to ensure they have a quick exit from the relationship by setting up other women to date. This is so lousy not just because it means he’s building connections with other women while dating you but also because if you have relationship problems, he might figure he doesn’t have to try to fix them — he can just find romance elsewhere, which puts a dent in the traditional idea of working on a relationship.
  6. It prevents commitment. How the hell can he say he loves you and is committed to you if he’s talking to and flirting with other women? It’s such BS. Worst of all, you might think he’s committed without knowing that he’s up to no good on the side.
  7. Dating apps make cushioning easier. You might not even realize that your boyfriend is cushioning you because he could be doing it all from his phone. Instead of flirting with other women when he’s out at a restaurant or club with you, he could be doing so in private. For example, maybe he’s chatting to female friends he’s attracted to or using dating apps that give him a chance to flirt with other women on the side without dating them in real life. The methods are different, but the betrayal is the same.
  8. It takes flirting to another level. This is not just about smiling at a stranger — this is about forming a bond with someone and keeping them in mind as a potential partner, even though you have a partner already. It’s definitely not harmless! Why would anyone feel the need to keep their options open when they’re in a relationship? It’s so screwed up.
  9. We’ve lost faith in relationships. Cushioning is a sign that we’ve lost faith in love, and it’s really sad. Instead of being committed to someone and taking a risk for love, people are trying to ensure that they come out winning every time. Instead of making a relationship work and dealing with obstacles together, people are looking outside of the relationship for distractions and quick exits. It sucks.
  10. It’s a form of micro-cheating. People who cushion their partners might think that it’s not as bad as sleeping with someone or having an office romance with a colleague, but it’s definitely a form of cheating on a smaller scale. It’s the intention behind the flirting that’s the problem: it’s a way for people to keep their romantic options open, which should be off the table when one’s in a relationship.
  11. There are signs to look for. Although cushioning feels like something that can’t be seen because people do it so secretly and skilfully, there are ways to spot if you’re being cushioned. For instance, if your partner is always on their phone and never leaves their phone in the same room as you, there might be something shady going on. Same for if your partner seems disinterested in the relationship or it feels like they’re just going through the motions. They could be finding their excitement outside of the relationship. Another thing to spot is any weird feelings you have towards your boyfriend’s female friends — if something feels inappropriate, like if the way he speaks about them points to more than just friendly interest, he might be cushioning you with them.
  12. Cushioning is cowardly. Just like ghosting, cushioning is a cowardly way of dealing with relationships. Instead of either deciding to be in a relationship with someone or not at all, the person has one foot out the door, waiting for something else to come along. It’s another dating trend that gives people the chance to hurt others and be selfish. We don’t need more of that.
  13. Cushioning boosts relationship anxiety. Many people already have trust issues, so trends like cushioning feel like they could worsen them. The same goes for feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. Wondering and worrying if your partner could be doing this shady behavior behind your back that isn’t blatant cheating is exhausting. In fact, it’s enough to make you want to swear off dating for good!
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.