Just like its cousins benching and breadcrumbing, cushioning is another dating trend sweeping the relationship world. Despite the term only being coined recently, the act itself has been around for as long as guys have acted like jerks. And although it sounds fairly harmless, if it’s happening to you, it’s a major concern.
WTF is going on here?
Unlike in almost-relationship situations, cushioning occurs when a person is in a monogamous relationship but maintains their cushions. These cushions come in the form of “friends,” people met through dating apps or exes who could potentially serve a romantic purpose and soften the blow should the current relationship end. Sort of like breakup insurance. It’s also just a way of keeping options open and being a bit of a man-whore.
Who does it?
Short answer: unworthy douchebags. Long answer: insecure people, commitment-phobes, ego-boost addicts, guys who can’t be alone, or any combination of the above. Who really knows what’s up with the people who pull this BS; they could have had a string of failed relationships under their belt and are trying to protect themselves. Or they could just be a sneaky a-hole, never familiarized with the concept of loyalty.
Cushioning and cheating are kind of the same thing, depending on who you ask.
Is cushioning just a fancy new term for good old-fashioned cheating? That will depend on your definition of cheating. Generally, cushioning is much more subtle and involves friendly communication and a bit of flirting, both of which can be fine even in a committed relationship. It’s the motives of this contact—using the cushion as relationship backup—that make it sinister. Cushioning and cheating also share a lot of the same warning signs.
Cushioners are always on their phones.
And so are people with a healthy Pinterest obsession, I know. But if he’s always getting messages and fairly guarded about who he’s talking to, it’s probably safe to assume it’s not his mom. Another bad sign is if he feels the need to take his phone with him, even if he’s just going into another room. If you ever get the urge to go through his messages, that’s the first sign something isn’t right.
Cushioners act suspicious on social media.
Have you ever walked in on him on his laptop to see him exit out of the page he was on? Okay, so maybe he was watching porn or Googling how to get a six pack like Zac Efron and was just embarrassed, but if he’s constantly acting a little sketchy and private on his computer—red flag. Short of secretly working for the CIA or planning you a giant surprise birthday party, there aren’t too many reasons he should be frequently hiding his laptop activity from you, particularly social media and emails.
Cushioners are secretive.
And often will be vague about plans or who they’re hanging out with. He’s obviously not going to be upfront with you about who he’s stringing along in the background, and it might not be just restricted to digital contact. His cushions might be in his group of friends or co-workers. If you’re in a relationship, you probably know most of his buddies by name. So if he’s always just vaguely referring to “friends” and isn’t direct about who he’s hanging out with, that’s a little off.
Cushioners keep their exes on the radar.
It’s normal to stay friends with an ex or two, unless you’re me and your ex is a sociopathic toolbag. But if he’s keeping up with most of his old girlfriends or flings you’ve gotta wonder what his motives are. Just like the mullet and mustache trend, some things are only meant to be around temporarily. So if he feels the need to keep in touch with these girls, it’s a clear warning sign. And if he hasn’t introduced you to these females friends, that’s another problem.
What if you’re the cushion?
Being someone’s cushion feels a lot like being on the back burner, only it’s a lot worse because there’s another relationship involved. There are also zero good outcomes for the cushion. You’ll either a) be an accomplice to ruining a relationship, b) play the fallback when he gets dumped or c) forever be resigned to the wings. None are really appealing options for anyone with a regular level of self-respect. Who wants to be someone’s Plan B?
Cushioning is the enemy of commitment.
If he’s not willing to risk getting his heart broken, he’s probably not ready to fall in love. And if that’s the case, your relationship will never run very deep. You can’t fully commit with one foot in and one foot out. It might seem reasonable to want to protect yourself from hurt or rejection, but the need to cushion means your relationship is built on pretty rocky foundations. It might be time to reconsider if it’s really worth your time.
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