It’s completely normal to date around and avoid committing to someone too quickly, but in 2022, single people have taken playing the field to a whole new level. Of all the annoying dating trends doing the rounds, cookie-jarring just may be one of the worst yet — and trust me, this is one dessert you’ll want to take a pass on.
What is cookie-jarring?
It’s all about keeping you on the shelf. If the meaning of cookie-jarring isn’t immediately obvious, I’ll keep it simple: it’s basically when someone you’re dating puts you on the back burner. They’re not into you enough to make you a priority, but they don’t want to let you go in case they get bored/find themselves single and horny again in the near future.
“‘Cookie jarring’ happens when an individual pursues a relationship to have as a back-up plan or security blanket — with no real intention of a long-term relationship,” explains licensed psychologist Catalina Lawsin, Ph.D.. “These individuals are typically already dating someone who they are pursuing a long-term relationship with, or are at the beginning of a promising relationship.”
The term cookie-jarring has been around for a while. It first started doing the rounds back in 2019, with dating coach Hayley Quinn revealing that it’s “more likely to be motivated by insecurity than lust.” In essence, it’s all about “making sure you have all your bases covered so you’re never alone.”
Signs cookie-jarring is happening to you
- They avoid introducing you to other people in their lives. A person who’s cookie-jarring you has no intention of making you their primary partner, so there’s really no need for them to bring you into the fold of the rest of their lives. That means you definitely shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for invites to hang out with their friends or meet their family members because they’re not going to come.
- You get the sneaking suspicion you’re not the only person they’re talking to. A cookie-jarrer may not actually be single. There’s every chance that they’re already in a relationship, albeit not one that’s going very well! By keeping you on the shelf, they have a guaranteed fallback for when their primary relationship goes south. If they’re not already committed but are dating multiple people, they’re keeping you around in case the other connections fizzle out.
- They’re always noncommital when it comes to making plans. Cookie-jarring is, in essence, a contingency plan. That means being able to pin down time to hang out or do something together is going to be difficult because you’re not their first choice. You’re there in case their other plans fall through. Assuming all goes well, they won’t have the time to see you.
- When you hang out, it tends to be last-minute. This is a classic sign of cookie-jarring. They can’t make plans to go to dinner this weekend or go to a concert at the end of the month because they “don’t know their schedule yet,” but they can certainly turn up tomorrow night last-minute or text you in a few hours to ask if you want to come over tonight. That’s because they have nothing else to do and you’re saving them from having to settle for their own company.
- They never make an effort to keep in touch. Someone who’s cookie-jarring you will probably go AWOL for days or weeks on end. This is because they have a full social and romantic life and you don’t really factor into it. You’ll hear from them at strategic times, like when their primary partner is on a work trip or when they’re bored and no one else is answering their texts.
- Talk about the future is a no-go. Obviously if they’re not interested in you enough to keep you permanently off the shelf, you don’t have a future together. However, they won’t tell you that directly. Instead, cookie-jarring is all about remaining vague enough to keep you on the hook and gloss over the fact that they couldn’t really care less. Try to talk about the future and you’ll find this out for yourself quickly.
- They don’t even want to define the relationship. How do you define a relationship with someone who’s cookie-jarring you? It’s impossible. They don’t want to admit that you’re not a priority in their life because if they did, you would likely be out of there and they’d have no cookies in the jar to reach for when necessary. So, they’ll say something like “I’m loving where we’re going” or “Let’s just go with the flow – things are going really well” to keep you believing that there’s a chance.
- They seem particularly needy when you’re together. You may not realize it, but cookie-jarring is all about insecurity. The reason this person feels the need to have backup options is that they don’t have enough self-confidence to believe that they’re capable of maintaining one strong, healthy relationship. That, and they want someone there to stroke their ego because they’re insecure. When you’re together, don’t be surprised if they spend much of the time fishing for compliments.
- They’re defensive when you confront them about their behavior. This is another big sign of cookie-jarring. When you finally get fed up of being kept on the shelf and decide to say something about how you’re being treated, be prepared for gaslighting, deflection, and outright denial. Someone who does this isn’t going to be quick to admit their behavior, and they certainly won’t be willing to change it. “If they are unwilling to discuss the situation honestly, you should think about ending the conversation and possibly the relationship,” advises licensed psychologist Rachel Davidson, Ph.D. “The number one thing to remember here is to ignore their attacks on you — this is likely an attempt to get you off track from what you are asking them about.”