Spider-webbing: What is the new toxic dating trend?

The term describes ‘a complex network of manipulative behaviours woven over time’

Olivia Petter
Friday 27 October 2023 13:57 BST
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Spider-webbing: the latest toxic dating trend

Heads up, single people: there’s a new trend for you to dodge on the way to your next date.

Introducing Spider Webbing, a term used to describe an accumulation of toxic behaviours that have, like a web, become intricately woven together to the point where you can no longer see through them.

It will be a familiar feeling to anyone who has been single in the online dating era, where nobody says what they mean, and most of us are reduced to two-dimensional ciphers telling others about a “shower thought” they once had (it’s a prompt on Hinge...).

“Spider Webbing is a term used to describe a complex network of manipulative behaviours woven over time, which can entangle individuals in a tumultuous and unhealthy relationship, often leaving them feeling trapped and emotionally distressed,” explains Emma Hathorn, in-house dating expert and luxury dating site, Seeking.com.

As for what those behaviours may entail, it could be anything from being ghosted, love-bombed, and gaslit, all of which have been discussed at length in recent years as they become increasingly common. There is no end to the cruelties one can be exposed to in the pursuit of love. Now, we have one term to describe what happens when we’re affected by all of them at once.

“It's important to address this trend because it not only jeopardises the emotional well-being of those involved but also erodes trust and authenticity in the dating world,” adds Hathorn.

“Toxic dating behaviours like Spider Webbing can cause lasting emotional harm, erode self-esteem, and create an atmosphere of mistrust and scepticism in future relationships.

“By recognising and addressing this trend, we can work towards re-establishing dating as an enjoyable, respectful, and honest pursuit, where individuals can genuinely connect and build meaningful relationships free from manipulation and toxicity – finding connections that can elevate their lifestyle and wellbeing.”

‘There is no end to the cruelties one can be exposed to in the pursuit of love’

As for how to recongnise if it’s happening to you, there are a few clear warning signs.

First, is if your relationship feels like an emotional rollercoaster. “ If you’re experiencing intense highs and lows that leave you feeling uncertain, it could be a sign you’re subject to some Spider Webbing tactics,” suggests Hathorn.

“It’s essential to keep track of your emotional well-being and take these fluctuations seriously. Healthy relationships should provide stability and support, not constant emotional turmoil. If you find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster ride, it’s a red flag that you should closely examine the dynamics of your relationship and consider discussing your concerns with your partner.”

Other, more obvious signs, could be things like receiving constant criticism from your partner, or noticing if they have double standards and hold you to account for things they themselves do.

Finally, you might just need to trust your instincts. “If something doesn't feel right, if you have a persistent feeling of unease, or if you find yourself questioning your own judgment, trust your instincts,” says Hathorn.

“Our intuition often serves as a powerful warning system. If your inner voice is sounding the alarm, it's essential to take these feelings seriously – remind yourself of what your standards are, raise them – and then raise them again.”

Spider Webbing is something dating coach James Preece has noticed happening across his client base, too. However, he explains it’s important not to relate everything negative in your relationship to a buzzy term, as it might not always be relevant.

“While this trend certaintly does exist, it’s crucial to note that it’s not very common and few people are this manipulative or nasty,” he says.

“On the occasions where I have seen this Spider “ebbing activity, it’s usually part of a much bigger problem.

“If you do worry that something isn’t right, talk to a friend and ask their opinion. They will often be able to spot the signs you may be overlooking and can soon help you blow the spider webs away.”

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