Here are five dating trends to avoid on Valentine’s Day and three to actually use

What are some of the most popular dating trends to keep an eye on this Valentine’s Day? Amber Raiken reports on the green or red flags in your relationship.

Wednesday 15 February 2023 14:02 GMT
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With Valentine’s Day in full swing, you may be in the midst of preparing for an evening with your significant other. Or, if you’re currently not in a relationship, you may opt to use 14 February to hang out with someone you’re not yet dating. And who’s to say that’s not a good way to make the best out of this “love day?”

As you’re continuing on with your dating journey, there are a few habits that you want to keep an eye on which can very telling about who you’re sitting across from and what your relationship could become.

In today’s dating world, some sinister trends have become more painfully common than ever been before, which is why we spoke to relationship expert Susan Winter, a relationship expert based in New York City, and Irina Firstein, an Individual and Couples Therapist in Manhattan, about what these toxic tactics are and how to spot them.

This isn’t to say that all romance is dead or that all dating is evil. There are some trends to keep in mind that can actually make you and your love interest’s relationship, or whatever you may call it, even stronger.

Here are the five dating trends to avoid this Valentine’s Day and the three that you could actually use.

Avoid: Ghosting

Probably the most common trend of them all is ghosting. The meaning of it is pretty much what it sounds like: when someone you’re talking to turns into a “ghost” and cuts off communication out of nowhere. The matter of why they’ve stopped texting, calling, etc, can often be unclear.

Although it seems simpler to send an “I wish you well” text rather than ghosting, that doesn’t appear to be the norm anymore. Speaking to The Independent, Winter explains how ghosting is the result of the “hookup culture” -- when people opt for something casual instead of a relationship.

“The hookup culture has depersonalized relationships and connections, making them disposable,” she says. “The entire idea of a casual relationship really fell through the cracks of human politeness because they think: ‘It really doesn’t mean anything, it wasn’t a relationship.’ So the absence of giving someone a label allows them to default to very bad behaviour.”

Firstein agrees with Winter on why ghosting happens and also acknowledges how it can occur even beyond the early stages of dating.

“The more troubling situation is when this happens after a few dates or after a relationship starts and somewhat progresses,” she says. “This happens due to emotional cowardice and avoidance of feeling uncomfortable emotions that are normal human emotions, caused by hurting another person and/or ending a relationship.”

Avoid: Love bombing

Despite the positive connotation in the first word of this term, love bombing is a controlling behaviour in the dating world. Winter describes it as someone glorifying the relationship they have with you and painting a dream for your future together.

For example, little phrases like: “I can’t stop thinking about you” or “I’ve never met anybody like you” could be said to you when you’re being love bombed. While these little things may be exactly what you want to hear, it can be far too much all at once. The problem with love bombers is they are far too attentive, a tactic that ultimately turns into something quite manipulative.

“It wears away at your resistance,” she explains. “The light is so bright, the attention is so delicious. Even though you know you shouldn’t go there, we all love to be desired. And the person who keeps throwing light and praise, you end up addicted to it. That is the point, it is the seduction technique.”

Firstein further explains that when you’re being love bombed, it can be a sign that your relationship isn’t going to last. It is a misrepresentation of your partner’s feelings, which are shared in order to “lock you in” the relationship.

“They’re overstating feelings and intentions and moving a relationship forward, with not much to back it up. This is done to avoid pain, in general, or to avoid a breakup that’s in the process,” she says. “It happens ironically with commitment phobics or narcissists who want to feel like they can manipulate people for self aggrandizement.”

Avoid: Gaslighting

A behaviour that also occurs outside of dating, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse when someone manipulates you into questioning what you think or feel. In 2022, the phrase was so popular that Merriam Webster chose gaslighting as its word of the year.

As defined by the online dictionary, gaslighting “leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the” person doing it. Winter went on to explain to The Independent that when you’re dating a gaslighter, they twist your words entirely.

“Instead of working through a problem, they put the problem back on you,” she says. “And they make you think it’s your fault or that you’re imagining it. So it’s an ultimate form of lack of responsibility and a desire to make you crazy.”

Avoid: Negging

Negging, which is also often referred to as a form of emotional manipulation, is when someone deliberately gives you a backhanded compliment. As Winter explains, one example could be that your partner says: “Oh that dress is really cute, that was in a couple years ago.”

Winter explains that this manipulative behaviour often occurs because a partner wants to make you feel insecure so you can seek their approval.

“Negging is something that’s meant to sound like a compliment, but it diminishes you at the same time,” she adds. “It is done for the reason of making you desire that person’s acceptance. That they notice you but you’re not quite up to snuff.”

Avoid: Paperclipping

Unlike these other dating trends, this one’s a bit more specific. Paperclipping describes how that ex reaches out to you at random points, but with no intention of wanting you back.

The term originated in 2019, after illustrator Samantha Rothenberg shared a drawing of the infamous and now-retired icon for Microsoft Word mascot Clippy. In Rothenberg’s illustration, she described the ways in which this “paper clip” can be someone toxic, similar to that of an ex who you’re not necessarily friends with.

“Sometimes I pop up for no reason at all. Like now,” the speech bubble in the graphics reads. “See, the truth is, I’m damaged, flaky, and not particularly interested in you. But I don’t want you to forget I exist.”

Winter describes paperclipping as a way of “reserving one’s heart” and says it allows your ex to make you a perpetual option since you have history together.

“You have a connection. You think it gives you the right to make contact again. You don’t really intend to do anything, but you might. So, put them on hold,” she adds. “If this person just created chaos in your life, and they came back around, you just got to stay away.”

Firstein also acknowledges that it isn’t a good thing when someone paperclips you, adding: “Its usually a reaction to a current rejection or new relationship difficulties. In my experience, there is no actual change or shift that’s prompting someone to reach out, so things will end same way again. This can also impede your recovery from the original breakup.”

Use: Hardballing

While some behaviours should certainly be avoided, there are still good ones to use that can help build your connection. Winter notes that while hardballing looks like such a “tough-stabbing term,” it’s “a very rational move” and quite simple behaviour too. It means when you’re honest and straightforward about what it is you’re looking for right off the bat.

“Whether it’s in your online profile or the first time you meet in person,” she explains. “Only that way, when you review your hand and what you want, you have an idea of if they’re going to be a match for you or not.”

She emphasises the benefits of hardballing, as opposed to learning later on that you and your love interest are going in different directions. “It saves you months of time that you’ve wasted, only to come to that conclusion, with heartbreak attached,” she adds.

Use: ‘Turning Toward’ your relationship.

After studying couples for more than 50 years, psychologists Dr John Gottman and Dr Julie Schwartz Gottman learned how the act of turning towards your relationship can make it successful.

The doctors noted that through responding to different “bids for connection” from your partner, which can be requests for a quick phone call or deep conversation, you are ​​”acknowledging them and engaging with their attempt to connect”.

The Gottmans explain that one way to practice this behaviour is with 10-minute check-in at some point of the day where neither you or your partner can be interrupted. Couples can also consider small moments, like saying “good morning” at the start of the day, as an opportunity to connect.

Use: ‘Main Character Energy’

This Gen-Z term has been defined far beyond just the dating realm. The premise of it is to focus on yourself in order to be happy with the person you’re becoming.

In a recent study done by UK dating website Plenty of Fish, “main character energy” was identified as one of the top dating trends of 2023. In the results of the study, 49 per cent of singles said they were doing an “active change to put themselves first”.

Ultimately, Plenty of Fish says that by focusing on yourself when dating, you won’t be settling for anything less than what you deserve. In the process of knowing what works for you, you are choosing to value your and someone else’s time.

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