Anyone in the world of dating today, especially online and in apps, will tell you that there are a few words you may have to add to your vocabulary. By now, everyone knows about catfishing — A.K.A. pretending you’re somebody online who you’re not. But did you know there’s also practices called benching, breadcrumbing, and even kittenfishing? Who knows — you could be the kittenfisher without even realizing it.
Check out this glossary to help you get up to date on today’s dating lingo. And the next time your pal confides that a potential match is “incel” (involuntary celibate), you won’t have to excuse yourself to the restroom to Google the meaning.
Benching: This is the dating version of being on a sports team and waiting for the coach to put you in. You’re into someone but not enough to take your relationship to the next level. At the same time, you don’t want them going off to find someone new. Essentially, you keep them just interested enough to have them available on the sideline when you want them.
Cuffing Season: While summer is typically thought of as a time to be single and have fun, cuffing season is the opposite. It’s the period from October to March when people want to be coupled up — or “handcuffed” to another person — at least until spring arrives. In general, finding a partner seems more appealing in the winter months so you have someone to cuddle up with, so you may notice that people are pairing off just as the leaves fall from the trees.
Cushioning: Have you ever had a few potential partners just a text away, just in case your current relationship doesn’t work out? That’s called cushioning — because you’re making sure you land without hurting yourself too badly. It’s considered to be “microcheating” by many, meaning you’re making an emotional connection behind your partner’s back despite not being physically intimate.
ENM (Ethically Non-Monogamous): Also known as consensual non-monogamy (CNM), someone who identifies themself as ENM means that they are looking for an open relationship. This means different things for different people, so honest and open communication is key to success.
GGG (Good, Giving and Game): Coined by sex advice columnist Dan Savage, the GGG approach is what sexual partners should strive to be for a healthy relationship. “Think good in bed, giving based on a partner’s sexual interests, and game for anything — within reason,” Savage explained.
Ghosting: Things seem to be going well with someone you’ve met … until suddenly, they’re gone. You haven’t seen them in weeks, they’re not answering texts or calls, and you’re pretty sure they ran out of Starbucks to avoid you the other day. It’s as if they’ve vanished — much like a ghost. Unfortunately, sometimes completely cutting off communication seems easier than letting someone know they don’t want to pursue a relationship any further. It truly stinks, but instead of making up excuses — “Maybe their phone died … and they haven’t been able to make it to the Verizon store … all month” — it’s probably time to move on. Though, moving on is much more difficult after being ghosted, so don’t do this to people. Please and thank you.
Haunting: Being ghosted is bad enough, but being haunted might be worse. This is when your match cuts off communication, but they subtly let you know that they’re watching you, perhaps in the form of a “like” on a Facebook comment or by viewing your Instagram story. Haunting is also known as orbiting: you know they’re around, but they won’t come in direct contact.
Kittenfishing: While catfishing means someone is using photos of another person in their dating profile, kittenfishing is a less severe (but still frowned upon) dating offense. A kittenfisher is someone who isn’t using another person’s images, but they’re very much enhancing their own to present an unrealistic version of themselves. Perhaps they Photoshopped their pictures, embellished their accomplishments, or are using outdated images of themselves. While everyone wants to present the best version of themselves on a dating profile, this is taking it a step too far.
New dating trends emerge all the time, and daters invent new words to go with them. So stay alert — both that you’re not a victim of these tactics or the offender.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.