Plus what to do when you're confronted by them IRL.
Recently, I read a tweet that struck a darkly funny chord: “Being single is all fun and games until you realise it’s a never ending cycle of getting to know someone, they eventually stop texting you, then they watch your Instagram story every day until you die.”
Orbiting. Whether we recognise the term or not, many of us who have thrown ourselves into the masochism that is dating in 2018 have experienced this bizarre situation. Unrelated to super galactic exploration, it describes when a person who ghosts you (no explanation needed there, eh?) still inexplicably engages with you on social media – such as religiously watching your Insta updates or throwing you the odd ‘like’ – and it’s just the latest in a string of expressions that explain why present-day romance is such a minefield.
Why exactly is modern dating so difficult? What is the reason behind it that makes being a crazy cat lady seem genuinely appealing as an alternative to dealing with the bullshit? According to Annie Lavin, a dating and relationship coach who is based in Dublin but works with clients all over the world, the dating scene is no longer recognisable. “I define modern dating as a kind of romantic consumerism with an over reliance on online dating,” she tells me.
Online dating has changed the way people date, mate and separate yet our human need to connect, be accepted, desired and treated with compassion and love has not. Modern dating requires so much resilience and adaptability to deal with all the uncertainty and change characteristic of a game with no rules.
Dating apps have a lot to do with our heads being melted, Annie continues. “In any context, too many options can lead to uncertainty and self-doubt. Swiping culture does not always offer the thing most people are seeking – real life authentic connection – and as a result this absence can cause of a lot of frustration.”
So, what’s a single gal to do? It’s hard to meet people IRL, but if Prince Charming doesn’t necessarily turn up on Tinder either, where do we go from here? Keep the head up, Annie insists. “Many of my single clients who have negative experiences of online dating come to me with a lot of self-doubt and wonder if there is something wrong with them because they can’t seem to ‘master’ online dating.
One thing is for sure, there is nothing wrong with them but we may need to bring some awareness to their online dating patterns if they are seeking change in their love lives. I encourage clients to date for growth and use every online and offline dating experience as an opportunity to learn something new about themselves regardless of the results.
With this in mind, I asked Annie to decode those pesky dating terms that keep popping up to figure out why someone might act this way, and how best to react. Orbiting? Up Uranus, mate. (NB: this is not part of the advice.)
When someone disappears and doesn’t bother to tell the person they’ve been dating
Reason: “The ‘ghoster’ is not being honest with themselves or the ‘ghostee’ when they apply this exit strategy to dating. The more one avoids the short-term emotional discomfort of being honest about why they don’t want to continue seeing someone, the more avoidance becomes their norm.”
Response: “The best response is to remind yourself that someone who does not directly communicate is unlikely to show up ready for a healthy, meaningful, relationship.”
After you’ve been ghosted, the ‘ghost’ may return one day, as a ‘zombie’, and get back in touch as if everything is normal
Reason: “There may be so many different reasons why someone yo-yos back and forth but some of the common ones are loneliness, fear of being alone/change, self-doubt, or genuine regret.”
Response: “Regardless of the reason your ex resurfaces, the two questions you need to ask yourself are: Why did the two of you break up in the first place, and have those circumstances changed? If not, you need to set some clear boundaries to allow you to move on.”
A ‘friendlier way’ to ghost somebody, by letting them down gently before totally disappearing from their life straight away
Reason: “Similar to the reasons I gave for ghosting, this person appears to avoid direct communication.”
Response: “If you would like to create a healthy meaningful relationship with someone, communication is key. Even if you were to start a relationship with someone who avoids direct communication, the chances of it progressing into a healthy relationship are slim.”
When you’re not overly interested in someone, but you’ll keep them on the back burner, y’know, ‘just in case’
Reason: “The reasons can range from boredom to a bad habit. Perhaps this person needs to have a ‘someone’ on the back burner (even if they are not interested in them) to help themselves feel validated.”
Response: “Consider what you want from a partner and a relationship. If you want to create a healthy, meaningful, long-term relationship, consistency is important. Become clear about what you need and if you think you are not being valued, leave.”
When somebody phases you out without explanation, but continues to follow every bit of your life on social media
Reason:“This could be a case of denial, or perhaps this is just what this person does. Perhaps a relationship is not something they were ever looking for and they just did not get around to telling you.”
Response: “Learn from this experience by becoming clear on what you want from online dating and discover early on what those you are meeting want too so you can save time and meet more like minded people.”
When you’re seeing somebody but you don’t get introduced to family/friends and nothing is posted online about you… almost like you’re a secret
Reason: “Some people like to keep their romantic lives private for numerous reasons. One reason partners may not introduce you to their friends/family is because at this point in time they may not be invested enough in the relationship. Someone who chooses not to share information about their relationship online does not ring any alarm bells to me. Research suggests oversharing can be an indicator of an insecure relationship.”
Response: “If you have been with a person for a significant amount of time without being introduced to their friends or family and it is troubling you, it might be time to tell your partner how you feel and give them an opportunity to explain their reasons for keeping things quiet.”
Catch and release
When someone entices you with flirty texts, but once you agree to a date, they immediately lose interest and move on to someone else
Reason: “People are online for all sorts of reasons but if they back off after a date is agreed it is a sign they may not be available to date right now. They may not be emotionally available or they may have something to hide.”
Response: “It’s a sign to only try and date people who are willing and ready to date, because lots of them exist.”
Widely talked about after Love Island recently: When someone sows seeds in the other’s person’s mind that causes them to doubt themselves, often to excuse or deflect from their own behaviour
Reason: “This is a very serious issue, not to be overlooked. Gaslighting is a way of manipulating a person to doubt themselves in an effort to gain more power over them. Gaslighting occurs gradually over time and can lead people to question their own sanity.”
Response: “Becoming aware of the following common gaslighting techniques: Telling lies, denying they ever said something even in the face of proof, using something you told them in confidence as ammunition against you in an argument, gradually chipping away at your character over time, actions that do not match words, they praise you (so you will think they are not so bad), they accuse you of the thing they are (e.g. liar, cheat, etc), they use others against you, telling other people you are crazy, telling you everyone else is a liar (you question everyone else except them) to isolate you.”