“Cushioning” is a newly coined dating term wherein a partner in a monogamous relationship still flirts with other people — so if their main relationship goes kaput, there’s a backup ready.
“I was seeing someone for a few months and it was going well, but it felt like the dust had started to settle a bit,” Anna, a cushioner who didn’t want to disclose her full name for personal reasons, told the Tab. “I still liked him, but wasn’t entirely sure I wanted him to be my boyfriend and was in limbo. Instead of talk about it, the rational thing to do was to go back on Tinder and find some more boys to chat to, just in case the current one fell through.”
Another cushioner, Lauren, said that she was still messaging lads while “hooking up” with her steady.
“It was always awkward when their names would light up my phone while I was sleeping over [my boyfriend’s] place, but I felt like I needed them as an insurance policy,” she told the Tab.
Meanwhile, Rosie believes cushioning lets her channel her neurosis on guys she’s not that interested in, while still keeping her cool with her main flame.
“When I really like a guy, I find a ‘B team’ guy to keep on the side to channel my crazy,” Rosie told the Tab. “I go on dates with him before I go out with ‘A team,’ literally as a practice round.”
Cushioning is the most recent term young people have come up with to articulate petty dating practices instead of communicating like rational adults.
Previous trends have included “ghosting,” where people gradually stop responding to messages and then disappear on their romantic interests, and “breadcrumbing,” where singles continue to leave traces of hope for dating prospects that they’re not actually that interested in.