By Amber Raiken

What are the big five dating trends to avoid on Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter)? My feature in The Independent UK reveals the top dos and don’ts this day of love: #hardballing #ValentinesDay #datingtrends #paperclipping #lovebombing #ghosting

Journalist Amber Raiken writes, “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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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