Modern dating has presented single people looking for relationships with an opportunity to connect with more people than ever before. Between social media sites that allow strangers a sneak peak into the lives of others and online dating sites and dating apps, the options seem endless. But are they? Along with the rise of online dating and a growing awareness around elements that make for a healthy or unhealthy relationship, we’ve seen a rise in dating terms used to describe interactions and behaviors that are considered red flags in relationships.

If you haven’t heard modern dating terms like ghosting, breadcrumbing, love bombing and gaslighting and you are about to dive into looking for the love of your life, then it’s time to do a little research. Read on to find out what red flags in relationships are and the dating terms used to describe behaviors that might just indicate that the person you are dating has some red flags.

(Listen to my interview with Sex & Relationship Therapist Dr. Deb Laino)

What Are Red Flags in a Relationship?

In a dating relationship, red flags are behaviors that warning signs that indicate potential problems, unhealthy dynamics, and toxicity. The presence of a single relationship red flag doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship should end, but it does warrant careful consideration and open communication. If you notice multiple red flags or patterns of abusive behavior, it may be necessary to seek the help of a relationship therapist or to consider ending the relationship for your safety and well-being.

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12 Red Flags to Watch Out for in Relationships

  1. Lack of communication: Difficulty in openly expressing thoughts, feelings, or concerns can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved issues.
  2. Controlling behavior: A partner who consistently tries to control your actions, decisions, or interactions with others may exhibit possessiveness, jealousy, or a desire for power.
  3. Disrespect and disregard: Frequent insults, belittling comments, or dismissive behavior indicate a lack of respect for your feelings, boundaries, or autonomy.
  4. Dishonesty: Consistent lying, hiding information, or lack of transparency can erode trust and indicate deeper problems within the relationship.
  5. Emotional manipulation: Manipulative tactics, such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or using emotional blackmail, can be emotionally abusive and undermine your self-esteem.
  6. Isolation from loved ones: A partner who isolates you from friends, family, or other support systems may be trying to exert control or prevent you from seeking advice or assistance.
  7. Intense jealousy or possessiveness: Excessive jealousy, unfounded accusations, or attempts to control your interactions with others can indicate insecurity and a lack of trust.
  8. Lack of empathy: If your partner consistently dismisses or invalidates your feelings, fails to show empathy, or disregards your emotional well-being, it may indicate a lack of emotional support.
  9. Physical or verbal abuse: Any form of physical violence, threats, or verbal abuse is a clear indication of an unhealthy and dangerous relationship.
  10. Power imbalance: A significant power imbalance, where one partner consistently dominates decision-making, controls finances, or has an unequal distribution of responsibilities, can lead to an unhealthy dynamic.
  11. Lack of Respect: Mutual respect is crucial in a healthy relationship. If a partner frequently disrespects the other’s boundaries, belittles their opinions, disregards their feelings, or engages in name-calling or insulting behavior, it’s a red flag that should not be ignored.
  12. Pattern of Disregarding Consent: Consent is essential in any relationship. If your partner disregards your boundaries or consistently pressures or coerces you into activities or situations against your will, it is a major red flag and potentially abusive.
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Modern Dating Terms For Behaviors that Could Indicate Relationship Red Flags

Along with the modernization of approaches to dating has come the modernization of dating lingo. New dating terms are popping up left and right and are being used to describe dating behaviors that could be indicators of potential future (or current) red flags in relationships.

Sex and relationship therapist Deb Laino says it’s important to remember that if you think that the person you are dating is participating in one of the behaviors described in the following dating terms it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to break it off with them or that they are a terrible person. Leno, points out that intention makes a difference.

“There are definitely manipulative people who will do all of these behaviors with the intention of getting what they want, whatever that is. Could be sex, could be money, who knows? And then just not have any thought of you in the future” Leno explains. “And then there are the people who don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings. They really like the person they are dating, but maybe they’re conflict-avoidant and don’t know how to say, ‘look, I really like you, but I don’t want to get into something serious right now.’ Some people feel like that’s conflict, and so they don’t approach it, and they end up doing some of these behaviors.”

16 Modern Dating Terms You Need to Know in 2023

Breadcrumbing: Breadcrumbing is a dating terms refers to a pattern where one person in a relationship or potential relationship gives intermittent and minimal communication or attention to keep the other person interested without committing to a genuine connection. This is one of those dating terms that can be a sign of emotional unavailability or a lack of sincere interest. If you are already in a relationship with someone who is doing this it is a relationship red.

Love Bombing: Love bombing occurs when someone overwhelms their partner with excessive affection, compliments, and attention at the beginning of a relationship. While it may feel flattering initially, it can be a manipulation tactic used to gain control or create a sense of dependence. Love bombers often switch their behavior once they feel secure in the relationship. This dating term indicates a red flag if the behavior suddenly switches.

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a dating term used to describe a form of emotional manipulation where one person tries to distort or undermine their partner’s perception of reality. This can involve denying their experiences, emotions, or memories, making them doubt their sanity or judgment. Gaslighting is aimed at gaining power and control over the other person.

Hoovering: Hoovering is a dating term that refers to a manipulative tactic employed by an individual, typically after a breakup or period of no contact, to draw their former partner back into a relationship. The hooverer may use various methods, such as sending nostalgic messages, making false promises, or attempting to exploit the other person’s vulnerabilities.

Orbiting: Orbiting occurs when someone maintains a digital presence in their ex-partner’s life, even after the relationship has ended. This can involve constantly viewing their social media profiles, liking or commenting on posts, or engaging in sporadic communication without any intention of reconciliation. Orbiting can hinder the healing process and prevent both parties from moving on.

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Negging: Negging is a modern dating term used to describe a manipulative tactic employed by some individuals, typically in the context of dating or romantic relationships. It involves giving backhanded compliments or making subtly derogatory remarks towards the target person with the intention of undermining their self-esteem and creating a power imbalance.

The concept of negging is rooted in the idea that by subtly insulting or criticizing someone, the person delivering the neg believes they can gain the upper hand and make the target more receptive to their advances. The goal is to make the target feel insecure or inadequate, hoping that they will seek validation or approval from the person using negging.

Negging is generally considered to be a red flag in a relationship indicating an unhealthy and disrespectful behavior. It can lead to emotional manipulation, low self-esteem, and an imbalanced power dynamic.

Icing: Icing refers to a dating behavior where one person, often in the early stages of a relationship, intentionally creates distance or pulls back in their level of communication or engagement with the other person. It involves a deliberate decision to slow down or cool off the relationship. The person who is “icing” may become less available, respond to messages less frequently, or decrease the amount of time spent together. Essentially, they create a sense of emotional distance. It’s important to note that icing can be a red flag if it’s being done without clear communication or consideration for the other person’s feelings.

Simmering: Simmering is a modern dating term used to describe a dating situation where one person keeps a potential romantic interest on the back burner while exploring other options. It involves maintaining a minimal level of contact or occasional interactions with someone while keeping the possibility of a deeper connection open, but without making significant progress or commitment. Essentially, the person who is “simmering” is not fully investing in the relationship but is keeping the option available as a backup. This behavior can be hurtful and unfair to the person being “simmered” since it may give false hope or prevent them from moving on. Simmering is a relationship red flag that occurs early on in a new connection.

Note: Both icing and simmering can be considered forms of emotional manipulation or games in the dating realm. They often indicate a lack of genuine interest or commitment from one person, potentially leading to frustration, confusion, or emotional distress for the other party involved.

Cyberflashing: Cyberflashing refers to the act of sending unsolicited explicit or sexual content (such as explicit images or messages) to someone without their consent, primarily through digital means like text messages, social media, or dating apps. It is a form of online harassment or digital sexual harassment. Cyberflashing is intrusive, disrespectful, and can be emotionally harmful to the recipient.

Cookie Jarring: Cookie jarring occurs when someone keeps a backup romantic or sexual option while already being in a committed relationship. They maintain a connection or flirtation with another person, often to ensure they have someone to fall back on if their current relationship ends. It can indicate a lack of commitment or a fear of being alone, and it’s unfair to all parties involved.

Cuffing: Cuffing refers to the act of seeking a temporary romantic or sexual partner, typically during the colder months, with the intention of having companionship during that period. It is often driven by a desire for warmth, intimacy, or having a partner for social events during the holiday season. Cuffing relationships are generally seen as short-term and not intended to be long-lasting.

Situationship: A situationship is a dating terms that refers to a romantic or sexual relationship that lacks clear boundaries, commitment, or defined expectations. It is characterized by a level of emotional and physical intimacy that goes beyond casual dating but falls short of a committed relationship. People in a situationship may enjoy spending time together, being physically involved, and engaging in relationship-like activities, but there is often ambiguity or uncertainty regarding the status or future of the connection.

Pocketing: Pocketing is a relationship red flag that occurs when one person in a relationship keeps their partner hidden or separate from their social circle, effectively “putting them in their pocket.” The person who is pocketing avoids introducing their partner to their friends, family, or wider social network. This behavior can be indicative of a lack of commitment or a desire to keep the relationship hidden for various reasons, such as uncertainty about the future or a fear of judgment.

Benching: Benching is a dating term that refers to a dating behavior where one person keeps a potential romantic interest on the “bench” or in a state of limbo. They may continue occasional communication or dates with the person but without any clear commitment or intention of moving the relationship forward. It’s similar to simmering, as mentioned earlier, where someone keeps their options open while keeping another person on standby.

Soft Launching: Soft launching is a term used to describe a dating situation where two people start seeing each other in a low-key or discreet manner, often avoiding public acknowledgment or formal announcements of their relationship. It can involve dating and spending time together without making it widely known or official. Soft launching is sometimes done to test the compatibility or potential of a relationship before fully committing or announcing it to others.

Cobwebbing: Cobwebbing is the act of removing anything that reminds you of an old relationship, similar to the way you would clear out cobwebs in your home. Getting rid of items that remind you of the past relationship will help you be more present and move towards your future with a clean slate.

Ghosting: Ghosting refers to the act of abruptly and intentionally cutting off all communication with someone, typically in a romantic or interpersonal context, without providing an explanation or any form of closure. It involves ignoring messages, calls, and any attempts at contact, effectively disappearing from the other person’s life without a trace.

Ghosting can occur at any stage of a relationship, whether it’s during the early stages of dating or even after a long-term commitment. It can happen in person or through various communication channels, including text messages, phone calls, social media, or dating apps.

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