Why Do Some People Jump from One Relationship to the Next?
Reflecting on current dating trends, it is useful to pinpoint a distinction between “backburner” communications and “cushioning”. The former typically refers to a strategy of communicating on dating apps or social media with a few people while dating others. Backburner communications typically occur in the early stages of dating, and ideally the flames are extinguished if a decision is made to make a relationship exclusive. This approach can actually work quite well for people who tend to rush in too quickly and hear wedding bells after only a few dates. Dating apps and social media obviously facilitate this trend representing a virtual return to aspects of the 1950s dating norms. Backburner communications often help daters who have come across as needy in the past to realistically pace their dating experience.
But backburner strategies backfire if someone becomes so preoccupied with the backburner that they loose site of what’s cooking up front in their real life dating experiences.
“Cushioning” is strategic, pre-meditated rebounding — the blow of a breakup is cushioned by jumping into the arms of another who is eagerly waiting in the wings. It typically represents an inability to exist without a relationship. Cushioning daters fan the flames of the backburner, repeatedly betraying the boundaries of their committed relationship, and they tend to desperately crave a backup plan. A common problem with cushioning is a tendency to cultivate secret flirtations with someone who represents an exaggerated rebellion against challenges in one’s current relationship. For example, someone who is dating a successful but anxious partner might cushion with a relaxed partner who is unable to keep a job. So cushioning denies both parties a chance to see if the anxiousness (or any other challenges) might be lessened through communication and effort.
People who need to cushion each relationship with another often have a less developed sense of self and are likely to continue to feel dissatisfied in their relationships. People who are able to address relationship challenges and move on to a phase of independence if challenges cannot be resolved are in a much better position to chose their next relationship from a place of strength rather than a place of desperation.