It may seem hypocritical and even dishonest, but this approach to casual dating has been going on for eons. Picture: Pexels

Ghosting, haunting, breadcrumbing - it’s hard keeping up with the latest dating trends when your relationship track record reads like a dramatic novel of scattered dreams and broken hearts.

The latest disposable dating term, called cushioning, is all about keeping your options open.

New to the dating lexicon, it’s even made it into the Urban Dictionary which defines it as “when someone in a relationship maintains several ‘cushions’ - people that they text, flirt with, or even date - to provide back-up options in case their relationship ends”.

To cushion or not to cushion?

It may seem hypocritical and even dishonest, but this approach to casual dating has been going on for eons. The only difference between then and now are the many options we have available to us because of our hyper-connected culture.

Or at least this is what sex expert Jenni Holdsworth tends to think. “It’s no surprise that this has come about in the modern lives we are living. We are bombarded with different choices in every aspect of our lives, so why should our dating lives be any different?”, she says.

“The problem with cushioning is that it’s a dishonest practice and it's never a good idea to start a potential relationship with dishonesty.”

It’s a noteworthy point, but there must be some innate reason for sabotaging a relationship before it really has a chance to get off the ground?
eHarmony's Verity Hogan believes it all comes down to using cushioning as an avoidance tactic. “It’s a way to avoid getting hurt, avoid feeling vulnerable, and avoid fully investing in a relationship,” she wrote in a blog post.

These are all negative emotions associated with romance. But what about the positives? You’ll be closing yourself off to the wonderful feeling of falling in love and that moment you feel butterflies in your stomach.

People will get hurt, even unintentionally

“As much as you think the person you’re dating won’t be hurt by your cushions, they will be able to tell if they don’t have your full attention. And having fleeting relationships with no emotional attachment can be an unsatisfying, even lonely, experience,” noted Hogan.

Holdsworth tends to agree: “I firmly believe that honest communication is the foundation of a good relationship and cushioning is the opposite.”

Blogger and dating guru Ian Stobber sees things from the point of view of the ‘cushion’. He says stringing someone else along in the hopes that they'll be able to cushion your fall after a breakup is potentially cruel to that person.

“They might be expecting things to progress only to ultimately realise that your feelings for them were never serious,” he noted while explaining the dating trend on AskMen.com.

The potential to make a relationship stronger

Relationship expert and columnist Paige Nick has a different take, saying that cushioning has gained a bad rap and getting some dodgy PR with some calling cushioners out for playing games and messing around with people’s hearts.

“There’s more to cushioning than meets the eye. There’s a hugely self-preservatory and

potential relationship-building angle to it too,” says the co-author of erotic adventure novel A Girl Walks Into A Bar.

“You could be dating someone new and maybe you’re crushing on them just a smidgen harder than they’re crushing on you. Or maybe you’re not sure where you stand yet, but you’re feeling overly enthusiastic about it.

“It’s easy to get sucked into a game of when will they call, or watching the blue tick situation on your WhatsApp. And a nuts date makes a bad date,” she muses.
This is where cushioning comes in handy: Nick says having a couple of casual cushions on board is a harmless, fun way to burn off a little extra passion.

“It offers up a buffer person to text or call - stopping you from overdoing it; over-texting, over-calling and over-obsessing - giving your crush the space to miss you, so they step in a little closer."