Cushioning-What Is It, and Are You Doing It?

Man dating multiple women

People constantly throw terms around like “ghosting” and “situationship,” and it’s up to the ordinary person to figure out what the hell they’re talking about. 

Is it just us, or does it seem like you have to check the Urban Dictionary every other week to keep current with the dating lingo? Or, we’re just old and out of touch because things are changing that quickly.

“Cushioning” is a startling new dating trend, and it could be happening to you right now.

The term “cushioning” is the latest dating slang to pop up. While the vocabulary may be relatively new, the concept is something that many people have likely done before. So what is it?

According to Urban Dictionary,

cushioning is a dating method where, along with your main person, you also have several others or ‘cushions’ on the side that you flirt and chat with to soften the potential blow of your primary break-up so you won’t be alone.

Yes, you read the correctly. In other words, you’ll date someone, and they’ll be your main person, but just in case things don’t work out with them, you’ve got a bunch of ‘cushions’ on the side to help break the fall if your main person dumps you. 

Person A: “Hey, how’s it going with Matt?”

Person B: “It’s not going that great with Matt. Luckily I’ve been cushioning with Paul and Will.”

The term’s origin is unknown, but it may have been coined on a UK radio show when a group of girls detailed their methods for avoiding loneliness and always having a potential guy waiting in the wings.

Basic Gist of ‘Cushioning’

The term essentially means while you still have your main boo, you keep others on the side by texting them and giving just enough attention so that if the main one falls flat, you’re not completely left alone and in the cold. The alternate is there to ‘cushion’ the blow.

For example, you may be dating someone for a few months, and it could’ve been going well. But it may feel like the excitement died down. You could still like the person but not want them to be your long-term partner. So you go back on Meetup to find other people to chat with just in case the primary person falls through.  

You think love is supposed to be this naturally occurring, whimsical thing. But when it comes to some people, love is something strategic that needs to be planned from beginning to end. Not only do some look at love as a game, but you also need to win. 

Essentially, cushioning is terrible for all parties involved because it’s a form of emotional cheating; to some, that’s worse than physical cheating. 

Plenty of partners fear that the person they’re dating is texting and calling someone else. In this case, that’s precisely what’s happening. Plus, the person doing the ‘cushioning’ may be leading the emotional side piece to believe there is long-term potential, which is often not the case.

Instead, the side piece is caught up in a tangled web of lies, all for the sake of someone avoiding being alone.   

Recently, the term “cushioning” went mainstream. Newspapers are writing pieces about it, and some social media is discussing the topic, declaring it’s really not necessary and doesn’t help a relationship. 

The only way to get the full benefit of being in a relationship is to be all in–not with one foot in the doorway, waiting to move on. 

So, you need to decide if cushioning is worth the mental and emotional stress of juggling various people while attempting to maintain an actual relationship. Does being alone suck that bad?

You want to be in a relationship so badly because you fear being alone. But how will you invest in someone if you have several cushions on the side? 

Because you’re juggling multiple people, you may miss that long-term potential. Even though you have several prospects, you likely won’t make a genuine connection with any of them.  

Dating Multiple People- Is It a Good or Bad Thing

Dating multiple people has gotten a bad rap because people think it’s deceitful and shady and judge those who do it. But it doesn’t need to be that way. It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how you do it.

Think about it, if you’re on an online dating app, you understand that you’re likely not the only person they’ve matched with. Instead, you know that they’re probably dating others. 

Many people have negative views of those dating several people at once. They think of them as cheaters or commitment-phobes, or at the very least, liars.

While these are possibilities for some who are serial daters, there are many good reasons to date multiple people when you’re single. 

Dating many people could be one of the better methods to find your true love if that’s what you’re searching for. Here are a few great reasons you should date several people at once. 

1. Use the Law of Attraction

Attracting and meeting wonderful people happens to those who keep an abundant mindset. When you develop a mindset that revolves around productivity, you understand that the people who come into your life are mirror images of who you are. These people stimulate your mind, body, and soul because that’s what you have attracted.

To do this, you need to understand the law of attraction. The people you attract are who you are instead of what you want. 

For example, if you want someone who’s kind and doesn’t take themselves too seriously, you need to encompass these traits within yourself. If you’re insecure and live in constant fear, you will meet people exactly like you.

A part of working on yourself is engaging with many people, which means going on plenty of dates. You need to give different types of people a chance to help you define who you are or want to be. When you figure this out, this is the partner you’ll attract. 

2. Dating outside Your Comfort Zone Is Good

You may date someone friendly, but do they excite you? So many people date within their comfort level because it’s safe. Doing so isn’t a good thing if the people you’ve been dating haven’t been suitable matches. 

Instead, you go out with everyone you match with or who crosses your path, but then you don’t search any further. You figure this person is okay, so there’s no need to look around for anyone else. That should tell you that your comfort zone sucks, and you need to expand a little more.

You may need to do some more work to find an exhilarating partner. This may require going on more dates, but getting out of that chill zone is worth it. Only when you stop settling and put yourself out there will you find someone who truly excites you.

Even if you find yourself alone, so what? Think about all the awesome me-time you could be partaking in. Instead of always needing someone around, look toward embracing your newfound singlehood. 

3. Be Open and Honest

A primary reason people shy away from serial dating is that they feel uneasy about what to say if one of the people they’re dating asks. When you date many people at once, it’s never about hiding your situation or being deceitful.

It’s your personal life, and you don’t need to divulge anything you do, including dating around. All you need to do is show up for the date, be present, and try to connect with each person on the date. In other words, relax, be yourself, and enjoy your time.

However, if your date brings up the topic and asks if you’re dating others, you should be open and honest and tell them that you are but that you’re enjoying your present time with them. 

It’s best to be honest during the entire process. If you end up liking one person more than all the others, you may decide to see that person exclusively. There may be uncomfortable moments with the others, but if you’re honest, it makes the situation much easier for everyone involved.  

4. Toss Out Your Dating Must-Haves

Many people have a laundry list of the type of person they want:

  • they should be tall
  • they should make over this amount yearly
  • they should be funny
  • they should be hot
  • no children
  • no pets

It’s time for you to wake up and realize that you don’t need to decide about a person you meet on the first date. People have so many must-haves that they don’t give anyone a chance that doesn’t meet their criteria. Sometimes what we think we want (or don’t want) may not be easily determined on a single date. 

Don’t decide on the first, second, tenth, or any particular number date. You may date four or five people at once and get to know each of them. Some of them will ride off into the night naturally as one or both of you realize you’re not a good match. 

If you’re worried about the stigma of dating several people, don’t tell them because it’s none of their business. There’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes humans can be a little judgemental.

5. It’s Your Choice

Dating multiple people is the best way to find your perfect match. You increase your odds when you have more options. Dating multiple people allows you to understand your likes and dislikes better. It also helps you know your dealbreakers. 

It’s the best way to avoid settling for someone you have nothing in common with. They may be nice, but they’re not the person for you. 

The power of choice is the key to getting what you want out of your dating life. Never underestimate it because it gives you options to find that unique person out there for you, but you must be the one to find them. You’ll also be able to meet and interact with as many people as possible. 

6. According to Science, It Balances the Chemicals in Your Brain

If you move on from one partner to another too quickly, you often risk making the wrong choice. When you make poor choices with your dating prospects, you waste your and their time. 

Have you ever been on a date and remembered every detail (How they grabbed your hand or brushed against your shoulder at dinner), but you still can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday? 

That’s what’s called dopamine, and it focuses your attention powerfully. It drives you toward the things you want and sends those pleasure receptors in your brain into a joyful overdrive.

Studies indicate that a person’s dopamine levels go up when you begin to fall for someone, even after one or two dates. The more it hits you, the more you concentrate your attention and get pleasure from just being in the same room. It also blinds you to a new partner’s negative traits, so beware!

Many neurotransmitters literally wire humans to obsess and focus on new love, even if it isn’t good for us. Nor-epinephrine levels rise and give you that “high” feeling of new love. 

At the same time, there is sufficient evidence that serotonin levels resemble those found in people clinically diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

When you date multiple people, it levels out these neurotransmitter troughs and peaks over several others. Because of this, they’ll help you become better informed to make sound, more rational decisions regarding exclusivity in partners. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re dating multiple people, you shouldn’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, society views it as something negative when it’s not. It’s only damaging when you date several people simultaneously and aren’t open and honest about it. 

This is the reason “cushioning” is considered detrimental to potential relationships. When you make someone a ‘cushion,’ it’s likely they aren’t aware someone is keeping them on the back burner. As long as you’re open and honest, dating several people can help you find your perfect match.  

Abigail Langton
Abigail Langton

Abigail Langton spends her time deep diving into the facts readers want to know about current dating apps online. You'll find her breaking down the latest price points and how to stay secure dating online.