On Modern Dating; Love Bombing, Breadcrumbing, Situationships & Other Drugs

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A scene from the 1997 Black romantic comedy-drama film, Love Jones

Last year, I watched the critically acclaimed romantic comedy; Love Jones. It follows the story of Nina (Nia Long) and Darius (Larenz Tate) whose lives become tangled after a chance meeting at a club. It’s been almost three decades since its release but it felt fresh. I could have sworn their story was ripped off the pages of my 2023 journal.  Why is that? Because Darius and Nina’s relationship reflected some of the throes of modern dating.

Dating today sucks so bad. It is basically the “eat or be eaten” Olympics.

One of the awful features of modern dating is the well-known and beloved “situationship.” A fair amount of people have been stuck in it. The word was first coined in 2017 by Carina Hsieh who defines it as a “hookup with emotional benefits.” Here, hookup could be any form of physical intimacy.

Situationship is quite different from “Friends With Benefits”. With the latter, you are simply friends who have sex but the former runs deep.

They could buy you flowers, take you out on dates, leave their toothbrush in your house, speak to you from dusk to dawn, have their daily itinerary burnt into your brain and still be unable to refer to them as your partner.

Love Jones (1997) - IMDb

Situationships lack exclusivity. They drive you crazy. You are constantly absolved of the right to feel disappointment or anger when they evoke these feelings. When it ends, you are denied grief because you can’t put in plain words what you shared with them. It is an absurd concept.

Having found myself in one or two situationships, I have expressed my disdain for this setup. They often require a high risk for low reward. Even when the premise looks good, situationships stay firmly planted between hookup and dating. They rarely ever topple over. But people, including myself (in recent times), are strung along because of the possibility of that situationship transitioning into a relationship.

Many people are not ready to be in relationships but want the benefits of relationships, making them engage in another crass feature of modern dating I despise; breadcrumbing. It often looks like this: blue-ticking your messages for several days or weeks then hitting you up with an epistle about why they disappeared, making you look to the future with constant vague statements like “we should do that.” Consistently hammering on their need to see you but never making actual plans or, better still, avoiding them. How cool is modern dating?

Healthline describes a breadcrumber as “someone who leads you on by dropping small morsels of interest – an occasional message, phone call, date plan, or social media interaction. These happen sporadically and usually don’t have any follow-through.” When a breadcrumber senses you are ready to move on, they double their efforts to keep you vested. And when you are reinvested, they disappear again. Basically, they are like flickering bulbs; always on and off. I have fallen victim to this and can tell you for free that you are forever stuck in a state of confusion.

One could trace the state of dating in present times to selfishness. Modern dating is incredibly selfish. Think of all the new dating terms from love bombing to situationships, one person benefits while the other withers. They all centre self. There is a certain transaction feeling to it. It’s like being in the marketplace; “I’ll give you money in exchange for your services.”

While it is good to question the gains of being in a relationship, this feels all too commercial. The overemphasis on self has no place in love and romance and could be why dating suffers.

Modern dating is very commitment-phobic, it’s why situationships exist. But somehow, everybody wants a relationship. The internet, specifically Twitter reeks of God Whens. People desire to fall in love but want nothing to do with the falling.

They are so guarded; their shields are never down. They tell you things like “Don’t show them you love them too much,” a phrase that never fails to amuse me. It all boils down to a fear of vulnerability.

Relationships require vulnerability. Dr Brene Brown, an author and professor at the University of Houston defines vulnerability in her book, Daring Greatly, as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”

Vulnerability is showing your true self to another, this includes your emotions and weaknesses. It displays your cards on the table. Doing this makes you susceptible to attack. This frightens people and puts them in defence mode.

It makes them enact silly dating rules like “don’t reply to their texts instantly. Wait at least 15 minutes and in the case, they take half an hour to respond, hit them back an hour later”.

‘Cold shoulder them till they go crazy for you’. Like I said earlier, it is the Olympics and no one wants to lose.

When I asked my friend what he thought of modern dating, he replied “No one wants to care too much for fear of losing face. People would rather be cool than be passionate.” For the longest time, love and vulnerability have been linked to weakness. Russell Wilson, Ciara’s husband, has been the victim of cyberbullying simply because he is head over heels in love with his wife and never misses a chance to show it. He’s among many others whose decision to wear their hearts on their sleeves has ticked off people. Romance is known as a “women’s thing”. Oftentimes, romance as a genre is classified as women’s fiction. Society has succeeded in making this phenomenon craved by all genders a feminine thing. And it’s no news that women’s interests are termed feeble.

Despite society’s views on vulnerability, I have always believed that it is the bravest thing a person can do. Risking your life to connect with another, it does not get braver than this. It is also proof of life, of our humanity.

Dating has taken a new turn, a disastrous one at that and I do not think it is shifting anytime soon. However, the key to surviving the wretched dating scene is to be clear about what you want, whether it is a fulfilling relationship or a one-night stand. Most people will not give you honesty out here but you need to be honest with yourself to avoid a disruptive entanglement.

Though the streets are quite slippery, I still genuinely have faith that one could find whatever they are looking for here. It could be hard but it is here somewhere.


Praise Vandeh is a culture contributor at Modaculture.

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