Freckled Partners: It’s More than Skin Deep

While not everyone is interested in forming lasting romantic attachments, it seems that the young adult population is finding creative ways to describe some of the mating behaviors that may have existed for generations, but did not have the upbeat monikers that are used today.

There have been a lot of cool new “hashtag” worthy terms for romantic relationships that aren’t perceived as the type that is going to last long term. One of the newest terms – and one that is highly “seasonal” is “freckling.”

Getting “freckled” means that the partner who was right there for you when warm weather rolled around fades from the scene as soon as the daylight starts to fade with the arrival of autumn. Although this type of relationship has been around about as long as “summer vacations” have been a part of any culture, it’s kind of cool to have a new metaphorical moniker that so aptly describes these relationships.

Just to provide a refresher of some of the new terminology that has shown up on the dating/mating scene, here are the terms that have shown up in pop culture in the last couple of years:


If you’re prone to freckles, you know that the longer you stay out in the sun, the more likely they are to appear. But once the sunshine starts to fade and you begin to spend more time indoors in fall, the lighter the freckles are going to get. That’s why this metaphor is so apt for a summer romance. These lovers are the ones that are ready to hang out at the beach, poolside, or wherever your outdoor activities take you – but once August arrives and starts fading into September, the romance fades and the “freckle” gets harder to see. Of course, once May arrives the following year, the same old freckle may show back up and be as available and present as the summer before.


Cushioning is just what it sounds like – plumping up your network with potential “fall-back” partners so that if your current relationship doesn’t work out, you’ve got a safe and cushiony place to fall. Someone might have a core group of potential partners with whom she relies on for support or with whom she flirts even when engaged in a seemingly monogamous relationship. While it may not be considered to be “technically cheating” on someone, there is enough evidence out there that once you begin to consider other options, you have already left the relationship on some level.


Stashing refers to the situation in which you believe that you and your significant other are an “official” couple, but you realize that she has maybe avoided introducing you to her family, her friends, or other significant people in her life. You may feel like you’ve been “stashed away” in some corner of her life where you are hidden away from the “rest” of her life. She may avoid posting the inaugural “couples pic” on her Snapchat or Facebooking herself into an official relationship with you.

Sometimes a person gets “stashed” because his partner feels that she is “dating down” by choosing to go out with him or is somehow ashamed of her partner. Sometimes it happens when someone is trying to keep a relationship on down low to avoid creating drama with her family or if she’s friends with an ex or someone who wanted to be the one dating the partner. Sometimes, though, one person may “stash” their partner to remain on the dating market, just in case someone equally or more appealing shows up in her life. She’s able to have her “stash” available when she wants it, but also able to give off a sense of singlehood to potential partners.


Ghosting is all about evaporating into thin air surreptitiously when you are ready to end a relationship without any drama or actual confrontation. It’s about ignoring calls or texts, “unfriending” or “unfollowing” someone, and quietly disappearing from someone’s life. It can be a relief in some situations – those who prefer to avoid conflict feel that this is a “safe” way to end a relationship. Others, though, who are on the receiving end of the ghosting may feel that they are being cheated out of a final face-to-face opportunity to win someone back. Victims of ghosting feel that this is the most unforgivable method of ending a relationship – there is no closure, just residual resentment.

Zombies, by the way, are the partners who ghost you for awhile . . . and then try to raise the romance back to life. They’re like the “walking dead,” and they try to show back up in your life just as you’ve finally been able to lay them to rest and move back into the world of the living.


Breadcrumbing is a variation of ghosting and is even more irritating to those who are being left the breadcrumbs. It is characterized by a person leaving a very sparse or sporadic “trail” of continued interest. When someone is giving just the bare minimum of response to someone to still be considered “in the picture” even though both parties usually realize that the breadcrumber has already “left” the picture. Waiting around for the next crumb can become an obsessive hunt for “proof” of feelings that really are no longer present. For the breadcrumber, it may make her feel less guilty for backing out gently of the relationship; unfortunately, it may actually be crueler as the “crumb finder” may be pinning unrealistic amounts of hope on the few crumbs that are tossed his way.

Virtual Heartache Hurts Just as Much as Face-to-Face Heartache Does

Communication methods have shifted dramatically over the last two decades as smartphones have catapulted us into a world of virtual presence and virtual relationships. Relationships once relied on presence and engagement in the real world, but today relationships can exist almost fully in the virtual world depending on distance, schedules, and time available to invest in relationships. Unfortunately, the human heart has not kept up with the lightning speed of technological advances and although there are a million easy ways to use technology to insert distance into a relationship, the resulting heartache isn’t made any easier than it was a generation ago.


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