Ghosting, Orbiting, Breadcrumbing, and Other Modern Relationship Terms Explained

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Ghosting, orbiting, Draking (yes, like the rapper) are new digital-age relationship phrases redefining how we fall in and out of love.

We long for the days of a good old-fashioned, in-person dumping, but social media and smartphones have changed the way we court. This glossary of modern relationship terms may will help define certain behaviors, such as why a romantic interest leaves you on “read” or an ex keeps liking your photos.


Ghosting is the act of abruptly — and seemingly without reason — stopping all communication within a romantic relationship that has built momentum. The ghoster withdraws, ignoring the other person and ceasing all contact. Used as a common method of ending a courtship in the digital age, ghosting provides no explanation to the other person for the withdrawal from the relationship (even if it’s not an official partnership). Some psychologists believe ghosting is a form of emotional cruelty and deepens feelings of abandonment and desertion. Just break up with someone the right way.


After someone has ghosted, they may decide to haunt, aka suddenly pop back up in the other person’s life, once again without warning or explanation. Haunting is only made possible by social media, as it does not involve direct communication via call or text. Instead, haunters will like an Instagram photo or connect via LinkedIn after a long period of ghosting. They haunt the peripherals of your life, making veiled efforts to connect and remind you of their presence, but the reason for their sudden reemergence remains a mystery.

phone social media apps
Benjamin Sow


Similar to haunting, submarining also occurs after a romantic interest has ghosted. Following a long bout of no contact, they will resurface — like a submarine — and act as if nothing has changed from the last point of connection preceding the ghosting. The submariner does not offer an apology or acknowledge ghosting in the first place.


The final term (so far) in the ghosting category, a zombie is someone who ghosted and waits for a long period of time until the other person in the old relationship has moved on, only to come back to life and try to reengage a connection. The zombie will appear as sweet and emotionally available as they once were, but are only, for this purpose, the reanimated dead. A zombie will either ignore their initial ghosting completely or act as if it wasn’t intentional and shouldn’t be taken seriously.


Increasingly, pure ghosting has taken a backseat to orbiting, the act of stopping direct communication and engagement but continuing to monitor your social media presence. The New York Times says the term was coined by Anna Iovine in an article for Man Repeller in which she explained the prominent situation of an ex or past romantic interest watching your social media, or orbiting you without making contact. “Close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk,” Iovine writes. As they do with ghosting, professionals assert that orbiting is unhealthy for both parties.

man sad phone social media
Courtney Clayton


It’s widely discussed how the rapper Drake is constantly melancholic due to unrequited love or failed relationships. There are entire articles and social media accounts dedicated to Drake Looking Sad. In relationship terms, Draking is the act of being depressed and moaning about a past relationship. Draking is largely specific to men who have experienced turmoil with a love interest and are emotionally Drake-d from it, continuing to miss their ex-flame.


Breadcrumbing is a dating term pulled from the old German fairytale, “Hansel and Gretel.” It describes the practice of leaving proverbial breadcrumbs for someone who is interested in you romantically via occasional texts, calls, and social media likes, giving just enough attention and engagement to keep you interested yet unsatisfied. In other words, to breadcrumb is to string someone along without the intent to consider a real relationship. A breadcrumber will play games, avoid words and gestures of genuine feeling, and never fully commit or “give the whole loaf.”


Cushioning is a precautionary exchange between two people when one is in a relationship and the other is not. With some minimal underlying flirtation, both people remain in contact in the event that the person in the relationship breaks up and the other will be there to cushion the fall.

couple dating date situation
Matt W. Newman


When a player is on the bench, they are eager to be called up to play. In modern relationships, benching is keeping a romantic interest on the back burner, feeding them the promise of one day starting them or at least giving them some play time. Benching can occur when one person is ready for a relationship and the other is not, but does not want to end things entirely. That being said, benching can also mean the “coach” has a lineup of other players with the intent to keep a full team at their disposal. Benching usually involves some breadcrumbing.


When two people enter a form of a romantic relationship due to their circumstances or situations, as opposed to whole-hearted interest in each other as individuals, you have a situationship. A situationship can arise due to living proximity, the season, and effort (or lack thereof). A situationship by nature has an expiration date that aligns with the end of your situation. Cuffing, for instance, can lead to a situationship.

The Slow Fade

If ghosting is a relationship guillotine, the slow fade is dating death by poison. Despite being drawn out over time, the slow fade is a move that involves one member of the relationship pulling back and removing themselves with intentional slowness so as to slip away without a sudden, jarring exit. This move is common for a less committed relationship, where the slow fader has realized they do not want to further the connection and begins to recede.


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