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7 toxic dating behaviors of the 2010s we're ditching in 2020

By Lea Rose Emery

Let’s face it — a lot of us aren’t our best when we're dating, especially online. I’ve been talking to perfectly nice people and flaked out for absolutely no reason. I’ve been too judgmental. I’ve messaged someone for two months without ever meeting up with them — and I’ve spent hours scrolling without ever replying to a single message. So, with a new decade ahead, let’s ditch some of the toxic behaviors we’ve all gotten a little too used to and start the 2020s out on the right foot.  

It’s really not your fault. The anonymity of the internet leads everyone to act a little weird (or downright bonkers) from time to time. Whether it’s the endless choice of scrolling or the ability to constantly check up on every ex we’ve ever had, we have way more access than ever before. And, even more problematically, more and more bad behavior has been normalized. Not only is it easier to act more bizarrely or more flippantly than ever, it’s also more acceptable to do so. 

But we can be better — whether it’s just to actually date more effectively with a chance of finding what we want (whatever that might be), or whether it’s just because we want to treat people with a little more compassion, let’s aim higher.

So, without further ado, here are seven toxic dating behaviors it’s time to ditch — because it’s time for a new decade and a fresh start. 

1. Ghosting

Perhaps the original crappy dating move to come out of online dating, ghosting has really stuck around. You don’t owe every person a heart to heart saying why you don’t want to see them anymore, but a quick message just saying you’re not interested can clear up any confusion — and it’s a lot kinder than leaving someone hanging. Dump someone the way you’d want to be dumped, right? 

2. Settling

For some, it’s not an issue of looking around too much  — it’s an issue of never playing the field at all. Sometimes being in a dull, meh, disappointing relationship can be just as toxic as a relationship that’s much more obviously bad. If you have a tendency to always settle and never be single, have enough faith to be on your for a while, sow some wild oats, and only settle down when it feels right. 

3. Breadcrumbing

It’s. So. Infuriating. When you don’t know what’s really going on but someone keeps liking your posts, watching your stories, messaging but never actually agreeing to meet up, or just refusing to make things clear — it’s effing exhausting. I know it’s easy to do this to someone with access to their social media accounts and a bit of boredom or neediness, but we’re all too old for that shit. Let it go. 

4. Boomeranging 

Just because you can go back to someone doesn’t mean you should — and you definitely shouldn’t do it just because you’re lonely. A good rule to live by: Only go back to someone if you want to be in a relationship with the person they were before, not the one they’re promising to be. You’ll save yourself a lot of time that way. 

5. Comparing

Just as there is finally a focus on women lifting each other up, rather than competing, let’s make the next decade about celebrating each other’s relationships and sex lives rather than feel competitive. We're all running our own races and (this should go without saying,) don’t believe what you see on social media. 

6. Benching

This is a really terrible one — keeping someone on the backbench in case your current flame goes downhill. It’s not fair to the person you’re stringing along and it’s definitely not fair to the person you’re with now. So let’s have clear boundaries — whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, or whatever your relationship might look like, it’s not OK to mess with people. And if you feel like you’re being benched, take back control and remove yourself from the situation. 

7. Mindless scrolling

Finally, it’s time to stop scrolling. I know that this doesn't feel like a “toxic” behavior in the traditional sense —  it’s not like your gaslighting anyone — but endlessly scrolling on dating apps is such a time and energy suck and it can take the fun out of dating altogether. Whether you’re looking for a hookup, a fling, or a long term relationship, you’re not going to find it unless you message someone and meet up in person. Scrolling is this weird background noise that can make you hate a game you’re not even playing. So less time scrolling, more time in real life. 

Everyone has different goals from dating — some people are playing around, others are looking to settle down. There’s no right or wrong. But we can all take some lessons we learned from the explosion of online dating and try to make a change in 2020. Let’s put clear communication front and centre and, for the love of God, let’s stop breadcrumbing each other. 


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