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What Is Fleabagging? Everything You Need to Know

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Gone are the days when ghosting was all you had to worry about when it came to your love life — from whiteclawing to zombieing, it seems like there’s an endless influx of new terms to be aware of. Amongst the latest in 2020 dating trends is “fleabagging” – and whether you know it or not, it’s probably something you’re guilty of. So, what is fleabagging?

In short, fleabagging refers to dating people who are all wrong for you. How relatable is that? We’ve all got that one friend who keeps falling for the same “type,” and seems trapped in a neverending cycle of dating disasters – and let’s be real, we’ve all been that friend at some point. After all, you learn from your mistakes in order to figure out who’s “right” for you.

What distinguishes fleabagging from so many other dating trends, like orbiting, breadcrumbing, vulturing, and scrooging, is that it’s something you do to yourself, rather than something that you’re a victim of. The good news? That means you actually have the power to do something about it.

First, though, you’ll need to get a grip on what this trend entails, why you do it, and how to get past this harmful habit. Here’s everything you need to know about fleabagging.

Where did this term come from?

The term is named after the British tragicomedy TV series Fleabag, in which the heroine (of the same name) consistently falls for the wrong type of man for her, but can’t seem to break out of this cycle. She jumps from one disastrous relationship to another — due either to boredom, loneliness, subtle masochism, or a combination of all three.

What counts as fleabagging?

Maybe you keep settling for “nice guys” because you think that’s what you “should” be looking for, while completely ignoring whether or not you’re actually compatible. Or, maybe you keep ending up with “bad boys” who keep you on the edge of your seat but can’t offer you the stability you actually crave. Alternatively, you might keep getting into relationships with people who aren’t emotionally available, or who you think you can “fix.”

Whatever your pattern is, making the same poor dating choices again and again means you’re fleabagging.

Is fleabagging normal?

If you’ve determined that you’re guilty of fleabagging, take comfort in the fact that you’re definitely not alone. In fact, according to a 2019 PlentyOfFish survey, half of singles feel they have consistently dated the wrong person for them. Interestingly, this trend is slightly more prevalent among women: a whopping 63% have done it, while just 38% of men have admitted to Fleabagging.

Why do I do this?

There are a few reasons why you might be resorting to this self-destructive pattern — so I’ll break down all of them for you.

  1. Loneliness

Sometimes, a fear of being single drives you to settle for people who aren’t quite right for you. Because being with the wrong person feels “safer” or somehow less scary than being alone.

  1. Unrealistic standards

From reality TV shows (looking at you, Bachelor franchise) to popular rom-com movies, you’re exposed to a lot of unrealistic ideas around romance. Many of them include toxic or on-again, off-again relationships, which can lead you to believe all that drama is normal, or even desirable. You may think you’re supposed to accept certain behaviors or dynamics, even if deep down they feel “off” to you.

  1. Your attachment style

Often, repeatedly falling into the same kinds of relationships comes down to your attachment style. According to attachment theory, which was developed by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the way you behave in your adult romantic relationships is often a reflection of your relationship with your mother/main caregiver as an infant. If you have an anxious attachment style, you may crave more constant reassurance from your partner, and struggle with fears of abandonment. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you may be distant and resistant to commitment in your relationships. Whatever your attachment style, it may inform your fleabagging ways, because it helps to explain why you are drawn to certain kinds of partnerships or people.

  1. Your brain’s preference for patterns 

As humans, we’re hard-wired to become drawn to patterns — it’s probably a deep-seated survival mechanism so we can create order amongst the chaos. So, with that in mind, it makes sense why your brain might get stuck on seeking out a particular kind of partner. Familiarity feels safe, which explains why you might feel more comfortable going for someone who’s similar to your ex, even if it’s clear they’re bad for you.

How do I stop fleabagging?

Luckily, there are some conscious changes you can make if you want to stop dating the wrong people.

Start by getting to know yourself better. Take an online quiz to find out your attachment style if you don’t know it — consciously or unconsciously, your dating pattern may have to do with making up for what we didn’t get from your caregiver as a child. You also may want to write a list of all your relationship must-haves to feel happy and fulfilled. While you’re at it, make a list of all your dealbreakers — the things you simply will not tolerate. Recognize your weak spots, and the personality traits/behaviors in a partner that haven’t worked for you in the past. This will help you to hold yourself accountable.

As mentioned previously, humans often operate via learned patterns — and since it can be hard to stray from these on your own, it can help to work with a professional matchmaker. My services are not geared toward finding you someone who adheres to your preconceived “type,” but rather, to help you get out of your comfort zone and get real with yourself about what you really need.

Lastly, the best way to ditch your fleabagging is to keep an open mind while dating. Once you know your pattern, it’s up to you to break it. And if you can entertain the idea of someone who doesn’t fit your previous mold, they may just surprise you.