I know what you’re thinking, and no — “cushioning” does not involve hooking up on an especially squishy couch, or incorporating a pillow into any of your sexual practices.
In actuality, “cushioning” is basically akin to pre-cheating on someone.
So let’s break it down: “cushioning” is when you’re dating or in a relationship, but you set aside some “just-in-case” guys — i.e., you text with them and chat them up, although things never progress to a physical level.
Here’s how Urban Dictionary defines the practice:
Though many people feel the practice is somewhat “harmless” because it inherently excludes physically hooking up, that doesn’t mean that cushioning is good for anyone’s emotional well-being.
Reasons people “cushion”:
- Because they’re terrified to commit to one person, and they surround themselves with multiple people who entertain their flirtations so they never feel tied down.
- Because they need a safety net in case they get dumped, so they always make sure to have a few backups on hand.
- Because they get bored with only getting attention from one person. As a result, they need the stimuli of other people praising them or flirting with them to get the same high they once got from their partner.
- Because it gives them a power trip to make multiple people interested in them. This typically comes from insecurity, or a need for a sense of control.
Bottom line: cushioning is micro-cheating, because it is, essentially a kind of deception. You are pretending that you are committed to one person, when in actuality, you are spreading your (non-physical) affection amongst several individuals. It’s a tabling device, used to distance yourself from a romantic situation. And, while that instinct may be understandable and human, it’s also bullshit.
So, please — if you’re unsure about whether or not you want to be fully committed to one person, that’s a conversation you need to actually have with your significant other.
And if you’re simply afraid of being dumped? Then you just need to suck it up, because that’s how relationships fucking work.