Do you always keep a jar of cookies within arm’s reach, serving as a comforting presence or a stabilizing ritual when life gets chaotic? There’s a dating trend that mirrors this cookie jar scenario, but it’s not as sweet as it sounds. The urge to treat yourself with “something sweet” when things get hard can show up in your love life too, often leaving a bitter aftertaste.
“Cookie jarring” refers to the act of dating multiple people simultaneously, not for genuine connections, but as a safety net if the primary relationship falters. This behavior can leave one feeling exploited and emotionally unsettled.
Much like a child sneaking into the kitchen for a hidden cookie when they want a secret treat, a “cookie jarrer” covertly turns to an alternative option when they’re uncertain about their primary relationship, when their person of interest is unavailable, or when they face rejection.
A key catalyst of cookie jarring is the ‘paradox of choice.’ Having numerous dating options can make people hesitant to commit to one person, fearing they might miss out on something better. At times like this, this dating trend might seem convenient, but it can be unkind and highly insensitive to the one being treated as a self-soothing sweet treat.
Regardless of the motivations at play, it is important that you manage the situation effectively before it causes irreparable harm. Here are three ways you can go about it.
1. Identify The Signs Early
Recognizing that you are caught in someone’s cookie jar can be challenging, as the person involved is often adept at concealing their true intentions. However, the following are some tell-tale signs that can help you identify if you’re being cookie jarred.
- Uncertainty and lack of commitment. Your date constantly avoids making concrete plans or refuses to discuss the future of your relationship.
- One-sided effort. It’s always you who puts in all the effort to maintain contact and arrange meetups, while your date is passive.
- Avoidance of defining the relationship. Your attempts to define the relationship are consistently dodged or met with resistance, and there is no clarity as to where your relationship is headed.
- Insecurity and unease. If you feel a persistent knot in your stomach, experience extended response times in text conversations, or constantly question your place in the other person’s life, it could indicate something that is off.
2. Create A Relationship Vision Board
Before addressing any issues with your date, take some time to self reflect. Clearly define what you desire from the relationship while considering your boundaries and needs. Research suggests that vision boards are a great tool to reflect on life and envision ideal futures.
You could create your own relationship vision board with images, quotes and words representing a relationship worth committing to, according to you. This creative exercise would also serve as a constant reminder of what you seek in a partnership and reinforce your commitment to pursuing healthy and fulfilling connections.
Once your vision board is ready, share your insights with your date and invite them to do the same. Observe your date’s response closely. Do they acknowledge your feelings? Are they willing to collaborate on relationship improvement, or do they become defensive or evasive?
Assess their reactions carefully to see where they stand with respect to the relationship. If it does not align with yours, or if they are dismissive of your perspective altogether, then it may be time for you to move on.
3. Ask Your Friends For A Vibe-Check
Seeking support from trusted friends can help you manage this emotionally challenging and often debilitating situation. Research consistently underscores the importance of having a supportive social network when navigating conflicts in your relationship. Your friends can provide an objective perspective on the situation, helping you see the truth of the matter when you’re too blinded by your feelings for someone who might just be treating you as a back-up option.
A study published in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice highlights the significance of viewing your partner from a neutral third-party perspective—something your friends can help you with—that can diffuse romantic conflicts and prevent future disputes.
Adopting this strategy in a cookie jarring scenario could help you, firstly, realize that you’re in fact stuck in a cookie jar. Second, it can help you free yourself of the cycle of conflict and arguments that you might be stuck in with your partner, as you will now be able to view their problematic tendencies for what they are, instead of as a reflection of you as a romantic partner.
Being what someone reaches for in their weakest moments or after having been thwarted by someone can never feel fulfilling, no matter how much it validates you. Be proactive in addressing the issue and don’t settle for being someone’s backup option when you deserve a relationship that values and prioritizes your emotional well-being.