You've been vibing with this new dating prospect for a while. The flirty banter flows like wine and you two seem to really click. But then - poof! They disappear for weeks without a word, only to suddenly resurface acting like no time has passed. If this toxic cycle sounds familiar, chances are you've been paperclipped. This shady dating tactic may seem rare, but trust me, it's more common than you think.

Let's explore what exactly paperclipping is, why it's so damaging, and how to nip it in the bud.

What is Paperclipping in Dating? 📎

Paperclipping is that exhausting hot and cold behavior where someone you're dating dips out of your life for a while without explanation, only to suddenly clip back in by popping up to get your attention again. It's like they put you on a shelf, forgot about you for a bit, then briefly skimmed back through before putting you back in the maybe pile. Basically, you're just an option they tab in and out of whenever is convenient for them.

Signs of Paperclipping

Here are some signs of paperclipping:

  • They go radio silent for weeks, offering zero communication or explanation for dropping off the face of the earth. One minute you're vibing, the next it's crickets.
  • You feel intense pursuit one minute with all the flirty texts and date nights, then get iced out for no apparent reason. Whiplash much?
  • When they finally resurface, it's with low-effort checks like "How's it going?" or "Was thinking about you." Gee, thanks for the thought crumb!
  • The cycle continues - intense passion and future talk, then ghosting and ignoring you, then repeating the process ad nauseam.
  • You're left constantly confused by the mixed messages and mind games. One day you're deleting their number, the next you're wondering if they're actually into you.
  • What does paperclip mean in slang?

    In slang, to "paperclip" means reverting back to something or someone you intentionally disregarded or set aside earlier. So in dating, it translates to putting that prospective partner on literal pause without their consent, only to come clipping back in when you feel like it again - no remorse, no explanation.

    It's the dating equivalent of leaving someone on read for weeks, then sliding back into their DMs like you didn't just disappear. You're essentially paperclipping their feelings by attaching and detaching at your convenience while leaving them hanging. Not a good

    Why Paperclipping Hurts

    Paperclipping is more than just a shady dating tactic - it's a gut punch of emotional torture that erodes even the strongest bonds. Here's the damage it inflicts:

    1. Negative Impact on Partner

    The pain of having someone you care about suddenly freeze you out or go AWOL with zero explanation is unparalleled. You're left casting out lines, trying to understand what transgression caused this coldness. But the silence is deafening, triggering a maelstrom of self-doubt, confusion, and likely misdirected self-blame. As the harsh quiet stretches on, anger and resentment set in - justified emotions that just push you farther apart from your paperclipping partner.

    2. Negative Impact on Relationship  

    Healthy relationships require a few non-negotiable pillars: consistent communication, vulnerability, and a willingness to work through conflict resolution. Paperclipping is a wrecking ball that obliterates all three. How can you understand each other's perspectives or heal issues if one person keeps emotionally evacuating? The intimacy withers, trust crumbles, and you become cohabitating strangers rather than invested partners.

    It's not just about ignoring calls and texts. This toxic behavior can manifest in subtle yet cutting ways. One-word responses that might as well be radio static. A stony, unbridled silence anytime you broach a difficult topic. Or worse - that emotional void of shutting down entirely, the "I'm fine" mantra despite a face contorted with repressed feelings.

    Reasons Behind Paperclipping

    On the surface, paperclipping seems like a heartless game of control. But there are often deeper psychological drivers fueling this toxic fire:

    1. Fear of Conflict

    For some, any whiff of an "intense" discussion is terrifying thanks to past negative experiences or anxieties around confrontation. Shutting down or dipping out becomes a self-preservation coping mechanism to avoid those uncomfortable situations.

    2. Unresolved Emotional Baggage  

    Toxic patterns are often inherited from unhealthy relationship cycles or emotionally unavailable family members growing up. These unprocessed traumas create long-term obstacles to vulnerability and simply being present with a partner.

    3. Feeling Overwhelmed

    When emotions run hot and things feel like they're moving too fast, some instinctively attempt to duck out and create space rather than metabolizing that heated intensity. Distance becomes a self-protection "cooling off" period.

    4. Communication Issues

    Many simply lack self-awareness or the tools to articulate their needs, boundaries, and emotional motivations during conflicts. So instead of having those difficult conversations, they default to avoidance.

    While some of these potential triggers are understandable on some level, none of them make paperclipping acceptable behavior. At best, they illuminate which unhealthy patterns and coping mechanisms need to be unlearned through self-work or couple's therapy. Because at the end of the day, you deserve better than a partner who blows wildly hot and cold.

    What is the difference between paperclipping and breadcrumbing?

    Both tactics fall under the greater umbrella of shady hot/cold dating behaviors, but there's a subtlety that sets them apart. Breadcrumbing is leaving just enough flirty morsels of attention to keep someone on the hook as a back-burner option. It's more consistent but super low-effort.

    Paperclipping, on the other hand, kicks things into overdrive with intense pursuit before doing a total 180 and disappearing into the ether. The passion is very much there...until it abruptly isn't. The push-pull and mixed signals are way more extreme.

    So while breadcrumbing is a slow burn of inconsistent attention, paperclipping is a wild rollercoaster of hot and cold that really messes with your head. Both suck, but paperclipping is the more dramatic and heartbreaking of the two.

    Breaking the Cycle of Paperclipping

    1. Identify the Paperclipping

    The first step is recognizing the signs of paperclipping in yourself or your partner's behavior. If they constantly hot and cold it by love bombing you one minute only to go AWOL the next, that's a red flag.

    2. Active Listening

    When you do communicate, practice attentive listening skills to show your partner you're fully present and invested in hearing them out. Put your phone down, make eye contact, and don't get defensive.

    3. "I" Statements

    Instead of blaming statements like "You always do this," express your feelings and needs using "I" statements that don't accuse (e.g. "I feel hurt and confused when you shut down during our conversations").

    4. Empathy & Validation

    Try to understand your partner's perspective, even if you disagree with their actions. Acknowledge their emotions without judgment (e.g. "I understand you feel overwhelmed at times. That must be really difficult").

    How to deal with paperclipping?

    1. Pick a Calm Moment

    Don't try to have a heavy discussion when emotions are running hot. If your partner just resurfaced after another disappearing act, hitting them with "We need to talk" is only going to put them on the defensive. Let the dust settle for a day or two first before broaching the subject. Asking "When's a good time for us to chat?" can help set the stage for a calmer conversation.

    2. Safe Space for Communication

    Choose a neutral, distraction-free location without an audience, like a quiet park or your living room when roommates are out. Feeling judged or crowded often triggers people to clam up. Open body language, plenty of patience, and re-assuring statements like "I'm listening without judgment" can create a safe space for vulnerability.

    3. Focus on Problem-Solving

    Instead of attacking with accusatory "You always..." statements, approach it as a team effort. Say something like "I know this pattern hurts us both. How can we get on the same page about communication and make this work?" Discuss solutions like setting mutual expectations around check-ins or having a code word to call a pause without shutting down.

    4. Set Healthy Boundaries

    Be clear about your boundaries moving forward. "I need consistent respect and can't keep doing this hot-and-cold cycle. If you need space, I'd appreciate honesty upfront rather than just disappearing." Follow through if those boundaries are crossed.

    5. Seeking Help When Needed

    If your attempts at breaking these unhealthy cycles aren't working, don't be afraid to bring in reinforcements. Couples therapy can provide a neutral space to address the core communication issues and unresolved emotional baggage that might be contributing to the paperclipping patterns. Sometimesян outside perspective is needed to facilitate real change.

    Again, if you sniff out those hot-and-cold paperclipping vibes, it's crucial to establish firm boundaries from the jump. Make it clear such inconsistent, vanishing act behavior is unacceptable if they want to keep you engaged. If the paperclipping persists, it may be time to cut your losses and walk away for your own self-respect. Anyone addicted to such mind games isn't worth your time or emotional investment.

    At the end of the day, paperclipping is a manipulative mind game that puts the clipper's ego before your emotional wellbeing. You deserve better than those hot/cold mixed signals and half-assed pursuit of a real connection. The second those paperclipping red flags start waving, it's time to cut your losses and redirect your time and energy somewhere truly worthwhile. Because the only thing you should be getting clipped for is your fly dancer moves, not played by a selfish dating partner. You got this!