Illustration of a confused coupleiStock/BBC Three

From 'preating' to 'orbiting' - which toxic dating trend are you guilty of?

If you do any of these things then, please, get in the sea

Ashitha Nagesh

It used to be as simple as 1 + 2 = 3: you, plus partner equals relationship. You didn’t get involved with anyone else because that would be cheating and cheating is bad. Right?

Well, we all pretty much know now that while technology makes life easier, it also has the uncanny knack of making everything subtly, but undeniably more complicated. When it comes to dating, think quantum field theory as opposed to basic sums (no, we don’t really know what quantum field theory is either, but it sounds complicated).

In fact, there’s a whole new glossary of terms being developed to keep up with the ever-growing list of ways that we can now (sometimes inadvertently) screw each other over in relationships.

For example, are you silently lying awake at night worrying that your partner is micro-cheating? What about mulling over the one that got away who keeps on submarining you with deep likes? Does all the orbiting you’ve ever done haunt your dreams?

Or perhaps you're guilty of a new one: “preating”.

No, preating is not (as we initially thought) when you eat a load of food before your main meal. According to The Metro, which coined the term, it’s actually when you’re in a relationship but you “put the feelers out” before cheating.

Pre-cheating, rather than pre-eating.

For example, ever found yourself deep liking a picture on your ex’s Instagram account? You heard they were single again, and you found yourself innocently scrolling through their feed when you came across a picture of them from two years ago, wearing that jumper you got them...you dispense a quick double tap to let them know you're still thinking about them...

PREATER! YOU JUST PREATED! WE HOPE YOU FEEL GUILTY. This might not register on your other-half’s radar but, my friend, it’s still a totally garbage thing to do if you’re in a relationship. 

“There’s a plausible deniability there if you get turned down or your partner finds out,” the Metro explains. “But if it all goes well you can go forward and cheat.” 

This also applies to sending suggestive texts to a colleague to see if they’re potentially up for it, replying with the heart-eye-emoji to someone you low-key fancy when they post a sexy Instagram story and texting someone after 11pm with the immortal words “you up?”

You're not cheating yet but, given the opportunity, you totally would. You're just trying to figure out if you can get away with it.

Basically, it can be summed up in this one iconic image:

Yep, the 'distracted boyfriend' meme pretty much sums it upiStock
Yep, the 'distracted boyfriend' meme pretty much sums it up

We prefer pre-eating, to be honest (second breakfast anyone?). But, sadly one in five of us confess to having had an affair, so pre-cheating is likely to be something many of us come up against in our lives.

Nichi Hodgson, dating expert and author, says that preating might be a sign that you're not totally happy with your other half - or maybe you're just afraid of getting too serious with someone.

"Examine why you are pre cheating and turn your attention back to your relationship," she says. "Is there a sexual mismatch? Are you afraid of commitment?"

Look, we know. It’s not surprising that in a world where two little blue ticks have the power to make or break a budding relationship (because you know they’ve seen your message, so why don’t they reply? IT’S JUST RUDE) or where continually watching the Insta stories of a person you don't follow can make you seem like you're a bit obsessed (just us?), we can find ourselves in tangled situations without really meaning to end up there.

Basically, technology is making us toxic daters. In fact, some studies have even found that social media can actually put a strain on our relationships. Dr Bernie Hogan explained to Medical Daily News that because we're all so hyper-connected on so many different apps, that "the increasing complexity of maintaining so many separate communication threads starts to undermine [real world] relationship ties".

So we're in touch with so many people, all the time, that we're spreading ourselves too thin to maintain one deep connection. Not ideal. 

To alleviate all your relationships-vs-modern-technology fears, we’ve created a handy (if wholly unscientific) quiz to help you identify which toxic type of dater you are, and how you can fix it. Thank us in your wedding speech.