Your hot new fling suddenly cancels. Tinder bae goes through your phone. Your partner of two years treats your kitchen like an (absurd) art studio.
While these situations all appear quite different, they have one thing in common: they stretch your patience.
But what does that have to do with ‘jerk-baiting’? We spoke to couple’s counselor Heidi Gee to get the low-down on that very question: welcome to the most devious dating trend of 2020.
‘Jerk-baiting’ is when you deliberately test how ~keen~ your partner really is on you (or how psycho they might be), by baiting them into being a jerk.
As Heidi tells us, the kindling for this trend (i.e. the age-old ‘shit test’) has been around forever. But now, with the advent of smartphones and dating apps, it has taken off, giving early-stage daters easier ways to test each other and longer-term couples more things to bait each other with.
“Communication has changed and interpersonal skills have changed a lot so it’s quite easy for people to avoid difficult conversations.” Not only that but many women these days, Heidi tells us, are afraid of the consequences of directly rejecting someone.
As the wealth of rejection-gone-wrong literature reveals, there is good reason to jerk-bait a potential partner to make sure they are not a psycho.
The problem is, jerk-baiting can backfire in numerous ways. Not only can it land your phone with some truly bizarre text messages, but it can also push someone awesome away from you if they don’t realize that you’re testing them.
This also has a tendency to happen in full-blown relationships, with couples deliberately and subconsciously testing each other’s patience.
Why? According to Heidi, it comes down to self-esteem: “We all play those games of seeing how much the person does like us, what they would do for us, pushing their buttons, pushing them to the limit.”
“Moving in with someone and seeing how much they will take care of x y and z around the house,” is a great example, she tells us. “[I’ve had] couples come in and that’s been an issue: ‘I don’t do the dishes because I know she’s going to do it – these things can build up and cause tension.”
Another example is when one partner, “Will sabotage or say things to get a reaction to see how much they [the other partner] cares and whether they would be chased and how much they’re loved.”
Sound familiar? Here’s what Heidi recommends you should do if you find yourself jerk-baiting: “If you’re uncertain about where your relationship or feelings stand then you ask the partner rather than baiting them; that could make things fall apart rather than the partner chasing.”
On the other hand, if you are the jerk-baitee, Heidi says it is crucial not to get mad, but rather, “Be assertive, ask your partner, ‘Why are you doing this? When you do this it makes me feel like x y z.’ You need to talk to each other, identify what’s missing in the relationship and figure out what you can do to show them you really care [and that they don’t need to be annoying to get your attention.”
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