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Paper clipping: The toxic dating trend that keeps you in limbo

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • Be aware of intermittent contact and lack of meaningful engagement as indicators of paper clipping.
  • Clearly communicate your expectations and be prepared to cut off contact if necessary.
  • Lean on friends, family, or a therapist for perspective and support.

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern dating, new terms and trends frequently emerge, often highlighting the less savory aspects of romantic relationships. One such trend is "paper clipping," a behavior that can leave individuals feeling confused, stressed, and emotionally manipulated. But what exactly is paper clipping, and why is it so harmful?

The term "paper clipping" is inspired by Clippy, the animated paperclip assistant from Microsoft Office in the early 2000s. Just as Clippy would pop up unexpectedly with unsolicited advice, a paper clipper reappears in your life sporadically, often after a period of no contact. This behavior involves sending casual, seemingly innocent messages like "Hi, how are you?" or "What's up?" without any intention of meaningful engagement or commitment.

The Emotional Impact of Paper Clipping

Paper clipping can be emotionally taxing for the person on the receiving end. According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, "The person being paperclipped may feel violated, irritated, or highly confused. It generally does not feel good to have a former dating partner reappear out of nowhere; this can induce anxiety and stress". The intermittent nature of these interactions can create false hope, leading the recipient to believe that a relationship might develop, only to be disappointed repeatedly.

Why Do People Paper Clip?

Understanding the motivations behind paper clipping can provide some clarity. Dr. Sarah, a psychologist, explains that individuals who engage in this behavior are often emotionally immature and insecure. "They are scared of being rejected, are insecure, and lack self-esteem and confidence" . This behavior allows them to maintain a sense of control and validation without risking emotional vulnerability.

Recognizing the Signs of Paper Clipping

Identifying paper clipping can be challenging, especially in the context of modern dating where casual communication is common. However, there are some telltale signs:

Intermittent Contact: The person disappears for a while and then reappears with a casual message.

Lack of Depth: Conversations rarely progress beyond superficial exchanges.

No Commitment: There is no effort to make plans or deepen the relationship.

How to Deal with Paper Clipping

If you suspect you are being paper clipped, there are several strategies you can employ to protect your emotional well-being:

Set Boundaries: Clearly communicate your expectations and boundaries. If the person is not willing to engage meaningfully, it may be best to cut off contact.

Focus on Yourself: Invest your time and energy in relationships that offer mutual respect and commitment.

Seek Support: Talking to friends, family, or a therapist can provide valuable perspective and support.

Paper clipping is a toxic dating behavior that can leave individuals feeling emotionally drained and confused. By recognizing the signs and understanding the motivations behind this behavior, you can take steps to protect yourself and foster healthier, more fulfilling relationships. Remember, you deserve a relationship that offers genuine connection and commitment, not one that keeps you in a perpetual state of limbo.

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