Icing might sound delicious, but in the world of dating, it’s anything but sweet.
Rather than referring to anything to do with cakes, icing is yet another catchy term to describe some classic rubbish behaviour, just like ghosting, stashing, and breadcrumbing before it.
Therapist Stina Sanders tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Icing is when someone puts the person they are dating “on ice”. They convey their interest to their romantic partner, tell them they can’t be with them now, but leave open the possibility of getting together in the future.’
Sounds pretty sh*t, right?
What’s especially tough is that it can be hard to know when you’re being iced, and to work out whether the icer’s intentions are remotely legitimate.
An icer doesn’t tend to give it to you straight, after all, preferring a strange sort of half-in, half-out slow fade over an honest conversation or even a full-on ghost.
So, how can you tell when it’s happening? Why do people ice? And what on earth can you do about it?
Signs you’re a victim of icing
Icing can be super subtle and take time to emerge. Keep an eye out for these classic signs, says Stina:
- Your partner’s behaviour is confusing; you’re never sure where you stand with them.
- They disappear every once in a while and then return like nothing happened.
- They can’t commit or make things ‘exclusive’ with you
- You get loads of last-minute date cancellations.
- You feel relief when you hear from them because you were feeling anxious before
- They are online but take days to reply to you
‘You know when someone is prioritising you or makes you feel special,’ notes senior therapist Sally Baker. ‘When you’re being iced or benched (held in reserve) there will be a part of you, a small part perhaps, that already knows something doesn’t feel right with this person.
‘If your hunch is that something feels off then that’s your intuition saying this person has a different agenda to you.’
Why do people engage in icing?
All sorts of reasons, none of them very good news for the person being iced.
‘Considering this behaviour in its most empathetic light, some people like to hedge their bets and attempt to future-proof themselves by keeping their romantic options open to avoid potential disappointment,’ suggests Sally.
‘A more cynical take would be that people who operate on an emotionally superficial level can rank potential romantic partners, and if it doesn’t work with one person they’ve the next waiting on ice or on the bench to bring into play.’
Stina agrees: ‘The psychology behind icing is that it gives the person the option to decide whether or not they want to pursue the relationship in the future.
‘Instead of making the decision to terminate the romantic connection altogether, the indecision temporarily blocks such a relationship from either ending or from developing to its fullest extent.
‘It could be a person’s attempt to ensure that there is a chance of developing profound long-term love, or it could be that the icer wants to keep options open in case someone better comes along.’
On a deeper level, someone might be a routine icer if they’re afraid of intimacy, or if they’re stuck in the ‘grass is always greener trap’.
Icing isn’t a path to a strong relationship or real fulfilment – it keeps people at a distance.
What to do if you’re being iced
Okay, so you’ve noted the signs, looked deep within, and you sense you’re in the freezer. Now what?
It’s time to address the situation, ask for change, and if it’s not happening, move on.
Don’t stick around and let icing take its toll.
Sally notes: ‘It’s detrimental for anyone’s self worth to feel like a second or third string on someone else’s Stradivarius violin.
‘If you have a sense that you’re not someone’s priority it’s best to cut and run.
‘There’s nothing more demeaning than feeling grateful for someone finally making time to see you – especially when the person you want to be with would be willing to walk on water to be with you.’
‘If you think you are being iced, now is your time to set boundaries around what you are willing to accept and what kind of relationship you want,’ Stina agrees. ‘Communicate to your partner that commitment and transparency is important to you and if that’s not possible, you will need to cut all ties and move on to someone who can give you the relationship you want.
‘Once you have communicated your needs to this person but they keep showing signs of icing, then you have to take action. While you may be tempted to wait in the hope that there is a future together it may be better to move on.
‘If your relationship isn’t working now, the likelihood of it working later is a bet you may not want to place.’
Dating terms and trends, defined
Blue-stalling: When two people are dating and acting like a couple, but one person in the partnership states they’re unready for any sort of label or commitment (despite acting in a different manner).
Breadcrumbing: Leaving ‘breadcrumbs’ of interest – random noncommittal messages and notifications that seem to lead on forever, but don’t actually end up taking you anywhere worthwhile Breadcrumbing is all about piquing someone’s interest without the payoff of a date or a relationship.
Caspering: Being a friendly ghost – meaning yes, you ghost, but you offer an explanation beforehand. Caspering is all about being a nice human being with common decency. A novel idea.
Catfish: Someone who uses a fake identity to lure dates online.
Clearing: Clearing season happens in January. It’s when we’re so miserable thanks to Christmas being over, the cold weather, and general seasonal dreariness, that we will hook up with anyone just so we don’t feel completely unattractive. You might bang an ex, or give that creepy guy who you don’t really fancy a chance, or put up with truly awful sex just so you can feel human touch. It’s a tough time. Stay strong.
Cloutlighting: Cloutlighting is the combo of gaslighting and chasing social media clout. Someone will bait the person they’re dating on camera with the intention of getting them upset or angry, or making them look stupid, then share the video for everyone to laugh at.
Cockfishing: Also known as catcocking. When someone sending dick pics uses photo editing software or other methods to change the look of their penis, usually making it look bigger than it really is.
Cuffing season: The chilly autumn and winter months when you are struck by a desire to be coupled up, or cuffed.
Firedooring: Being firedoored is when the access is entirely on one side, so you’re always waiting for them to call or text and your efforts are shot down.
Fishing: When someone will send out messages to a bunch of people to see who’d be interested in hooking up, wait to see who responds, then take their pick of who they want to get with. It’s called fishing because the fisher loads up on bait, waits for one fish to bite, then ignores all the others.
Flashpanner: Someone who’s addicted to that warm, fuzzy, and exciting start bit of a relationship, but can’t handle the hard bits that might come after – such as having to make a firm commitment, or meeting their parents, or posting an Instagram photo with them captioned as ‘this one’.
Freckling: Freckling is when someone pops into your dating life when the weather’s nice… and then vanishes once it’s a little chillier.
Gatsbying: To post a video, picture or selfie to public social media purely for a love interest to see it.
Ghosting: Cutting off all communication without explanation.
Grande-ing: Being grateful, rather than resentful, for your exes, just like Ariana Grande.
Hatfishing: When someone who looks better when wearing a hat has pics on their dating profile that exclusively show them wearing hats.
Kittenfishing: Using images that are of you, but are flattering to a point that it might be deceptive. So using really old or heavily edited photos, for example. Kittenfishes can also wildly exaggerate their height, age, interests, or accomplishments.
Lovebombing: Showering someone with attention, gifts, gestures of affection, and promises for your future relationship, only to distract them from your not-so-great bits. In extreme cases this can form the basis for an abusive relationship.
Microcheating: Cheating without physically crossing the line. So stuff like emotional cheating, sexting, confiding in someone other than your partner, that sort of thing.
Mountaineering: Reaching for people who might be out of your league, or reaching for the absolute top of the mountain.
Obligaswiping: The act of endlessly swiping on dating apps and flirt-chatting away with no legitimate intention of meeting up, so you can tell yourself you’re doing *something* to put yourself out there.
Orbiting: The act of watching someone’s Instagram stories or liking their tweets or generally staying in their ‘orbit’ after a breakup.
Paperclipping: When someone sporadically pops up to remind you of their existence, to prevent you from ever fully moving on.
Preating: Pre-cheating – laying the groundwork and putting out feelers for cheating, by sending flirty messages or getting closer to a work crush.
Prowling: Going hot and cold when it comes to expressing romantic interest.
R-bombing: Not responding to your messages but reading them all, so you see the ‘delivered’ and ‘read’ signs and feel like throwing your phone across the room.
Scroogeing: Dumping someone right before Christmas so you don’t have to buy them a present.
Shadowing: Posing with a hot friend in all your dating app photos, knowing people will assume you’re the attractive one and will be too polite to ask.
Shaveducking: Feeling deeply confused over whether you’re really attracted to a person or if they just have great facial hair.
Sneating:When you go on dates just for a free meal.
Stashing: The act of hiding someone you’re dating from your friends, family, and social media.
Submarineing: When someone ghosts, then suddenly returns and acts like nothing happened.
V-lationshipping:When someone you used to date reappears just around Valentine’s Day, usually out of loneliness and desperation.
You-turning: Falling head over heels for someone, only to suddenly change your mind and dip.
Zombieing: Ghosting then returning from the dead. Different from submarineing because at least a zombie will acknowledge their distance.
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