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Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
June 4, 2024 ·  4 min read

Your Partner May Be “Cushioning’ Without You Knowing It- Here Are The Signs

When you hear the word cushioning, your mind may jump to something like sewing, home decor, or getting cozy on the couch. However, the term can be detrimental and has nothing to do with anything previously mentioned concerning a relationship. Instead, it’s an act that many people are unwittingly guilty of, ultimately causing the end of a relationship.

Defining Cushioning

Cushioning specifies “maintaining flirtatious connections with multiple individuals while still being in a committed relationship.” Essentially, people have a “safety net” in case their current relationship doesn’t work out. Often, people remain in contact with “potential romantic interests” and are assured they have a backup plan to avoid loneliness or heartbreak if the current relationship falls apart. Another reason people may engage in cushioning is insecurity or needing validation and attention.

Read More: 18 Types Of Women Who Make Horrible Partners

Indicators of Cushioning

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Several signs may indicate someone is cushioning your relationship. Here are a few examples:

  • They Don’t Share Details or Are Secretive
  • The Current or Primary Relationship is Lacking Intimacy
  • There is a change in Habits or Communication

Although cushioning isn’t the only significant downfall of a relationship, it’s worth noting because it’s both common and easy to ignore. However, the indicators mentioned above may also apply to other detrimental behaviors in a relationship.

More Clarification

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When a partner suddenly becomes more secretive, sharing fewer details of their whereabouts than they once did, it may be a sign they’re cushioning the relationship. Alternatively, you may be the “cushion” if you notice a potential romantic partner contacts you out of the blue or regularly while in a relationship. In many cases, someone guilty of cushioning will be very vague about the details of their day or their conversations with others. Furthermore, one of the clearest signs that something is amiss is when someone becomes possessive or secretive regarding their devices and social media accounts.

While it’s unadvisable to snoop through your partner’s conversations, asking a few simple questions may help to clarify some things. For example, “I forgot my phone and I need to look something up. Can I borrow yours?” is equally as effective as snooping, in many cases. This is because their reaction will indicate whether or not the person has something to hide.

Another Odd Habit

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Another sign that someone is cushioning is if their habits and behaviors change. For example, they may be more or less intimate in either relationship. They may become more or less attentive or present. Or, they may begin to overshare regarding another person, constantly talking about them. Conversely, they may also become less communicative.

A Personal Account

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In 2018, a writer named Sara shared with HuffPost how cushioning negatively impacted her marriage, admitting to having an affair. She had a flirtatious relationship with another man, despite being married for 14 years. The relationship began with regular communication, emotional connectedness, and coffee dates. However, before long it became physical. “My affair definitely started out as an emotional affair,” said Sara. “I think many people in steady relationships sometimes stagnate or get into tiffs that remain unresolved.”

Read More: 15 Bad Things That Happen When You’re Too Nice

A Premeditated Act

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“Whether it’s boredom or complacency or unresolved frustration, I’m not sure,” she further explained. “But it makes them see other people in a different light and can elevate the human connection.” This connection is also known as a “backburner relationship.” Meanwhile, marriage counselor, Elisabeth LaMotte explains cushioning is “a pre-meditated version of rebounding.

An Expert Explains

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“With cushioning, you’re usually cultivating a secret flirtation with someone who represents an exaggerated rebellion against challenges in one’s current relationship. For example, someone who is dating a successful but anxious partner might cushion with a relaxed partner who is unable to keep a job,” she said. “But cushioning denies both parties a chance to see if the anxiousness (or any other challenges) might be lessened through communication and effort with our primary partners.”

Effects of Cushioning

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Cushioning’s effects can be detrimental to a relationship. Trust is lost and severe emotional damage is left behind. One partner may begin to feel deceived or betrayed while the other is left with insurmountable guilt. As a result, the primary and backburner relationships struggle with connection, intimacy, and growth.

Read More: Is Your Partner ‘Future Faking’? Psychologist Explains Signs And Why Narcissists Commonly Do It


  1. 9 Signs of Cushioning in Relationships and Why It Happens.” .Calantha Quinlin. November 22, 2023
  2. Your Significant Other May Be ‘Cushioning’ And You Wouldn’t Even Know It.Huff Post. Brittany Wong. September 14, 2023.