What Is Zombieing In Dating?

Relationships are hard work, and navigating the modern dating landscape has plenty of pitfalls. Unfortunately, many of these are caused by bad dating behaviors. Maybe someone is constantly leading you on through breadcrumbing, or perhaps you've been totally ghosted by your new beau. While ghosting may be a viable option in very specific circumstances, it's generally not a good look for the perpetrator or a pleasant experience for the victim.

Poor dating etiquette is particularly rampant thanks to the rise of digital communication and online dating. "The screen mediates our courage, so we will do and say things online that we would never do in real life," Dr. Joanne Orlando, a digital wellness researcher and author, tells the BBC. For instance, a survey conducted by the popular dating site Plenty of Fish reported that 80% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 33 had at least one relationship end via ghosting.

Even if they are not intended maliciously, these commitment-phobic dating strategies can be hurtful, as they ignore common courtesy and can suggest a lack of respect (via Psychology Today). And unfortunately, the drama doesn't always end here. Ever wonder what happens if a ghoster changes their mind? In this case, you get a spooky new dating faux pas known as zombieing.

What is zombieing?

Zombie movies are all about the dead coming back to life in scary ways, and the zombieing trend in dating is not so different. A once "dead" romantic contact who ghosted you suddenly reappears out of nowhere, trying to revive your acquaintance (via MindBodyGreen). But it may not be a good idea to respond. Just like encountering the living dead can be perilous, interacting with dating zombies may spell danger for your dating life by playing with your feelings and getting in the way of other healthy relationships.

Zombies slide back into your DMs for various reasons. In a best-case scenario, they may reach out in genuine interest or apology. "They might realize that they missed out on an opportunity to get to know you and they're hoping that there's still a chance at that. ... Sometimes they reach out because they feel guilty and they want to see if you're angry at them," certified sex therapist Kate Balestrieri tells Refinery29. But more often than not, zombieing is a selfish behavior stemming from boredom or a need for attention.

Sometimes, zombieing overlaps with the idea of haunting, wherein an ex starts reappearing in your social feeds with likes, views, or comments (via Evening Standard). As dating expert Bela Gandhi tells Today, "Like a ghost (or a zombie!) comes back from the dead, they come back to haunt you. The haunter lacks so much self-awareness. Like, 'I'm entitled to just come back in your life?'"

What to do if you're being zombied

If a long-lost dating partner has suddenly reappeared in your life with no excuses for ghosting you, it may be time to consider some boundaries. First and foremost, call them out on their disappearing act and see whether they're willing to explain themselves. Then, if you're willing to give them another chance, let them know your current standards and expectations (via The Good Men Project).

"Sometimes people have a good excuse or a good reason, or they've changed their behavior significantly and they've learned something. If you see that that's a possibility and this was someone you were interested in getting to know, then you might tread very cautiously and give them a second chance," Balestrieri says (via Refinery29).

And what should you do if the resurrected relationship is a clear non-starter? For one thing, you can use it as a lesson. "It's important to continue your learning journey by keeping an eye open for future triggers and be aware of poor or inconsistent communication," dating expert Lara Besbrode tells Woman & Home. Since the uncertainty of zombieing can throw your emotions and self-worth into chaos, you may also want to take some time to recenter yourself. As Besbrode suggests, "I recommend taking a short break from dating apps, online dating, and dating in general. Give yourself time to accept the scenario is not progressing, and that it's through no fault of your own."