Another month, another dating buzzword. While we’ve become accustomed to the likes of “cuffing season,” “winter coating,” and “ghosting,” the dating dictionary continues to grow with the latest phrase going viral. “Slow dumping” is essentially the relationship equivalent of “quiet quitting,” the term given to those slowly checking out of work. But while the latter might be a way to avoid burnout in the workplace, slow dumping has a much darker impact.
Being slow dumped doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships either, it can be just as prevalent in friendships and just as hurtful. To dive into the latest toxic phrase, attorney and relationship expert Tautvydas Sutkus explains the term and tells POPSUGAR how to navigate it if you think it’s happening to you.
What Is Slow Dumping?
“Slow dumping is a term that, in essence, seems to suggest a gentler, more compassionate approach to ending a relationship, but it is actually an act that’s quite the opposite,” Sutkus tells POPSUGAR. “Slow dumping is when someone begins to distance themselves physically and emotionally from a romantic relationship, or friendship, rather than expressing their desire to end it.”
“Slow dumping is when someone begins to distance themselves physically and emotionally from a romantic relationship, or friendship, rather than expressing their desire to end it.”
Some of the signs include taking longer to text back with evasive responses, rearranging plans at the last minute, or no longer engaging in your social media. “Above all, slow dumpers fail to admit to their actions if they are questioned on it. Underlying currents of this trend reveal a labyrinth of emotions, motivations, and psychological intricacies, but the truth is, slow dumping often emerges from a cocktail of guilt, fear, and some genuine affection,” Sutkus adds.
Rather than directly confronting the painful truth that dynamics in the relationship are no longer working, slow dumpers “dilute the intensity by letting the connection fizzle out over time.”
While the intentions might come from them trying to phase things out to be kind, it can actually be cruel. It can also be considered a form of gaslighting. “Gaslighting is the act of purposefully making someone doubt their own feelings or perceptions. In slow dumping situations, when a person begins distancing themselves, they leave the other person overthinking things,” Sutkus says. “This can be especially potent in romantic relationships, where emotional vulnerability is heightened. It forces the recipient into a state of cognitive dissonance — feeling the distancing but being told it’s all in their head.”
Repercussions of “Slow Dumping”
“For the individual being slow dumped, the drawn-out process can be torturous,” Sutkus says. “They are caught on a roller-coaster ride of hope and despair, constantly overthinking everything their partner or friend does. They might have days where they believe everything’s fine, only to be overshadowed by periods of doubt. This inconsistency can erode their self-worth and create a kind of emotional vertigo and leave the person exhausted emotionally and very confused.”
There are also repercussions for the person doing the slow dumping. “There can be a false sense of security in this method. They might believe they are offering both parties a chance to adapt to the impending separation, but more often than not, they end up wrestling with drawn-out guilt,” Sutkus explains. “They themselves don’t get the closure they need and can end up cheating or suddenly leaving and regretting how it all ended.”
Slow Dumping vs. Ghosting
The term “ghosting” has been around for some time and is widely considered a hurtful approach to ending a relationship. The act of simply disappearing and making a clean break can be difficult for the other person to accept. While slow dumping might seem like the opposite, both can cause psychological damage.
“The difference is that one goes on a lot longer than the other. Ghosting is like an unexpected slap; it’s sudden and stings sharply. Slow dumping, on the other hand, is akin to a persistent itch, steadily eroding one’s emotional well-being,” Sutkus explains. “The mental gymnastics required to navigate the limbo of slow dumping can sometimes be more psychologically taxing than the abruptness of ghosting. While ghosting leaves one seeking answers, slow dumping offers a deceptive hope that maybe things will revert to normalcy.”
How to Recognize the Signs of Slow Dumping
Slow dumping can manifest in different ways depending on the nature of the relationship. Sutkus outlines that one of the first signs is “intuitive unease.” Do you have a nagging feeling that something is off? When you know the other person well, it’s likely you will feel something wrong in your gut, but when you confront them, they may deny all knowledge of their behavior.
Next, ask yourself if conversations have become transactional. Chats often go from sharing opinions, jokes, and fears to becoming exchanges limited to necessary information, with few questions asked.
Sutkus also highlights “memory avoidance.” There may become a reluctance to reminisce about times spent together. They are likely to become “too busy,” and spending time with you is no longer a priority. Sometimes there may be excuses made or vague mentions they are busy, leaving you wondering what they are doing instead.
There’s also likely to be a lack of engagement. Perhaps they stop liking your social media posts, there are a lack of kisses in messages, or they watch the last episode of a series you were watching together on their own. Connections between you gradually start to wane.
How to Respond to Slow Dumping
So what should you do if you find you’re being slow dumped? Should you confront the situation, or is it best to stay quiet? Sutkus advises to embrace your vulnerability. “Everyone is vulnerable when they are in a relationship, but instead of trying to hide your concerns away, embrace this feeling. Start a conversation expressing your feelings without accusing the other person of distancing themselves,” he says. “Use ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You did,’ and try to ask directly for clarity about what they think about the current state of the relationship or friendship.”
Opening the gates for an honest conversation will start the ball rolling for either clarity and closure, or make the person realize what they are doing so that change can happen.
“Start a conversation expressing your feelings without accusing the other person of distancing themselves.”
It’s also important to be aware of your own behavior in this situation. “When a partner or friend is acting a certain way it’s very easy to fall into the trap of copying them,” Sutkus says. “Ensure you’re not mirroring distancing behavior, giving the other person an excuse to pull away even more. Instead, act your truth. If you are into the relationship, show the person those feelings even if they are not.”
If you have started to notice this pattern in your relationships and friendships over time, then be aware of this repeat behavior. “Recognizing patterns in the relationships you choose can be instrumental,” Sutkus says. “If you consistently find yourself with partners or friends who employ these tactics, it’s worth exploring why. In essence, the art of relationships, whether they’re blooming or wilting, is rooted in communication, understanding, and respect. Open channels of communication as often as possible, and be honest about your feelings and emotions.”