If you’re looking for love this summer, there’s a dating trend that should be on your radar. It’s called “shading”.
Coined by the dating app Wingman, the term “shading” means putting the person you’re seeing in the shade to cool off, so to speak.
The idea is that people have a tendency to skirt commitment between June and August when the weather is warm and their social calendar is full of possibility.
Then, once autumn and winter roll around, they start looking to resume relationships again.
“We already know that during the cold winter months, singles tend to couple up and look for something more committed,” Wingman founder Tina Wilson told HuffPost.
“What people don’t talk about as much is the reverse phenomenon. During summertime when there’s more focus on friends, travel, and good weather, people tend to be less open to finding committed partnerships and the dating scene can become that much more confusing to navigate.”
According to a survey from the app, 67% of users said they have either shaded someone in the past or been shaded themselves.
Blaine Anderson, a dating coach for men, said there’s a “seasonality” to dating. Shading can be thought of as the precursor to “cuffing season,” the phenomenon of people looking to couple upwhen the weather cools down in the fall and through the winter.
“That’s not to say that you can’t find a serious partner in July or a casual relationship in January, but it is to say that singles shouldn’t be surprised if they observe these themes playing out in their dating lives,” Anderson told HuffPost.
Signs you might be getting ‘shaded’
First, look out for a change in communication that coincides with the summer season.
“If you used to text every morning and now they are not, or if you used to get thoughtful or funny replies and now you get one word answers, pay attention,” dating coach Damona Hoffman, host of the Dates & Mates podcast, told HuffPost.
Same goes for a change in this person’s availability or willingness to make time for you.
“If it feels like you have to jump through hoops to arrange drinks or dinner, there’s a good chance you’re getting shaded,” Anderson said. “You can send a gracious ‘let’s revisit things in the fall :)’ text, but you probably won’t regret directing your romantic attention elsewhere.”
You may also notice that this person “suddenly seems more focused on nights out with their guy or girl friends than planning date nights with you,” Wilson added. Or they’re busy making summer plans but none of them include you.
“Successful couples generally lead blended lives,” Hoffman said. “They share friends, interests, and activities. A sign of shading is someone keeping their friends and family from you, going out more without you or neglecting to post you on social when they used to claim you and tag you publicly.”
Similarly, if you’ve been dating casually for a bit, but it feels like this person is “resisting your advances to steady the relationship” — consider it a sign you’re being shaded, Anderson said.
What to do if this happens to you
First, it may help to have realistic expectations about summertime dating in general.
“Summer may not be the best time to find a committed relationship,” Anderson said. “So if it feels like the universe is trying to tell you that, listen! The more you can accept it and focus on having fun in the moment, the happier you’ll be.”
If you suspect you’re being shaded, Anderson recommends
“matching the other person’s energy.” In other words, mimic their level of investment in the relationship while you figure out what you want.
For example, “if they’re seemingly unable to commit to dates, stop asking them on dates,” she said. “The goal isn’t to manipulate the other person by pulling back — you deserve to be your authentic self with anyone you’re interested in — but it can help you avoid coming across too strong, and pushing the other person away, while you’re analysing the situation.”
Then, take some time to reflect and try to be as objective as you can be.
“Is the real problem that you’re having difficulty coordinating schedules due to summer travel commitments? Or is it that your crush won’t make an effort?” Anderson said. “In either case, you’ll want to let things cool off, but in the latter case, you want to let go, not punt.”
Having an honest conversation with this person about your feelings can also give you some clarity.
“Tell your partner what you observe and how that makes you feel and then pause,” said Hoffman. “Really listen to what they say in response as it can highlight the problems or put your fears to rest.”
If you get the sense that the person you’re dating is losing interest, listen to your gut, said Wilson.
“So many times our instincts are trying to tell us something and we ignore it because it’s easier or it feels like the path of least resistance,” she said. “If you feel like you’re being shaded, it’s OK to speak up and tell your partner it’s not cool to shade you.”
One other thing to consider: Your crush becoming distant in the summer may have less to do with the season and more to do with your compatibility with this person, Anderson said.
“If you’re getting shaded, you can’t expect a different dynamic in three months just because the weather cooled off,” she said. “A flake is a flake in spring, summer, fall, and winter.”
However if the summer shader is upfront about their desire to not be tied down and you’re open to playing the field too, then you can always do your own things and reconnect down the road if you want to.
“Shade recognise shade — if you don’t have a clear commitment to someone yet, keep your options open,” Hoffman said. “It’s your summer too.”