What is fleabagging? Here’s how to stop this self-sabotaging behavior

Remember when you didn’t know what “ghosting” meant? Me neither. It perfectly describes a dating situation we’ve all been in, and it comes up so often that it seems like the word has been around forever. But while “ghosting” has been part of your vernacular for the past few years, it’s time to add another dating term to your list—and it’s called fleabagging.

This word comes from the character Fleabag, who was created and played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge on her show, aptly named Fleabag. Throughout the show, Fleabag has one love-related mishap after another and always seems to be let down by her romantic partners or make conflicting choices when it comes to love—and thus the term was born.

If you’re “fleabagging” yourself, it means you keep dating the same types of people over and over again, even though they’re bad for you. You never quite learn from past mistakes or take a different approach to find love but keep hoping for the best, only to be let disappointed time and time again.

If this sounds familiar, chances are all your past partners fit a certain mold, and all your relationships have ended the same way. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially since it’s tough to spot toxic relational situations when you’re in the middle of them. But the good news is there are plenty of ways to break the cycle and stop fleabagging yourself. Try these tips.

1Recognize the problem.

While it might not feel great to relate so intensely to Fleabag’s propensity for bad relationships, recognizing your own unhealthy patterns is the best way to begin making a change, matchmaker Susan Trombetti tells HelloGiggles. “You can’t fix it if you don’t realize it’s a problem to start with,” she says. So consider your deep, emotional connection to Fleabag a good thing.

When comparing your own dating habits with Fleabag’s, it’s important to ask yourself: Do you relate to any of her habits? Are you dating the same types of people depicted on the show (i.e. those who are emotionally unavailable, disinterested, immature, etc.)? Mull over your most recent breakups as well, and think about why those relationships ended. You may begin to see patterns emerging, and once they do, be honest but kind with yourself. If a habit isn’t working for you, it’s time to stop repeating it. Just don’t beat yourself up when these realizations come to fruition. Just like Fleabag, you’re learning and growing. No one is perfect.

2Get some outside perspective.

Sometimes, simply swearing off a bad habit is enough to make it go away. But other times, it’ll take a ton of work to overcome, especially if it’s been ingrained for years. And that’s where a friend, family member, or therapist can help give some outside perspective as well as really good advice.

“Talk to a therapist that can help you get to the root of the problem,” Trombetti says. “Maybe you had an emotionally unavailable parent and you keep picking people like that. Whatever your problem [may be], they can help you uncover the cause and help you [find] healthy solutions to fix it.”

3Keep working on your self-esteem.

Even though it’s always way easier said than done, finding ways to boost your self-esteem can go a long way in keeping away toxic people and dead-end situations. For instance, Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, says, “Increased self-esteem tends to lead to markedly improved relationship choices and relationship quality.”

Don’t know where to start? Try taking time to focus on yourself. It sounds too good to be true, but finding things you care about—like hobbies, spending time with friends, etc.—will all add up to improved confidence.

4Think about the qualities you want in a partner.

It’s natural to fall for a certain “type” of a person over and over again. After all, you can’t help what your heart wants. But if your relationships haven’t been working out, consider focusing on who someone is at their core instead of getting caught up in their more superficial traits.

“It’s important to take a step back and think about what it is you need from a partner and what qualities you should be looking for versus what you have been looking for,” dating expert Maria Sullivan tells HelloGiggles. Think about these qualities and write them down. Do you want a partner who is loving? Loyal? Goal-oriented? Also ask yourself: What kind of partner do you want to stay away from?

Compare this new list to the people you’ve been typically drawn to in the past. My guess is they won’t share these same qualities—and that’s why it feels like you’ve been stuck in a cycle. Going forward, prioritize these traits when you’re out dating and give new people a chance. It’ll take some effort to break old habits and to officially stop fleabagging yourself—but the good news is it can be done.

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