Sex & Relationships

Cookie Jarring Is The Dating Term You Need To Know

Classic Love Island behaviour.

by Sophie McEvoy
Originally Published: 
Shot of a woman hand taking cookies from a glass jar on blue background.

Dating shows like Love Island may take place in a heightened reality, but the behaviour of its Islanders can shine a light on toxic dating trends. You only have to look at the fallout of Casa Amor to see how not putting all your eggs in one basket can epically backfire (I’m looking at you, Dami and Andrew). But there is a term outside the Love Island villa that perfectly encapsulates the culture of having a backup relationship.

The term “cookie jarring” came to life in 2019, according to Metro, and is used to describe someone who “is already pursuing a relationship with someone else, but holds you in reserve (in their ‘cookie jar’) just in case things don’t work out,” dating coach Hayley Quinn tells Bustle. According to Quinn, cookie jarring is “more likely to be motivated by insecurity than lust,” and it’s about “making sure you have all your bases covered so you’re never alone.”

Quinn uses the drama of Love Island’s Casa Amor as an example, “with islanders choosing to recouple with a new fling then returning to the main villa and pursuing their previous relationship, all the time stringing their back-up along.”

While “dating multiple people at once” isn’t necessarily bad, Quinn says it can become “very problematic if people are made to feel like they’re the only one, when they’re not.” As was the case for Summer and Coco, once Dami and Andrew decided to recouple with Indiyah and Tasha. Outside the villa, Quinn explains that cookie jarring happens when some people experience “an intolerable level of vulnerability” or are “suspicious that their new partner has other options, so they choose to keep theirs open.”

cookie jarring is used to describe someone who is already pursuing a relationship with someone else, but holds you in reserve (in their “cookie jar”) just in case things don’t work out

According to psychotherapist Darcie Czajkowski, this vulnerability can stem from past experiences that “shape a person’s belief about oneself, such as a belief that ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not worthy’ that create insecurities about what a person brings to a relationship,” they told NBC BETTER.

But how easy is it to spot a cookie jarrer? According to Quinn, the red flags to look out for are if your partner is “always aloof with their plans, takes trips without you, and keeps you siloed from their friends and family.” Moreover, “if the only time you hang out is last minute, chances are you’re the fallback option because their original date didn’t work out,” she adds.

To prevent being cookie jarred in the future, psychologist Rachel Davidson recommends you “feel clear about what you want from the relationship before you talk with this person so that you can make a decision about whether or not to continue the relationship depending on how they react,” as she explained to NBC BETTER.

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