Cushioning and Back-Burnering

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The first days of a relationship can be intoxicating – you’re falling in love, getting to know your new partner, and floating on the proverbial cloud. Everything is amazing, and then little by little, you may start to notice that the relationship you were so happy in has changed. Your partner is distant and secretive, and you feel like you can’t connect with them.

If this sounds familiar, you may be in a back-burner relationship. Read on to learn about cushioning and back-burnering and discover the warning signs that this is happening in your relationship.

What Is Cushioning?

So before we dive into how to tell if you’re being cushioned, let’s talk about what that term even means. Cushioning in dating is when your partner has someone set up as a back-up plan in case your relationship fails. Essentially, they’re fostering a semi-romantic relationship with another person that they can transition into a full-out dating relationship if things go south with you.

Cushioning happens when a relationship is on the rocks and someone is afraid of being alone. It can happen when your partner craves more attention than one person can reasonably give them. And in any case, it shows that your partner isn’t committed to you or your relationship and is making backup plans for when things fall apart.

What Is Back-Burnering?

While back-burnering can look similar on the surface, it differs from cushioning in a few different ways. When you’re on the back burner with someone, you aren’t their main priority in the relationship. They may or may not be pursuing a relationship with someone else, but they’re not giving you their all, either.

When you’re being back-burnered, you may find that your partner doesn’t seem to have time for you or interest in being with you. You may feel like a second choice, and you might find that you don’t get to spend very much time with them. Sometimes, being in a back-burner relationship can feel even lonelier than just being single.

They’re Secretive About Phone Activity

One of the first things you may notice when you’re being cushioned or back-burnered is that your partner is suddenly glued to their phone. They don’t go anywhere without it, and they always seem to be texting, chatting, or scrolling social media. This may even start to interfere in your relationship, since you can’t seem to get their attention.

Worst of all, your partner may start refusing to let you see anything on their phone. Of course, everyone has a right to their privacy, but your partner shouldn’t be making active efforts to hide their phone activity from you. If they won’t let you see what they’re texting or looking at, it could mean they’re chatting up someone else.

They’re Hot and Cold

One of the biggest red flags in a relationship is your partner switching between being affectionate and being aloof. Everyone has bad days, and your partner may have times when they feel a little more distant or hard to read. But swinging wildly between hot and cold can show you that your partner isn’t sure if they want to be in your relationship.

Does your partner refuse to talk to you for days on end and then call you and act like nothing is wrong? Do they act like they want you one night and then barely look your way for the next week? These sorts of extreme fluctuations could be a sign that they’re pursuing other options on the side and only doing what they have to in order to keep you going.

They Won’t Make Solid Plans

The surest way to tell what someone’s priorities are is to look at where they spend your time. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should be spending time together on a regular basis. Even if you don’t see each other every day, you should be able to count on them to show up for plans because they value that time with you.

When your partner is cushioning you or putting you on the back burner, they may start refusing to make solid plans. The truth is that by the time those plans come around, they don’t know if they’ll have a better offer from someone else. If your partner acts like spending time with you is an option that they can’t commit to, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

They Stand You Up

Even worse than refusing to make solid plans is a partner who straight-up stands you up. You may have plans for them to call, for you to have a date night, or for you to meet up. But at the last minute, they have to work, a family member needs something, a friend called, or they’re just too tired.

As with many of these warning signs, these things can happen every now and again in a relationship. It’s when a pattern starts developing that you should be worried. Getting stood up for a phone call once is one thing; missing three plans with you in a month or standing you up for an important event shows that they have somewhere else they’d rather be.

They’re Not Responsive

When you first got into this relationship, you and your partner probably talked for hours on end and texted every day. They answered your questions, reacted to your stories, and showed you that they cared. But now, you may have the sense that your partner isn’t listening or that they’ve just plain checked out.

Most of the time, your partner should engage with you, respond to your texts and calls, and make you feel heard. It takes less than thirty seconds to send a text message, and no one is so busy that they can’t manage an, “I’m busy, but I’ll call you later,” message. If your partner isn’t responding to you, it may show you that they’re busy talking to someone else.

Your Sex Life Slows Down

Of course, one of the biggest signs of trouble in a relationship is a significant change in your sex life. It’s normal for your sex life to slow down a little as you move out of the honeymoon phase of your relationship. In fact, some studies show that most Americans in happy relationships have sex about once a week.

But while a slight slowdown is normal, a full stop is something to be concerned about. If your partner used to be excited about getting down with you and now they seem indifferent, it’s a sure sign that there’s some sort of problem. They might be experiencing a physical problem that needs to be addressed, they might be working through a personal crisis, or they might be turning their attention elsewhere.

Get Out of Back-Burner Relationships

Back-burner relationships can be lonely, miserable, and deeply painful. You deserve to be with a partner who is excited about being with you, who is committed to continuing to grow your relationship, and who makes you a priority in their life. If they start checking out and you have a bad feeling, trust that intuition and consider moving on to a better relationship.

If you’d like to learn more about cushioning and back-burner relationships, check out the rest of my site at I am here to help you awaken and bravely create an inspired life. Learn more about my services today and start changing your life in the most positive way.


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Meet Paul Wagner

Paul Wagner is an Intuitive Life & Business Coach, clairvoyant reader, and a five-time EMMY Award-winning writer. He created “THE PERSONALITY CARDS,” a powerful Oracle-Tarot deck that’s helpful in life, love, and relationships. Paul studied with Lakota elders in the Pecos Wilderness, who nurtured his empathic abilities and taught him the sacred rituals. He has lived at ashrams with enlightened masters, including Amma, the Hugging Saint, for whom he’s delivered keynotes at Her worldwide events.

Paul tours the world lecturing on spiritual liberation. He lovingly offers intuitive readings, inspirational coaching, and illuminating courses to help others with self-discovery, decision-making, healing, and forgiveness. Book a session with Paul: HERE

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