Huge respect to Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her amazingly creative and groundbreaking tv series, but the term ‘Fleabag’ actually originated in 1839 and was a noun used to describe an inferior bug infested rooming house – a place that should be inviting but proves to be toxic and invasive

This almost perfectly describes the way some dating habits can seem seductive, but then prove to be poisonous and debilitating.

The Fleabag dating pattern is more complicated than it seems and also way more destructive. 

So let’s look at it more closely and see what is really going on and why such hope and promise can deteriorate into a mess of disappointment at best, and self loathing at worst.

As couple therapists, one of the initial questions we ask of clients is to tell us how they met and what they found initially attractive about each other. 

This will be described in just a few words, but is often a very helpful insight into their hopes and needs.

Years ago when I started seeing clients, most couples met through friends, family or work.

25 years down the line the most popular ways to connect are through internet dating sites. 

Big cities can be lonely places and people are anxious to find a partner to mitigate feelings of isolation.

Sadly this need can, only too easily, become the drive behind an all too frantic search for The One that leads to serial disappointment and bewilderment.

Talking about her anonymous character, Phoebe Waller-Bridge says “I liked the idea of withholding some of that mystery. That word, ‘Fleabag’, that felt right, because there’s a messy connotation to it.”

These unresolved relationships that the word describes, prove only too often to be chaotic and indeed they do leave a mess behind

Social media can often create a need for colour, excitement and a drive to keep up with the impossible pace and perfect standards seemingly surrounding us all. 

This generates a need for action and drama. Checking and swiping are the new normal and dates are found easily at the flick of a finger.

Dating habits are changing as people look desperately for connection. 

The simplest things in common can appear to be enormously significant and can make a new partner seem to indicate we found a soulmate and that we’ve got it made at last. 

Sadly this diminishes the space to look at what we really need. What we deserve can be overshadowed by a desperate urge to fit in and not be left out. 

Fleabagging is now a term to describe the act of repeatedly dating people who are wrong for you. Either by flitting between multiple unsuitable partners, or by returning repeatedly to one toxic relationship. Either way we damage ourselves. 

Why? Because the need for this temporary connection means that apparent approval and validation from even a shallow and bad relationship is more powerful in the short term than the more difficult job of learning who we really are and then understanding what we do need and also what we can offer back in a meaningful relationship.

The drama and excitement of the chase can blind us to the understanding that these are Bad Dating Habits.

But, better to be out and about having a riotously good time on a Friday night rather than sitting sadly at home alone with a pizza, right?


The escapism of that temporary weekend romance means that we avoid exactly what is important – the ability to live with ourselves and be content with some inner quiet and self reflection. 

Unrealistic ideas around relationships have always been around us, since the start of romantic fiction and the early yearning verses of love poetry.

The real and deeper connection that comes from a rich and creative partnership can only be clear once we really know ourselves.

It’s a well repeated cliché that we have to know and love ourselves before we are free and really able to love another. 

Might sound cheesy, but it’s true.

It can take time (and maybe a lot of frogs have to be kissed before The One can be found), but it’s worth the effort to realise that a good relationship is based in mutual care and kindness, and that we need to find someone who accepts us as we really are and not some shiny- haired Instagram version of an uneasy self that just isn’t real.

Christina Fraser