Roaching: the Dating Phenomenon That's as Gross as it Sounds

By Kaitlyn McInnis | | Dating
Roaching: the Dating Phenomenon That's as Gross as it Sounds

It seems as though every day there’s a new dating term to be aware of—from ghosting to benching, it can be a lot to keep up with, especially if you suspect one of these terms may apply to your own relationships. But where did these dating trend colloquialisms come from, and how on earth did we get one called “roaching?”

“I think social media, hashtags and ‘140 characters or less’ drives the pattern of creating 1-word colloquialisms,” said Carrie Krawiec, licensed marriage and family therapist. “We have become so abbreviated in our communication, which is probably one of the contributors to terms like roaching and ghosting, etc.—shallower communication in developing intimate relationships.”

Case in point: roaching. The new dating term comes from the concept that while you may only see one actual roach, there are a lot more that you don’t see. In dating terms, it can be just as horrifying if you’re not prepared.

Jessie, 28, who experienced roaching first hand, shared a story that acts as a cautionary tale for anyone scared to have open conversations with your new partner should you feel you’re not on the same page.

“I really only blame myself for being roached…and being shaken up by it,” Jessie explains, “we were hanging out pretty frequently, but we were never exclusive…I guess?”

“I mean, I assumed we were! I wasn’t seeing anyone…that is until I saw him making out with another girl in the same movie theatre as my friends and I! It was mortifying.”

What is roaching?

“Roaching is when you believe you’re in a relationship with someone and yet they are actually in a relationship with multiple people unbeknownst to you,” said Christopher Ryan Jones, clinical psychologist and a sex therapist. “Typically, if someone finds out they are a victim of roaching and confront the other person, they respond by saying there was never any direct expressed agreement of monogamy or commitment.”

Roaching is the act of omitting, lying, or deceiving about the level of casualness of a relationship; for example, seeing and (arguably more importantly) sleeping with other people.

Again, if you see one roach in your kitchen, there’s almost certainly more. In dating terms, if you believe yourself to be in an exclusive relationship yet discover your partner is seeing someone else, chances are they’re seeing several someone else’s.

What’s really perverse is that when you’re in a roaching situation, you believe yourself to be the victim and/or protagonist—but, to the others involved, you’re just another roach. That’s arguably the true horror of roaching—there are no winners.

Signs of roaching

  • Inability to schedule dates without advanced notice: You may be a roach if your partner needs ample time to check their schedule before confirming a date.
  • Near-ghosting: If they randomly stop responding to texts and other forms of communication at odd times without warning, they might be seeing other people.
  • Doesn’t share their day: They may be very vague about what they are doing at all times.
  • Doesn’t introduce you to friends or family: They probably won’t show any interest in introducing you to those close to them in fear of their other roaches being exposed.

What to do if you’re being roached

First, you need to decide if you want to continue a relationship with this person. According to Jones, your answer may depend on your feelings about what has happened and your feelings for the person.

Second, you want to determine if you are okay with being in an open relationship, where your partner also dates other people.

Third, you need to have a talk with your partner. Tell them you thought you were beginning a committed relationship with them and then express how discovering that you were not made you feel. From this point, you have three choices. You could either tell them you (1) would like to continue seeing them, (2) you would like to see them only if they can agree to a monogamous relationship, (3) you don’t want to see them any longer.

Regardless of what you choose, it is important to express how they made you feel when you discovered you were being roached. Think of it as a blessing in disguise: bringing up the roaching problem will either bring you closer together or shed light on a relationship that’s probably not going to work.

Is roaching really that bad?

“People can certainly date multiple people. This is really normally early on when you just go on a date or two with a person and are still trying to discover who you feel more comfortable with and if you have a connection with that person,” said Dr. Jones. “We even see a current trend of people who are in committed relationships with multiple people at once.”

The only issue is the lack of communication and allowing the other person to operate under a false assumption. Communication and honesty are valuable components in any healthy and happy lasting relationship.

“Honestly, although I didn’t see it that way at the time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with roaching if you’re not exclusive with someone,” said Jessie. “I mean, it’s the age of Tinder and Bumble. If you’re only in the dating stages, it’s totally normal to see a few people at a time. I’ve dated more than one person at once and I don’t feel bad about it!”

Pest control is a fact of life

Relationships become gradually more intimate over time. Discussing and disclosing your sexcapades, past and present, is fairly intimate communication, so it’s not surprising it doesn’t come up early. But that’s not to say it can’t.

“I like to talk about ‘meta communication’ or ‘talking about talking,’” explained Krawiec. “Early on in a relationship, beginning to talk about things like ‘How should I best bring it up if I start to think you and I have different definitions of casual?’ or ‘What would make you feel safe to tell me if you are having hookups with other people?’”

“There comes a point in every relationship where these things will inevitably come up and knowing how and when to approach the situation is half the battle.”

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.