Dating Glossary: Paperclipping

Clippy, we meet again.


(Last Updated on November 5, 2019 by Datezie Editors)

As dating has evolved to a much more digital landscape, a slew of new words and trends have emerged, requiring singles to brush up on their knowledge before diving in. To ensure you’re up to date and ready to tackle the ever-changing vocabulary, reference Datezie’s Dating Glossary. Our collection defines, explains—and offers humor and strategy—to the new ABC’s of falling in love.

TLDR: Paperclipping: When someone ghosts you, you get over them and they suddenly show back up in your life.

Rock, paper, scissors… paperclipping? We’re back again with a ‘new’ dating term that frankly, continues to give the whole-finding-love-bit a bad name. It seems as time wears on, the process of meeting a partner becomes more cruel and cut-throat. Rather than leaning into those scary, vulnerable parts of falling in love, singles are sourcing any and every excuse to prepare themselves for failure. Or more the point: protect their heart from breaking, and their hopes from shattering. But here’s the thing about putting a BandAid on or using a paperclip to keep your pieces together: it’s not foolproof. That’s why, like the many dating term out there, you should refrain from paperclipping your way through the experience. Here, what you need to know:

What is Paperclipping?

Allow us to set the scene for you: you spend a blissful three weeks going on back-to-back dates with a promising someone. You were excited, they seemed stoked, and BOOM — they ghosted on you. Flash forward two months later (after you’re mourned the loss and nursed your wounds), and they suddenly show back up in your life. This is paperclipping, according to Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. What adds sting to that papercut is the fact that most of the time, the person doesn’t provide any context or reason to why they left in the first place. They reappear, try to rearrange your life and are mum about the disappearing act they pulled earlier. Confusing much? You bet.

What’s the History of Paperclipping?

Though some of the dating terms make sense from their name — ghosting, catfishing, for instance — others aren’t so straightforward. If you can rack your brain though, you may remember Clippy, the original (and albeit, annoying) digital assistant in Microsoft Office. He would sometimes pop up, without warning, and give advice, even if it wasn’t asked for. April Davis, owner and founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking explains this is what inspired the term ‘paperclipping’, since often times, you wouldn’t willingly invite a past paperclip match into your life again. 

Why Does Paperclipping Matter?

You probably don’t need us to tell you that dating is hella-hard. And demoralizing. Discouraging. It only become more complicated when you let go of someone, only for them to show up and try to wiggle their way back into your heart, head… and bed. Davis explains the person being paperclipped will struggle with trust and constantly doubt the paperclipper. And if you’re looking for a committed, happy relationship, paperclipping doesn’t have a place in your vocabulary. How come? The paperclipper is making it fairly clear they can’t be counted on for the long haul. “If someone is always ghosting someone they are dating with no reason and then coming back into that person’s life when it best suits them, they will be creating a red flag for the other person,” Davis continues. “These red flags could then lead to the other person questioning if they even want to entertain getting into a relationship with the ‘paperclipper’. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who is flaky? No one.”

Generally speaking, if you’ve had a paperclipping experience, you are in for a rough and emotional ride that no dating expert recommends taking. More often than not, it will only result in another heartbreak. Or potentially, more than one. “Paperclipping matters in relationships because it can be the source of a lot of pain for the person on the receiving end who is going to constantly feel neglected and undervalued by their partner,” she shares.

And if you try to talk about it? You likely won’t get anywhere, since like Clippy, the paperclipper will play dumb when they don’t have an answer. Or if they don’t want to be truthful. “If you find that you are experiencing something similar to ‘Paperclipping’ with someone you are dating or even your partner, then it might be time to cut ties,” she recommends. “Show them to a web browser and ask them to look up the term ‘paperclipping’ so they know the term for their behavior.”

Where You Might Hear Paperclipping

When your pal comes over for a round of beers and is confused about his dating situation, he might say ‘Dude, I’ve been paperclipped.” Or on the other end of the spectrum, when your friend is guilty of this bad behavior, he may say: “I paperclipped her because I was bored and she’s always available.” Either way, it’s not a healthy approach to dating.

How to Use Paperclipping in Conversation

Being ‘paperclipped’ is when someone ghosts you and emerges back in your life some time later. The act of doing it is ‘paperclipping.’ As a paperclipper, you’re the one doing the mean magic trick. Dr. Thomas suggests a sentence like this: “Use ‘paperclipped’ in a conversation as a verb such as, ‘I can’t believe I was paperclipped by him because I thought we had some real potential.’”

Notable Paperclipping Quotes

“If the paperclipper ever actually does end up wanting to pursue something more serious, their behavior has likely ruined those chances.” — Danielle Page


“If you’re guilty of paperclipping someone, stop that immediately.” —Erika W. Smith


“The baffling new term describes when an ex contacts you months after ghosting you, sorta like Clippy, the not-so-helpful Microsoft assistant who would appear after you needed help with a task — but had already figured it out yourself.” —Marissa Dellatto


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