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: Zombieing is when someone ghosts you—and then reappears out of nowhere—months or years later.
The first rules of zombie fighting are simple: Carry a gun, beware of bathrooms. Have good cardio, and always do the double tap. Though these might help you live a little longer when an apocalypse inevitably happens, they won’t save you from the terrifying experience that is zombieing in modern dating. Much like having your brain eaten by the undead, when someone inflicts the act of zombieing on you, it feels like a total mind f***. Think of when a zombie suddenly appears in the middle of nowhere while you’re watching The Walking Dead with surround sound and you spill your bag of Cheetos (been there, cleaned that up)—that’s sort of the same sensation you have when an ex-date comes out of the woodwork. Whether they slide into your DMs on Instagram or text you, zombieing is never predictable, but it can be deadly if you don’t handle it smartly. Here, your ultimate guide to this frequent experience singles must withstand:
What is Zombieing?
To best explain zombieing, dating expert Lori Vajda, MSW tells a little story about her client who experienced this phenomenon first hand. He met a woman online and they started dating, and he was convinced they had a promising future. But out of the blue, she ghosted on him. No calls, no responses, just gone. Months later, a random number rang him up and her voice was on the other end, casually saying, ‘Hi handsome!’ “Bewildered by her sudden reappearance and confused about what to do. Back when this occurred, there was no language to say what my client was experiencing. Today, we would say it was zombieing,” Vajda explains.
A way to think about zombieing, according to dating expert Chris Vitale, is the sudden reversal of ghosting, when one partner ceases contact without warning, and then comes back again, without any sign, either. If it sounds mind-numbing and soul-crushing, that’s because it is.
Where Did Zombieing Come From?
If we’re willing to take off our masks and get real with one another, it’s safe to say zombieing has always been a thing in dating, it just didn’t have a name. Since zombies have become more of a topic of discussion and trendy within modern culture, it makes sense it’d eventually infiltrate it’s way into romantic relationship. Or rather, infect? Vajda explains ‘zombieing’ was first mentioned in 2016 by Sophia Kercher for PrimeMind. “To be zombied, she wrote, is to have someone you care about disappear from your life altogether only to have them bring a relationship back from the dead with an out-of-the-blue text or interaction on social media,” she explains.
Why Zombieing Matters
…because it hurts. A lot. Very few people are spending endless hours on apps or dating websites to pass time. Most singles would like to eventually delete their downloads and create a life with a partner who understands them, respects them, and loves them. Not someone who is willing to be a zombie in their life: dead—and then suddenly, undead. The importance of understanding this act in dating is a measure to protect yourself and your heart and your hope in the process. Too many zombies in your bed—and you could become so fearful of being vulnerable, you become ghost-like yourself.
“When you find someone you are attracted to, feel a chemistry with and share things in common, there’s hope that this could be ‘the one’. Your heart’s in the game and you’re blindsided when the person cuts of all contact without warning,” Vajda explains. “Then, when that special person comes back from radio silence and reaches out via social media, text or a phone call, you cast reason aside for the hope of romance.”
Many people—especially those who want to believe the best in people—will give a zombie another go. But it’s a dangerous territory, according to Vajda. “In my personal and professional experience, very rarely does a Zombie change their modus operandi. This means if you do rekindle the romance, you’re likely to get hurt all over again when they repeat their pattern,” she explains.
Where You Might Hear Zombieing
Likely, from your pal who is utterly perplexed on why that girl he was mad about disappeared on him. And then—plot twist!—came back. You’ll be knocking the beers back, trying to help him figure out his next move and to see if it’s worth it to jump into something with a zombie again. On the other hand, Vajda says you could be on the other end if you’re acting like an undead creature yourself, when a gal calls you out on your antics.
How to Use Zombieing in a Conversation
Zombieing is the act of ghosting and coming back in a romantic relationship, while being a zombie is the person who does this practice. You can use them in varying degrees, depending on the conversation you’re having with someone. Vajda says you could hear something like ‘Sarah is Zombieing you. You thought the two of you had something special happening and then she just left without a trace. No returning your text, calls or messages. Here it is three months later, and just like a Zombie, she’s returned from the dead, liking your Instagram posts and leaving sweet comments on Facebook,” she explains.
Fun fact though? Vajda reminds the way to kill a zombie is to cut off her head. “That’s what you need to do here. Tell her ‘bye zombie’—and cut off all communication,” she says.
Notable Zombieing Quotes
“I recently had an ex from three years ago — whom I had not spoken to since we broke up — Venmo me $1 out of nowhere. If that’s what Zombieing, I don’t like it or want it in my life.” —Alison Segel
“By labeling the sudden reappearance of old flames as zombieing, you may be able to confront your distress.” —Sophia Kercher
“There’s no one explanation for zombieing. The zombie might want a hookup and they think you’d be game (my best friend calls this ‘reheating old soup’). It could be the person toying with your emotions, or it could be them genuinely missing you and wanting you back.” —Francesca Hogi