How Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’ Inspired a New Dating Trend

Whenever a show becomes popular enough to turn into a cultural influence, we see that popularity expressed in the real world in different ways. You’ll see it in things like fashion, party themes, food, memes with quotable lines, and in behaviors. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is an example of that, and with just 12 episodes, she managed to impact dating trends.

What is the trend? An uptick in fancying members of the clergy? Breakups that make up and then break up again (like Harry)? Or nefarious stepparents who befriend their stepchildren’s exes? No, it’s something different with Fleabag.  

Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge of ‘Fleabag’ | David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for HUGO BOSS

Let’s recap Fleabag’s lovers for a moment, shall we?

Focusing only on Fleabag’s romantic life, a quick review shows that she chose Arsehole guy for his looks, even though he’s an arrogant jerk who was in love with someone else. Harry is the old standby boyfriend who predictably comes back after each breakup. He’s a pushover and deep down, Fleabag knows he’s not a good match but he’s reliable, predictable, and signifies complacency.

Bus Rodent. What can be said? He’s goofy and is really just filling a void for poor Fleabag. And then there’s hot priest. He’s technically unattainable and unavailable but still engages in an emotional affair with Fleabag that blurs all sorts of lines.

Fleabag is heartbroken and in search of affection in both seasons until she finally finds some semblance of peace in the end. But her choice in partners is ugh.

Why Fleabag has become a legit dating symbol

Fleabag’s dating pattern is worthy of an analysis, so much so that it’s been done. What’s this about? In the U.K., a survey by dating site Plenty of Fish went viral for breaking down new dating trends for 2020. “Fleabagging” is a thing, friends.

What exactly is it? According to the site, here’s the gist:

“Consistently dating the wrong people for you. Half of singles (50%) feel they have consistently dated the wrong person for them and interestingly more women (63%) admit to Fleabagging compared to just 38% of men.”

Plenty of Fish polled 1,000 participants in the U.S. and 1,000 in the U.K. to get an idea of their dating practices, and fleabagging is the new term used to describe bad partner choices. It’s prevalent.

‘Fleabagging’ as a dating term has sparked discussions

Fans find the character’s dating choices relatable, so the idea of fleabagging is resonating with singles out there. Now, some are questioning whether their penchant for picking bad love matches is a subconscious attachment, something to embrace, or a habit that requires elimination and recovery.

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British GQ consulted a relationship therapist who believes it’s connected to our personalities and “attachment style.” She stated:

“Secure people, for example, are usually warm and affectionate and responsive to intimacy. Anxious people might worry their partner doesn’t love them back and need reassurance or feel jealous. Avoidant people tend to be distant and unwilling to commit, equating intimacy with a loss of independence.”

She added that some people possess a combination of these characteristics, and if you want to change the behavior, it’s possible. How? By recognizing the pattern and choosing to work on yourself. It’s all about loving yourself first so your potential partner reflects that same behavior back to you. Or, one can just keep fleabagging if they’re having fun. It’s a choice.