What To Know About The Vulturing Dating Trend & How To Avoid It

When the term "ghosting" first weaseled its way into our vernacular, little did we know that it was just the beginning of selfish dating trends. And, sadly, there seems to be no end to this type of cringe-worthy behavior or the people who are okay with indulging in it.

Although not exactly new, vulturing is one of those selfish trends you want on your radar. Like a vulture that stalks its prey, waiting for the right moment to fly down from its perch and do some serious damage, vulturing in dating is pretty much the same thing. "When people sense a relationship is on the rocks, they may start to circle their prey — the person who is about to break up or divorce — in order to be able to date them or just sleep with them," relationship expert April Masini told Ask Men. The thinking here on the part of these predators is that when someone is reeling from a broken heart, they're vulnerable and can be easily manipulated or exploited; two things that narcissists love. 

While it would be nice to think that not many people would resort to vulturing, the numbers prove otherwise. According to a December 2018 survey by dating app Plenty of Fish, 20% of singles admitted that they had engaged in this type of predatory behavior, with people in their early 20s most likely to spread their wings and vulture. As depressing as that percentage is, it doesn't mean you can't protect yourself. 

Why it's harmful

When someone waits in the wings for the right moment to enact their personal agenda at the expense of our mental and emotional health, the effects can be profoundly damaging. We're not talking about people who care about us through every step of a breakup and come to our rescue with a genuine concern for our well-being. We're talking about a person whose intentions are sinister, self-involved, and narcissistic. 

"Vulturing is predatory behavior that takes advantage of someone who is emotionally vulnerable after a breakup," relationship expert Jessica Alderson told Stylist UK. "After the breakup, they leverage the connection they have built over time and use it to take advantage of their friend's weakened state. Being pursued by someone who is exploiting your emotional vulnerability after a breakup can be incredibly damaging to your mental health."

As Alderson explains, when people experience vulturing, it can affect their ability to trust others, especially during vulnerable times when they really need someone. Vulturing is considered so detrimental that in 2021, the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK added it to their glossary of dating trend terms so prosecutors who come across it in their practice will have a better understanding of it, its effects, and how to build a case against perpetrators.

How to spot vulturing

What makes vulturing so toxic is that when we're emotionally depleted from a breakup, seeing clearly can be a very difficult task. While this may be the case, there are a handful of red flags that are likely to rub you the wrong way. For example, if someone is overly inquisitive about how you're doing after your breakup or they're too helpful, like in ways that come off as smothering or controlling. Another thing to be wary of is what you post on social media during this vulnerable time in your life, because vultures tend to use these platforms as guides.

"Not that vulturing didn't exist before, but social media and our tendency to post everything on our social profiles has increased the likeliness of this trend," relationship coach Sheetal Shaparia told The Indian Express. "You show off your partner, choice of clothes, food, and locations on the web, and a vulture can pick up all these to impress you when you are wreaked after a breakup." When we put so much of ourselves online, we're not just opening doors to vultures, but inviting them into our world even if that's not our intention. Once they get there, they make themselves comfortable, then the manipulation starts. Before you know it, you're knee-deep in something that can be difficult to escape. 

How to protect yourself

As much as you may feel like you need a distraction after the end of a relationship, the reality is you need alone time more than anything. You need to take a step back to reflect on your relationship, mourn the loss, and find your footing again. "My rule of thumb after someone has a breakup is to have a period of detox," Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT told NBC News. "This is where you take time for yourself. You do not date. You do not have flings. You do not do anything that would be contradictory to your healing process."

Healing isn't something that happens overnight and it's certainly not something that can be done if you immediately allow someone into your life romantically. In other words, focusing on yourself after a breakup is going to be what protects you from vulturing. When you realize you have unpacking and reflecting to do, despite your vulnerability, you'll be more likely to shoot the advances of a vulture down. You'll turn to close friends and family who offer support, as opposed to a predator trying to get something out of you. Of course, someone who is very skilled in vulturing may be able to tackle your rebuff and make their way into your head and heart. But at least knowing that this dating trend exists will hopefully keep you one step ahead of these types of people.