'The Goldilocks Zone' Is The Horrifying New Dating Term — And It's Probably Happened To You

You need to find a middle ground if you find yourself in 'the Goldilocks zone.'

man kissing girl on date Chamomile_Olya / Shutterstock

I once dated a woman with whom it wasn't until our breakup conversation that I learned of most of the problems she had with the relationship — which led to me feeling blindsided.

She wasn’t the first one. Before her, I’d dated several other women who self-identified as people-pleasers, and this seemed to come with the territory.

I could never be sure if they were just telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. It seemed like the things they said at the moment so rarely turned out to match what they were really feeling.


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And so it was fitting that in the months after, I ended up drawn to a woman who was self-assured and decisive.

This woman seemed to know who she was and what she wanted.

She was always the one to pick and plan each date, seldom inquiring as to what I might want to do. In between dates, she’d send one-word replies to texts.

She was the antithesis of a people-pleaser.

I was definitely dating outside of my "type," but I’d gone too far to the opposite end of the pendulum.

As author Ann Smith put it in a Psychology Today article, "When we rebound, we go to the other extreme and end up in the same place." 


AKA the Goldilocks Zone.

Sometimes when a person has been with a partner who strongly shows traits of one style, they’ll heavily pivot to the other extreme after leaving a relationship with them.

They’ll find comfort in someone who grants them exactly what they felt denied of with the previous person.

In the case of anxious-avoidant pairings, the avoidant person might feel trapped in a relationship with an anxious person. They might feel smothered, stifled, and judged.

The solution might feel like partnering with a more avoidant-leaning person afterward.

With this type of person, there’s endless space to move freely. The avoidant doesn’t judge them. It’s live and let live.


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When you’ve felt smothered or stifled for a long time, that freedom can feel so refreshing. Maybe even exactly what your soul needs.

You feel held, heard, seen, and taken in. Their presence is a balm. Your full self feels welcome.

You feel no pressure to be what they need you to be because they don’t need you to be anything.

These are wonderful things. It’s just that there’s another side to the coin of them.

In blindly pivoting, you sacrifice more of a middle-ground view of both the strengths and limitations of the style you’re now trying to escape from at all costs.


Maybe once the spell of newness wears off, you’ll see that the seeming remedy comes with its own limitations.

That the second type may be less likely to request changes from you — and yet it’s also easier for them to let go of your connection.

They’re less likely to fight for you or it.

Some seem indifferent to whether you stay or go. Indifferent to your needs, requests, and bids for care and attention. They can be receptive and engaged so long as it doesn’t require large sacrifices or lifestyle adjustments.

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From my perspective, it’s easier to help a caring and invested person change their approach than it is to compel an uninvested person to care and invest.


Of course, this would all depend on how far along each person is in their healing, self-awareness, and motivation or desire to grow.

But one isn’t good while the other is bad. Elements of both are essential. The ideal would fall somewhere between the two poles.

Acknowledging this can help you choose people from a grounded place based on wants and deeper needs — rather than from a reactive one derived from the avoidance of the unresolved previous issues.


Resolving the hurt from one set of circumstances doesn’t lie in indulging the opposite state. It lies in looking closely, perhaps examining your role in it as well, and how it contributed to the overall result.

That way you won’t be looking to correct it anymore. You won’t be searching for the cure in its polar opposite.

Rather you’ll be seeking connections from a non-reactive place, motivated by healthier instincts.

You’ll thus be more likely to end up in a more balanced connection with a person closer to the middle of the spectrum when it comes to qualities.

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Eleni Stephanides is a freelance writer and Spanish interpreter whose work has been published in Them, Tiny Buddha, Peaceful Dumpling, The Mighty, The Gay and Lesbian Review and Introvert Dear among others. She currently writes the monthly column "Queer Girl Q&A" for Out Front Magazine.