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: Benching is when you keep someone on the backburner—just in case someone else better doesn’t come along.
Those star-studded, rose-colored rom coms all have one shiny quality in common: they feature a bold, grand gesture. It’s what makes them addictive to watch—and well, arguably, so unrealistic. After seeing the error of his or her way, the lead comes to their senses and makes a play for their former flame’s heart. Cue the fireworks, the cross-country drive, the conversation with hesitant parents—and boom, they’re together. Nobody puts baby in the corner, sure—but lots of people are more than happy to have folks hang out on a bench. When dating isn’t portrayed on the silver screen, it’s a little less dreamy, and more… sad. If you’ve ever felt like someone’s second-choice indefinitely, or you have the tendency to keep those who are ga-ga about you guessing… it’s about time you learned about benching. Here are the goods:
What is Benching?
If you’ve ever played a sport—or watched one—every single type of team has a sidelines. It’s here that athletes hydrate, recover and get ready to go back to the court or the field—and also where those who aren’t first string sit nice and pretty, awaiting their term. Sexpert Coleen Singer explains this happens in dating, too. Also sometimes referred to as breadcrumbing, it’s when you stop dating someone, but you continue to contact them, essentially giving ‘em a bite here and there to prolong their connection to you. Thus, you’re keeping people on the bench as you explore who else is out there. Much like in sports, when you’re dumped or a relationship goes sour, you can pull in another person to prevent you from dropping the ball—or becoming lonely.
The scariest part of benching isn’t using the mind-trick for someone you’re casually seeing, but a friend who you constantly text, reach out to in emergencies, and possibly, even sleep with. It’s a blurring of lines and boundaries that are emotionally difficult for most to process and understand.
What is the History of Benching?
In athletics, benching is a standard term that’s been used for nearly every team activity. However, Singer says it became a popularized way to describe leading someone on in 2017, thanks to Urban Dictionary’s introduction. They defined it as, “Benching is when you start dating someone you think is nice and who has potential, but you’re not crazy about them. You don’t know whether to keep dating them, or dump them and move on to the next one.”
It ain’t exactly rosy—but for many, it’s a safety precaution to ensure they don’t suffer nights alone or feel as if they’re undesirable. Unfair and likely, a recipe for nasty karma down the line, most people have benched another person during their dating careers—regardless if they used the word to describe it or not.
Why Benching Matters
Unlike ghosting, when it is crystal (or opaque?)-clear your former flame has moved on and long forgotten about you, benching can be a must more confusing and emotionally excruciating experience, according to Singer. “It keeps you on the hook in case the person decides to come back to you. This just makes the pain worse if the person eventually moves on and then ghosts you as you spent a lengthy period of time continuing to engage them,” she shares.
As the lyric goes, nothing dies more slowly than a dream, and when you’re being benched by someone, your hope lingers. If that becomes shattered at some point, you’ll feel manipulated and taken advantage of—two aspects of self-confidence that are difficult to repair. Dating expert and founder of CupidsPulse Lori Bizzoco encourages singles—especially those hopeless romantic ones—to be mindful of the signs of benching to avoid prolonged heartbreak: “You don’t want to invest all of your time into dating someone who doesn’t want to progress the relationship or someone who starts putting you second best,” she explains. “If you realize that a person you started talking to only comes around or makes contact every now and then, you may need to consider the possibility that you’ve been benched.”
Where You Might Hear Benching
People who are actively being benched probably won’t use the term, since it’s a tough pill to swallow. More often than not, it is their brutally honest friends who will be the first to raise an eyebrow, and urge them to pay attention to how they’re being treated. “He only talks to you when that other girl is out of town, don’t you worry you’re being benched?” —might be a question they pose.
On the other hand, if you’re the bencher, you could be guilty of playing the same game. Singer provides this example:
Friend: “How’s your dating life going, Jill, weren’t you seeing that guy Jack?
Jill: Yeah I am, sort of. He’s just ok, so I’ve been benching him and dating around more.”
How to Use Benching in Conversation
The act of keeping someone on the sidelines as a lady or gentleman in waiting is ‘benching.’ When you are the person who sticks someone there, you benched ‘em. You can also use benched the other way, to describe what happened to you, too. If you are an honest person, hopefully, you’ll only use this term to help out a pal or encourage them to be transparent about their feelings for someone. After all—holding someone in your reserve tank isn’t a nice thing to do, and one that could come back to haunt you.
Notable Benching Quotes
“Some people who bench actually like the person and would date them if they could…maybe. It’s just not the ‘right time’ or whatever. The other possibility: They’re sociopaths who just love the attention and making people their love fools.” —Karen Fratti
“When you get ‘benched’ you are being placed in a state of limbo within your relationship (if you can call it that). Whereby the person you are dating is only feeding you just enough to keep you hanging on, but offers no real commitment.” —Renee Slansky
“It happens a lot through text, social media, and online dating sites, as this provides a safe, comfortable place to hide without having to be forced into committing to any plans. Having various options available gives them an ego boost, and gives them a backup in case you decide to walk away and leave them with no one.” —Becki Kremer