I recently went on a great first date with a guy who even texted me afterward to tell me he would like to do it again. But now, it's been months, and that second date has never happened. However, he keeps texting me every few days, liking my social media posts, and direct messaging me on Instagram, all with the purpose of keeping me interested. And now I realize... I've been benched.
What is benching? It's more commonly known as leading someone on, stringing them along, putting them on the back burner, or doing anything you can to keep them interested in you, all without putting any emotional or physical labor into a relationship with them. Essentially, you’ve been benched if the person you’re interested in doesn't commit to you, but instead ignores you until it's convenient for them to reach out.
Instead of dumping or ghosting you, they’ll simply bench you for potential later use. IMHO, it's the worst dating trend out there. “Benching can be a sign of commitment issues or someone easily being emotionally flooded by closeness or intimacy,” Dr. Delverlon Hall, EDD, LCSW, tells Elite Daily. “I believe what makes benching worse than ghosting is this person will show up craving the exact thing they cannot tolerate,” Delverlon says. They’re basically trying to stay in your life while also keeping their distance, which makes for an exhausting cycle.
Here are some reasons getting benched is way worse than being ghosted. (Seriously.)
1. Benching Keeps You On Edge
When you've been ghosted, your crush goes completely MIA. While it sucks, at least it doesn't keep you hanging on all that much — there's more room for you to let go.
Benching, however, gives you hope for a future with this person, which keeps you waiting for them to come around. You don't hear from them for weeks, and then you receive a text that says "hey stranger" at 9 p.m. on a Saturday. Immediately, you think your crush finally has time for a partner and is going to ask you out again. Wrong.
Someone who benches you has the exact intention of making you think your relationship has a future, even though it doesn't. Why would someone constantly be liking all your Instagram photos if they weren't interested in you?
“Benching creates a natural urge to seek validation from the person who created the environment in which they felt rejected,” relationship expert Carmel Jones tells Elite Daily. “So when the 'ghoster' becomes a 'bencher' and reaches back out, the person who was rejected feels excited, optimistic, and hopeful. This can lead to the cycle starting over again or even more rejection once the hopeful partner realizes that the outreach had little to do with them and more to do with the bencher's own insecurities and boredom.”
Unfortunately, actions don't always mean what you think they mean, and some people are just bored — or worse, selfish. Don't lose hope in romance, though. Do lose hope when it comes to the person who is benching you. They're not worth it.
2. Benching Makes You Overanalyze
Are we dating or aren't we? Do you like me at all? Am I making this all up in my head? Benching leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions, and let's face it: It can make you question everything you ever said to this person.
When someone benches you, they don't give you any IRL attention, keeping you on the back burner until they randomly come back to give you some insignificant recognition in the form of random texts and social media likes that keep you hanging on.
Katie Lasson, clinical sexologist and sex, intimacy, and relationships advisor, says it’s possible your ‘bencher’ might have more people on the side. “The person is hedging their bets by keeping people on the hook but not committing to any one for them. If they're benching you, you can almost be certain they are benching other people, too,” Lasson tells Elite Daily.
Benching can also lead to overanalyzing if you let your confusion snowball into paranoia and jealousy. You might check Instagram to see who else your crush is following, or you might go down a rabbit hole investigating all the people who are liking their pictures, too.
When you like someone, your brain puts together a worst-case scenario to fill in any puzzle pieces currently missing in your relationship. And if you are being benched, most likely, a lot of puzzle pieces are missing.
3. Benching Pauses Potential Connections With Other People
You only usually allow yourself to be benched by a person you actually like. You'd never be strung along by someone you weren't even that into, right? But when you're really interested in someone, you're bound to let a lot of other options fall away. You might even be benching other people yourself — totally unintentionally.
Being led on sucks because you might be missing great, viable candidates in the pursuit of a partner who may never actually commit to you. So make sure you are going after people who are both emotionally and physically available. That's what you deserve.
If you or your potential partner are openly going out with multiple people, Melanie Preston, LMHC, LPC, says you both need to be honest and listen to each other from the very beginning. “Decide from the beginning what the expectations are from the relationship. Are you casually dating each other? Currently dating other people? What is each person looking for? And listen when the person states their expectations,” Preston tells Elite Daily.
4. Benching Leaves You Glued To Your Phone
There isn't a more frustrating feeling than being glued to your phone, waiting for someone to call.
The thing about benching is that the bencher doesn't exit your life completely as they would if they ghosted. Rather, they enter it sporadically to lead you on — whenever it's convenient for them — and they give you hope that a relationship is possible.
You might get a text every few weeks, a random social media like, or even be contacted solely through direct message. (I once had a direct message relationship with someone for years who I met only once IRL.) If you're invested in the person who is benching you, then most likely, your phone is now your new best friend.
Dr. Ryan Warner, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, says to pay attention to the red flags. “If they are never available, don’t introduce you to any of their friends or family, and avoid making plans with you, they are probably not thinking about taking the relationship much further,” Warner tells Elite Daily. “Don’t be afraid to talk about things directly. If you perceive you are being benched, express it. And remember that if they bench you, you are likely not the problem.”
5. Benching Can Hurt Your Self-Confidence
Benching has the potential to make you rely on another person too much, and it can take away your self-sufficiency. It can also mold you into relying on another person for happiness. To gain some of that self-confidence back, sexologist Vivian Green says not to be afraid to call that person out on their behavior. The next time you hear from your “bencher,” Green suggests texting back with intention. “You can send them a message with the goal of showing your interest in seeing them in-person instead of only through messages. This is not an ultimatum message, but more friendly,” Green tells Elite Daily.
Send a text along the lines of, “Hey, thanks for the message! However, I've started to commit to less time texting, and more time spent doing the things I love. But, if you would like to continue the conversation, I'd love to meet with you face-to-face with you over a nice dinner/over a coffee/drink.” No matter how they respond, or if they respond at all, you’ve given yourself an avenue to understand whether or not that person is authentically interested in you. The ball is back in your court.
The best way to get rid of a bencher is to tell them that if they want to talk to you, they can do it consistently and in real life. If they actually want a relationship with you, they'll set up a date.
All I can say is this: Don't settle for someone who puts you on the back burner. You deserve better than that.
Dr. Delverlon Hall, EDD, LCSW
Melanie Preston, LMHC, LPC
Dr. Ryan Warner, Ph.D., clinical psychologist
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