Ghosting is so 2015, people. No more just disappearing into the ether when you don’t want to date someone anymore for you! But that doesn’t mean that being impolite in the ways of love is a thing of the past. No, there’s a new awful relationship trend: benching. Oh, the perils of dating in 2016! (Oh, the humanity!)
Benching is exactly what it sounds like. Coined by Jason Chen in an article for New York magazine, benching is what happens when you like a person, only, you know, the sparks aren’t quite there, but you want to keep your options open just in case.
What does it look like? Here’s just a brutal little taste: “Hey, girl. How have you been? Heart-eye emoji, see-no-evil monkey emoji.” Send that text and it should do her for a good two weeks!
Chen came up with the term after struggling to define the weird, not-quite-relationship with a guy he’d gone on a couple of dates with — the random texts, the Instagram likes, the halfhearted plans to get together that always fell through. “It wasn’t until I started seeing someone I was on the fence about that I understood what was going on,” he writes. “After two dates, I couldn’t quite decide what I was feeling for this person — whether we would never see each other again or become friends or maybe date down the line — but I didn’t want to end the conversation either.” Hence, the benching, which Chen calls “despicable, manipulative, selfish behavior.”
Benchers consider their actions a way of keeping their options open, but really, Chen writes, it’s just a new iteration of the old strategy called “leading someone on.” It’s also a power play, and one that men are far more likely to do than women, whether the person they’re benching is another man or a woman.
One woman Chen interviewed, a writer named Jean, figures that benching is a way for the bencher to feel good about themselves. None of that awkward ghosting — after all, how terrible is it to meet the person you’ve ghosted on the street several months later? In reality, Jean says, benching is “worse than being the asshole. If you’re ghosted, you get to go through all the stages of grief. But when someone disappears and then continues to text you, you don’t even get that. It’s like they’ve died but keep coming back to life.”
The truth bomb on benching: if it’s happening to you, the relationship is most likely over, in spite of how interested the bencher still seems to be. “If we’re to be honest,” Chen writes, “benching is just the slow kiss-off…No successful relationship was ever born from a situation in which one person strung the other along until — in a moment of epiphany — he realized everything glorious and noble and luminescent was in front of him all along.”
As the old adage says, he’s just not that into you. No matter how many kissy emoji and YouTube links he sends.