Benching: The Dating Trend For The Selfish

When it comes to experiencing toxic dating trends, you're not alone. Anyone who's single has found themselves on the wrong side of ghosting, breadcrumbing, catfishing, or any of the other dozens of dating trends that have become commonplace in our society. It seems as though with the rise of dating apps — with 300 million people worldwide using them — decency has fallen by the wayside. Because of this, it makes dating a daunting, murky terrain.

One of those harmful dating trends that's been getting more traction is benching. If it sounds more like a sports term than a dating trend, you're not wrong — the term has been plucked from sports lingo and added to our long list of dating trend lingo. "Benching someone is essentially like benching a football player," Babbel's senior content producer Steph Koyfman told Harper's Bazaar. "They're not your first (or maybe even second) choice, but you still want to keep them around as a backup option, so you give them just enough to keep them interested." 

Naturally, there are no upsides to benching — even the bencher doesn't fair as well as they might think. It's selfish behavior that no one should partake in, no matter how conflicted or entitled they've convinced themselves to be. It might even be worse than ghosting because it involves deceit and manipulation. At least a ghoster has the courtesy to just up and disappear, as opposed to just stringing someone along for their own selfish benefit.

Why benching is selfish

When someone chooses to bench the person they're dating, they're essentially saying, "I like you so I'm going to keep you around but I'm also going to look for something better." The bencher has decided their needs and wants trump that of the person they've benched, thereby giving themselves all the power — power that comes from a sense of entitlement and delusions of grandeur.

"We're exposed to so much content, people are easily accessible, and dating apps are thriving, which makes us prone to embody the idea that there's a lot of variety and that countless options are waiting for us," relationship expert Callisto Adams told Toronto Sun. "This is why when we meet someone we like, we tend to 'put them on a bench' just in case someone better shows up." And it's not as though the person who's been benched has a say in the matter or that they're even explicitly aware of what's happening. It is, through and through, only about the bencher and what they can get out of every person they're dating. Everything is on their terms and their terms alone.

Signs you're being benched

Because trying to navigate this dating world can feel like you're walking through a field of landmines, you may not be able to identify right away that you're being benched. In your eyes, it could seem as though things are going well, but that the bencher might just be taking it slow. Eventually, however, things will start to add up.

"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," clinical psychologist Dr. Ryan Warner, Ph.D. told 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."

As Warner points out, the fact that you're on someone else's bench says nothing about you as a person, nor should you let it deplete your self-worth in any way. People who bench others for their convenience and their wants are in the wrong. If anything, it speaks volumes about their priorities, their lack of respect for others, and their low self-esteem. People who are confident and secure in themselves don't need to stoop to benching or any other toxic dating trend.

How to stop someone from benching you

Although you can't stop someone else's bad behavior, you can push back and protect yourself. That's why when you realize you're being benched, you need to put your foot down and speak up. You shouldn't assume that it's an innocent mistake, a temporary disregard, or that you can convince them you don't belong on the bench. You should see it for what it is: benching. Then make your move to stop it. 

"It's important to set boundaries with what is acceptable and not acceptable to you when dating," psychotherapist Jade Thomas told Stylist. "It's important to assert and respect your own needs and wants and a potential partner should value that." It's not acceptable for anyone to find themselves on someone else's bench. Ever. But if you don't communicate this to the bencher once you realize the reality of the situation, then you just allow yourself to continue to be manipulated. You deserve better than that. "Communicate honestly and be assertive," said Thomas. "This can be daunting for a lot of people, but it can save you a lot of hurt and confusion in the long run." Don't expect someone to unbench you for any reason other than convenience. That's why you need to unbench yourself. 

What to do if you're the bencher

While benching should never be defended, in some cases people inadvertently bench and it has nothing to do with entitlement and everything to do with their own issues. "A lot of people use dating to manage their fears of being alone, for validation, or as a distraction, and they're not always honest with themselves and others about the fact that they're not really looking for a partner," clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD told Well + Good. Although we can't expect everyone to be 100% self-aware at all times, the decent person, the one who respects others is the one who will cease their benching ways when they see what they're doing. Dating isn't just about you and what you want, even if it's coming from a place of confusion. It's about you and the person you're dating or, in this case, benching.

"Get into the practice of ending relationships you don't see going anywhere instead of keeping people around as backups just so you don't end up alone," said Romanoff. No one needs to keep someone around if that person in question isn't their number-one pick. When we go for the person we've decided is number two, then we settle. That's not fair to us and it's certainly not fair to them. 

According to research posted by Sexual Alpha in February 2023, there are 2.12 billion singles in the world and as of 2021, Americans made up 126.9 million of those people. In other words, there's no need, statistically speaking, to bench anyone or allow yourself to be benched. Your number one pick is out there somewhere.