Dating is hard. This is something you will learn if you watch a movie, read a book, or happen to be a human person who lives in the world and have ever tried to pursue any kind of vaguely non-platonic relationship with another person. I bring this up not to rehash an old cliche, then, but rather to discuss a new term that has cropped up recently and explains why, exactly, dating is so difficult. It’s called benching.
This term was coined a few weeks ago by New York writer Jason Chen, and it’s basically exactly what it sounds like. In his piece on benching, he defines it as staying in sporadic communication–say, some form of contact every three weeks–with someone you aren’t really interested in, but don’t want to shut the door on completely. So, you’ll send a text, like a ‘gram, or say “oo we should totally hang out soon,” without actually ever having the intention of following through. I’ve never been much for sports metaphors, but this one is pretty spot-on–if you’ve got a rotation of any sort, there are going to be people who are benched, too.
Benching is sort of like zombieing–when an ex or former fling you haven’t spoken to in ages sends you a cryptic form of communication, like an Instagram like–and can easily be confused with ghosting–that thing when someone you’ve been seeing stops talking you out of the blue–but without the full disappearance required to execute both. It’s like a half-ghost, basically, in which the bencher vanishes just enough so that the bench-ee knows that their romantic interest isn’t into them in the same way, but not enough so that anything ever feels final.
As someone who has both benched and been benched, I know firsthand that it is something that feels so stupidly easy when you’re doing it yourself (you don’t want to hang out with them right now but you might want to hang out with them one day, so why write them off completely?) and so stupidly cruel when it’s being done to you (couldn’t they have the decency to, like, actually break up with you so you can move on?). But how, exactly, can you tell if it’s being done to you? Check out these surefire signs that your crush is benching you:
There Are Weeks-Long Gaps In Communication"Hey," they said. "We should hang out sometime." "Sure!" you said. "When are you thinking?" No response, until three weeks later. "Oops, sorry--totally forgot to respond. We should hang out soon though." "Sure!" you said again. "When are you thinking?" You can probably guess what happened next--no response for a few weeks, then another excuse. This is essentially a sign that they want to make sure you're still interested in them, but are feeling ambivalent--at best--towards you. Image source: iStock
Every Text Is The Definition Of 'Bare Minimum'In addition to waiting weeks to get a text, It'll be, like, a GIF. Or a meme. Or some vague expression of interest as to what's going on in your personal life that seems nice but when you think about it, could probably be sent to pretty much anyone. Image source: iStock
Every Invitation To Hang Out Is Also Pretty Bare MinimumLike, a text to go to lunch in, say, thirty minutes (you have work). Or an invitation to come to a party they're having (you're on vacation, and you're pretty sure they saw your Insta about it). Or a late-night text to "hang out" (they know you go to bed at 10). Anything that makes it seem as though they have some sort of investment in seeing you, but if you look at the initiation/follow through dynamic, never really seems to work out. Image source: iStock
You Never Feel Comfortable Texting ThemCould you be the one to initiate a text? Of course. We are all self-possessed, autonomous beings, after all, and there is no physical reason why you cannot send them a text. But there's something holding you back--maybe it's a feeling you have that, if you were to text them, they just wouldn't say anything back, or that you did try to text first once, and they waited five hours to respond, only to send back a one-word response. Either way, you feel confined to wait by the phone and see if they'll hit you up. Image source: iStock
There's A Definite Sense Of An Uneven Power DynamicJason Chen notes that, in the benching theorem, there is always a definitive bencher and a definitive benchee--you can't both be benching each other, basically, so there's a clear power dynamic at hand. This includes the texting rule from the previous slide, plus other random factors--if you ever do hang out, they're the one to initiate it. They're always the first to text, but you're always the last to respond. They always give off some sort of vibe that you are lucky and blessed to be talking to them, which, even if you know isn't true, makes you feel panicky and stressed whenever you think about them. Image source: iStock
They Use Read ReceiptsI don't know. It's just that every person I've known to use read receipts uses them in order to manipulate people, which is behavior that directly correlates with everything in regard to benching. Is this empirical evidence? Nope! Purely anecdotal, my friend. But if they leave you on read, that very well might be a benching tactic. Image source:I Hate Quick Questions
They Do *Just* Enough To Make You Still Like ThemThere is a reason you're hung up on them, after all--while they're very visibly doing a minimal effort, they know what kind of minimal effort works for you. They know which GIFs to send, which memes to tag you in, and which days you need to hear that "how are you?" the most. Do yourself a favor, and just don't respond next time. Image source: iStock
Have you ever been benched? Did any of these things happen to you? Let us know in the comments!
Follow Gurl, Pretty Please!