6 signs someone is “benching” you instead of full-on ghosting

People can engage in so many games when it comes to dating, and if we’re being real, we’re all a little guilty of playing them from time to time. Among these games, some are a little more…humane than others. Example: Think about all of these signs that someone is benching you instead of ghosting you, and contemplate which would you prefer. It’s debatable.

For the uninitiated out there, benching is a sports metaphor that can be applied to the dating technique of keeping someone on your “roster” (or in this case, in your contacts list), but not “playing” them (or hanging out with them). When someone is benched on an IRL sports team, it can mean that they’ve done something wrong and are just temporarily suspended or merely waiting their turn. Get it?

In dating, benching can be a cruel strategy.  

When you get ghosted, someone just drops off without any explanation. It’s awful but sometimes necessary. When you’re getting “breadcrumbed,” you never really know what’s going on, which is a special sort of hell. But benching is a little different. 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.

If you don’t like the idea of someone playing any game with you at all, here are the signs you’re being benched so you can duck out.

1They check in a lot.

You can tell you’re being benched if the relationship is based more on texting, but you never actually hang out. The bencher will woo you and make you feel important, by asking how your day was or remembering certain facts about your friends or family. They’ve paid attention while you talked, which makes you feel special, so you don’t even notice you’re being played.

2It feels real.

When you do see each other, it’s intense. There’s incredible intimacy; you feel like the only person in the room. The bencher is giving you hope by making it seem like it could actually go somewhere — but it won’t. It will never go farther than those random magical nights and the long, long, long days in between while you wait for them to respond to your follow-up “had so much last night!” text from just after the date.

3You get called in for “emergencies.”

A bencher would “totally love to” date you eventually buuuuut….they aren’t “in a good place for a relationship right now.” But that doesn’t stop them from wanting you to accompany them to every single wedding, work event, and random group hang all of their couple friends are going to so they don’t feel like the 5th wheel, just like a real girlfriend would. But expect all this without offering any assurance that they won’t up and disappear on you again.

4You’ve put your dating life aside.

You might start actually feeling bad about swiping right on a dating app or going out with someone else…even though you haven’t seen your bencher for a month…but you have been texting a lot! Yeah, none of this is good.

5You catch them.

Being benched can make a person insane. It’s sort of a form of gaslighting. Which means you might end up social media stalking this person a lot, just trying to figure out what, out of everything they tell you, is actually true. The details will vary, of course, but if you’re being “benched,” chances are that you find out that they’re making plenty of time for people in their lives — just not you. Like, even though they were too “swamped” to make plans with you for any day at all this week, they’ve Instagrammed group dinners and hangouts with other people. They’re busy only for you. WTF?

6You feel relief when you hear from them, because you were low-key feeling anxious before.

The texts and hangouts are few and far between — but not that far between. Just when you start texting your friends that this person might have ghosted you and you’ve beaten yourself up for a few days, you get the ping! And an offer so good you can’t refuse. That relief you feel upon hearing from them is a sign they’re perpetuating an atmosphere of tension and anxiety — and it’s so not healthy.

Benching can be cruel. A scaled-down version of it can also be used as a perfectly casual dating tactic when you want keep someone on the back burner. But remember that the person on the other end of that phone is a real human with feelings, so don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to you.