If you’ve ever played sports in middle school (who hasn’t?) or tested your luck in fantasy football (if you haven’t, you’re missing out), you’re probably familiar with benching—a.k.a. keeping someone on your team while not giving them a fair chance at bat (or ya know, ball).
But if you’re new to modern dating (my condolences), perhaps you aren’t.
Benching in dating strikes a similar definition. In short, a bencher keeps you in their rotation while playing the field (talk about a perfect analogy), regardless of whether or not you’re sitting there waiting and hoping for a monogamous relationship.
Because even though they are clearly interested—if not, they may pull the slow fade—they haven’t decided to commit to any sort of two-person team.
Modern dating have your head spinning? Your burning Qs, answered:
Hmm…sounds familiar. So is it a big deal?
When someone benches you, that’s a surefire sign that they’re not into you enough (sorry) to be exclusive—a super common byproduct of today’s swipe culture.
And though it can come off as harsh, benching—or more specifically, dating multiple people at once—is what you’re supposed to be doing, says Ann Rosen Spector, PhD, a clinic psychologist in Philadelphia.
Seeing several people at once is the best way to figure out what you’re really looking for and who you truly want to spend more time with, she says.
It also helps you avoid getting emotionally attached to a person before they’ve truly invested in you, adds WH advisor Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City.
And there’s really no reason anyone (including you) should feel the need to settle down with one person after X amount of dates. Sometimes people want to keep dating around because they find it fun, or because they crave something casual (perhaps they got hurt in the past, saw their parents separate, or just personally prefer keeping things “light”), Spector explains.
That said, while benching isn’t a big deal, it can feel a bit…crushing, especially if you find yourself being benched by someone you really like.
No kidding. How do I avoid that awful feeling?
While you can’t exactly stop someone from benching you, you certainly can stop yourself from feeling led on. To do that, take control of the situation.
First and foremost, have an honest conversation with the person you’re interested in dating monogamously. Ask them: What are you looking for? Do you, like me, see this relationship developing further?
Ask them: What are you looking for? Do you, like me, see this relationship developing further?
“Relationships work very poorly without high amounts of trust and transparency,” Spector says—which makes assumptions a major cause for downfalls.
Keep in mind that needs and wants evolve over time. So “at every stage of the relationship, check in with the other person,” Spector adds, to ensure you’re both on the same track.
If it turns out that you’re not seeing eye to eye, it’s up to you to get your tush off the bench and become a free agent, so to speak.
What if I’m the bencher?
No harm, no foul. The only time benching becomes a problem is when daters aren’t being honest with themselves and each other, according to Spector. In other words, if you want to date around, it’s on you to say so—and up to them to be cool with it.
Tell the person that you’re feeling unsure about what the two of you have going on and that while you want to see where things go, you’re not ready to stop dating other people. Easier said than done, sure, but the truth beats any other excuse (“Work is just sooo busy right now!”).
Just do yourself a favor and don’t use benching as a way out of a relationship with someone you know you don’t want to be with.
“The biggest mistake most people make in relationships is the inability to disengage,” says Spector.
Don’t use benching as a way out of a relationship with someone you know you don’t want to be with.
So if you’re keeping someone around just because your friends like them, you have a nice routine going, or breaking things off might feel like a hassle, it’s time to let them off the bench.
After all, your newfound time and emotional freedom may lead you to someone who deserves a place on…gasp…your love seat.
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