'Benching' Is The Horrifying New Dating Term — And It's Probably Happened To You

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Ghosting is when someone fades away from a relationship without explanation. It's annoying, obnoxious, and kind of mean. It's as if the ghoster wants to make as little effort as possible to get out of the relationship.

The reason why it hurts so much is that if you're the "ghostee," it might take you a while to realize you've been ghosted, so there will be calls, texts, and emails that will never be returned ... until one day it finally becomes crystal clear that you've been dumped. 

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Ghosting is a rude move. You can try to rationalize that you're actually trying to save the other party's pain, but you're just being a coward by not being straight-up with the other person. Besides, no one ever ghosted someone they respected.

However, as bad as ghosting is (and it's pretty bad), there's something even worse: benching.

In a 2016 article in NY Magazine, writer Jason Chen describes benching as that stage in a relationship or non-relationship where there's still the occasional text or half-hearted invitation to make a plan that never ever happens. 

Just when you've gotten to the point where you're ready to move on, the bencher reels you back in. They want to make sure that if nothing better comes up, they can still see you. 

Chen didn't fully understand benching until he was the one doing it.

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"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. So I would ping him occasionally, just enough to pique his interest and dangle the carrot of a possible relationship without ever actually following through with plans."

A bencher, unlike a ghoster, wants to keep their options open. They give you a modicum of attention so you still think there might be a chance if you play it right. But the thing is, they're really not that into you, and if a relationship had been meant to happen, it would have.

It's the false hope it gives people that I really object to. When you've been ghosted, you eventually understand that it's done, but if you're still getting the occasional "How are you?" text, you can hang onto that thin thread of hope. And in this era of smartphones, it takes little to no effort to send a smiley face emoji.

Some people believe that if you're the person being benched, you're complicit in the game and you just wouldn't respond if you didn't want the benching to continue. I, personally, find it nearly impossible to not respond on these occasions.

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There's another factor to benching that I like to think of as "Nice Guy Disease." The bencher doesn't want anyone to think they are an assh*le or jerk, so they pretend they're just reaching out because they're nice. It's a pretty standard move for a narcissist.

If he really cared about your feelings he would let you go so you could grieve the relationship (or lack thereof) and heal. Benchers aren't thinking of the people they hurt at all, only of themselves and how they appear to the world.

Chen writes, "Benchers will tell you that their behavior is a way to put a relationship on hold, to hit pause before deciding how they really want to play it. But if we're going to be honest, benching is just the slow kiss-off."

People who bench are narcissistic and selfish, and the best thing you can do is sever any and all ties with them. If they reach out, don't be fooled! They don't care about you — if they did, they really wouldn't treat you so badly.

You don't want to be somebody's no-one-better-came-along choice.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.