6 Ways To Break Free From Your 'Ben Stage'

Even if you don't know the term, you know the phase.

screenshot from a TikTok by LexiBrookeRivera with Lexi, Ben & another TikToker @LexiBrookeRivera's TikTok 

There is a relatively new term used on TikTok to describe a phase or a stage in a relationship or dating experience that is problematic and unhealthy: the Ben Stage.

Naturally, this doesn't sit well with good guys named Ben!

What is the 'Ben Stage' or 'Ben Phase' of a relationship?

The term was coined when women began to post on TikTok about bad experiences dating men named Ben. This turned into awareness and conversations about patterns of being stuck in bad relationships and ongoing negative dating experiences. Elder millennials and older may know this as the "J Stage" — dating men with "J" names like Jacob, James, Justin and even guys called "J".




In other words, a phase where you date a series of men who cause you nothing but trouble.  

Whenever we think that we are stuck in any negative pattern in our life such as the Ben Stage, we experience a lot of emotional distress. We convince ourselves that this is how dating or relationships are always going to be or that a bad relationship is better than being alone.  


The Ben Stage is just that: a stage. It does not have to become a lifelong pattern if you do the work to recognize what's happening and change the trajectory.



RELATED: 6 Ways You Control When, Where (& With Whom!) You Fall In Love

How to recognize the Ben Stage — and walk away

The more you become aware of the patterns associated with the stage, the more you can gain insight and make behavior changes to break the cycle. No more tears and emotional distress under the guise of seeking a relationship. It does not have to be so complicated. If something is complicated, it is a good gauge that it is not blessed or something is wrong.  


When situations occur that are disrespectful and disturbing, we would be wise to listen when our spirit warns us to walk away. Walking away from difficult relationships and troubling dating experiences is not easy, I know, however staying in them is much more damaging to your self-esteem, overall happiness and physical well-being.

It takes self-love and courage to set boundaries and teach people how you want to be treated and then follow through expecting nothing less than the best for yourself. Say “that’s enough, no more. I never want to be mistreated in a relationship again.”



RELATED: 17 Signs The Man You Love Is A Low-Key Control Freak


Six ways to break out of your Ben Stage, Ben Phase (or even a delayed J Phase) 

1. Identify your patterns. 

Learn your role, if any, that may be contributing to the negative dating experiences and relationship patterns. Be open-minded to learn and be willing to change to ultimately reach the goal to have a better outcome in dating and relationships.

2. Identify and recognize relationship red flags

Learn what types of behaviors you can and cannot tolerate. Examples of zero tolerance behaviors are usually the frequent expressions of anger, complaining, negativity, cursing, criticism, name-calling, ignoring and shouting at you.

RELATED: If He Exhibits These 9 Behaviors, He's Not Just Protective — He's Controlling

3. Visualize what a healthy relationship is for you

If I cannot see it, I cannot achieve it. Take the time to write down everything you want from a relationship. This knowledge will help you be more diligent when dating and inviting a person into your life in the future.


4. Respect yourself 

We cannot love what we do not respect. Self-respect will allow you to set the standards on how you want to be treated, spoken to and loved. Learning to respect and trust your needs and wants in a relationship will allow you to be more diligent and aware during the dating process.

RELATED: A Reason To Be Happy That You Met The Wrong Guy

5. Love yourself

I know some people do not like to hear this, however, in my many years of experience it is the key to success. We do not allow others to love us more than we love ourselves. We take care of what we love so bad behaviors and treatment in the dating experience or in a relationship will be no longer acceptable, ever.


6. Talk with a professional

Invest the time to process what you are going through to gain clarity, heal and develop a plan for change. A clinical psychologist can help process emotional distress and teach you how to be the best version of yourself.

The Ben Stage is very challenging to move past and let go, however being in a bad relationship and having negative dating experiences is more challenging. Take the time to learn about effective relationship skills and make the changes needed in your life to have dates that will eventually lead to a relationship that is fulfilling and loving. It is the best investment of time that you can give yourself.

RELATED: 10 Biggest Signs You're In Love With The Wrong Person

Dr. Susan Pazak is a clinical psychologist and relationship coach who provides elite concierge individual, couples and executive coaching services from a psychological perspective. She is the author of the new book, Simplify: Powerful Words For Life’s Complicated Situations.