There was a guy I was obsessed with in college… we’ll call him Sam.
Sam was everything I wanted and I just knew we were meant to be. After all, he called me all the time — this was 2002, before texting was even a thing — and always wanted to hang out. But he would disappear every time he found another girl, only to act like nothing happened a couple of weeks later when it ended (and it always ended). I took this as confusion on his end — surely he liked me, right? That’s why he kept coming back.
Nope. Not at all. Not even a little.
It turns out there’s a name for what he was doing to me — benching.
That’s the term New York writer Jason Chen gives to the sorta-kinda-not-really dating process where you’ll text with a love interest and flirt back and forth but he or she will never actually make concrete plans — or will cancel them at the last minute. A little time passes and you get over it, only to have them reel you back in with a sweet “Hey, honeybun, how’ve you been?”
There are a few reasons it happens, but mainly it’s because the person likes the ego boost that comes with keeping someone on the bench in case Plan A doesn’t pan out. Others do it because they don’t want to be mean and shut a person down.
“Conor, a 28-year-old law student in New York, says he’s often ignored advances from females in his life — but will continue to text and ‘spend time’ with them while at school or in the workplace,” Chen writes. “‘I won’t actually hang out one-on-one because I want to avoid any confusion for her about my interests,’ he says, ‘but I’ll still text with her, often a few days after those botched plans. She’ll say something like, ‘You’re too busy for me,’ and I’ll laugh and change the subject. Maybe it seems like I just don’t want to be an asshole, but to me it’s just polite.'”
Mainly, it’s just one way of leading someone on, instead of being truthful about not wanting a relationship. It may seem harmless, but let me tell you that ghosting is a lot more kind. At least that’s easy to get over. Instead, the person getting benched — like I was — definitely gets hurt, like death by a thousand cuts with salt then poured in the wounds.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m glad it happened this way because he was a real douche. Still, don’t bench another person; just be real. It stings to be rejected (and do the rejecting), but at least it makes things crystal clear.