Explaining Benching: The Worst of All Dating Trends

It's hard to survive modern dating without a dictionary. Ghosting, haunting, breadcrumbing, and a plethora of other confusing terms are real, and all of them are a part of your private life! In this Flure article, we break down benching: the worst dating trend in 2023.

What is benching?

As we head into 2024, Flure is here to explain the mysterious terms to help you navigate the modern dating world. One of the most common, and, for many reasons, the worst trend to get to grips with is benching, or the unpleasant experience of being sidelined.
If you are familiar with sports, you understand where the term comes from: the best players are on the field, while others stay on the bench in case someone from the main team can't play. The word extended to dating: if someone benches you, it means they aren’t interested in you as their serious partner. Instead, they keep you as a sideline for a bit of attention, casual sex, or as their "backup plan."
The practice of keeping someone “on hold” while exploring other options has become increasingly common in modern love life, with online dating platforms creating an illusion of endless possibilities. In this article, Flure delves into the meaning of benching, exploring its causes, effects, and ways to deal with it.

Is benching the same as ghosting or breadcrumbing?

Imagine Jennifer: a young and attractive woman who spends a lot of time on dating apps. She is not looking for anything in particular and just wants to explore and meet new people. Recently, she met Carl, but she isn't ready to commit. Carl might have feelings for Jennifer, but she doesn't want to introduce him to her friends or family as her partner. Secretly, Jennifer hopes she will meet someone who would match her criteria better, but Carl’s attention flatters her, and she does not want to end their casual relationship. Jennifer keeps using dating apps and flirts with her male friends to keep their interest in her: she likes to tease her colleague, John, who she knows likes her a lot, but she does not want to keep his hopes high. Instead, she texts him or comments on his social media posts to show interest, but she knows it will never grow into something more serious. Last month Jennifer met Joseph, who was tall and very attractive. They had sex a couple of times, but she “ghosted” him after another date: she felt she was growing tired of their communication and ended it without any explanation. While Jennifer doesn't feel committed or responsible, her male acquaintances experience frustration or disappointment.
Modern love life offers the joy of freedom and many types and forms of relationships that go beyond traditional marriage, as it has many practices that can be unpleasant and frustrating. For those who favor traditional, monogamous relationships, being benched can be disappointing and confusing. And even if there are no strong feelings, being “just a backup option” can be pretty hurtful.
The difference between benching and breadcrumbing is that the latter means a weaker form of manipulative, flirtatious behavior. The connection in benching can be strong and sometimes involves casual sex, but the relationship is inconsistent and doesn’t lead to a serious commitment. What makes benching the worst of all trends is that, unlike breadcrumbing or ghosting, it can last longer, while manipulative behavior can intensify. With multiple online communication channels at our fingertips, the options to connect seem endless, and it is much easier to get under the influence of someone’s online and offline behavior.

Why do benchers put you on the sideline?

As social animals, people are still exploring the communication tools available today. With social pressure and expectations incomparably different from those familiar to our parents, freedom and the abundance of choice appear very appealing. Simultaneously, nothing protects us from being hurt. Keeping someone as a second option is a form of psychological manipulation that can be very subtle. Refusing to commit deliberately appears natural in the modern dating landscape, even though it can be confusing and unpleasant to somebody.
So why do people bench? Knowing the reasons can help you notice the red flags and avoid emotional abuse. In the virtual world of dating platforms, the illusion of endless options makes it difficult to commit.
“After years of being on dating apps, I am used to having at least three people to spend my time with simultaneously. I don’t want to promise anybody anything, I am afraid to make a wrong choice,” says 33-year-old Sabrina.
The paradox of choice is aggravated by naturally shifting social and demographic trends and personal traits and priorities of some people, who don't feel ready to commit right away, feel doubted or confused, or, sometimes, want to boost their ego by enjoying attention from different people.

How to know if you're being benched?

Keeping someone as a backup option can have a strong and negative emotional impact on the person being benched. It can lead to frustration, self-doubt, and a lack of trust in the future. To avoid anxiety and the toxicity of being manipulated, we have to notice red flags to not fall into the trap of being somebody's plan B or C. Here are some signs to realize someone is benching you:
Inconsistent communication: canceled or changed plans, sporadic messages, and lack of empathy in communication in general are the clear signs that you are being benched.

Uncertainty: the person is vague about their contact with you and if they are interested in seeing you again.

Hot and Cold Behavior: if they are affectionate at times and distant at others, it can be a sign they only need you occasionally.

One-sidedness: your interaction with the person often feels one-sided, or you may feel like you are communicating with nearly a stranger.

Last-minute plans: they get in touch and try to make plans unexpectedly.

Casual sex: you have sex, regularly or occasionally, without commitment or emotional connection.
Essentially, benching means manipulating someone and giving them hope that a bond is possible. If encouraged, this behavior can last for a long time and be an extremely confusing and hurtful experience.

Dealing with benching

Don't ignore your feelings if you suspect you are neglected or hurt. Addressing your needs is the most important thing you can do to avoid manipulations. There are some steps you can take if you feel like you are being benched:
Set boundaries: identify your needs and wants and stand up for them. Understanding your worth will help you protect your personal space and mental health.

Open communication: be direct and honest with your partner, don’t fear to scare them away or ruin your relationship with a conversation about it.

Focus on yourself: prioritize your well-being and avoid destructive relations that hurt you or damage your self-esteem.

Be ready to walk away: don’t encourage manipulative behavior, and be prepared to end a relationship that undermines your emotional health.


Like ghosting and breadcrumbing, benching is a trend in modern dating that can lead to drama and hurt. Recognizing this type of behavior is the key to your healthy personal life. In a respectful relationship, people don’t treat each other as if they were negligible, and a fear of commitment is not equal to psychological manipulation or emotional abuse. In any relationship, it’s important to maintain self-respect and honest communication, as it’s important to let go of relationships and people that don’t feel right for you. Remember you can always find like-minded people at Flure.