If you thought that ghosting was the worst dating trend to develop in the last few years, think again. There’s a new scummy relationship trend hijacking our fave dating apps — and millennial dating IRL too — and we couldn’t be more disappointed. The phenomenon is called benching — and no, it has nothing to do with how much your sweetie can lift. It’s sort of like the worst combo of yo-yo dating + online flirting + ghosting that you can imagine.


Coined by New York Magazine writer Jason Chen, the newest Tinder term is just the latest addition to a long line of dating sports metaphors (you sort of wish didn’t exist). Just like a coach would bench a player (AKA sit them out of the game for a period of time), millennials are effectively “benching” people they don’t really want to date instead of just dumping them or ghosting them.

Unlike ghosting, where you can at least tell that the relationship is over after a few weeks of being ignored, the world of benching is a lot murkier. Sure, from the bencher’s perspective it can seem like a win-win — whenever you get tired of your current boo you don’t have to dump them, you can just set them aside for a few weeks (all the while keeping in touch via text so they stay semi-interested) and choose someone else to text from a lineup of four or five flings. But it’s usually not all fun and games for the benchee. After the initial NYMAG article came out, many women and men have taken to storming the Internet with tear-jerking horror stories of being benched.

Beautiful young woman looking at her phone. Wears pink pullover and black jacket. The stairs are as background.

This phenomenon is far from new though — and it’s something that both men and women are guilty of — especially on Internet dating apps. “Really, benching is just the modern incarnation of what we used to call leading someone on,” writes Jason. It can happen with a Tinder match before you ever meet up in person, or someone you’ve even gone on a handful of dates with.

Benchers seem to think that it’s more polite to keep texting away than just being up front about not wanting to actually pursue a relationship or ghosting, but we think it’s way worse. Instead of being able to move on, benchees have to deal with the confusion of hearing from their past fling over and over again.

Although starting a new relationship is already fraught with uncertainty, that doesn’t mean that benching has to become millennials’ new dating style of choice. If the person you’re dating online or IRL benches you, they’re either not ready to be in a committed relationship or, as the mega-popular 2009 drama can attest, they’re just not that into you. Be clear about your intentions and don’t let even the most gorgeous profile pics sway you away from what you want. But if you’re texting someone who is perpetually too busy to meet up IRL — you might just want to bring a seat cushion for the bench.

Have you ever been benched online? Tweet us your stories by mentioning @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)