8 warning signs you’re being ‘benched’ and not just ghosted

Have you ever been ghosted? I have. His name was Reilly.

I met Reilly through online dating and he seemed keen to meet up with me. Excited even. 

He left me little videos of himself and we texted each other regularly.

Then, out of nowhere, on the day that we were due to meet, I messaged him, he read the message and then he blocked me. Lucky for me I love horror stories!

But there is a new dating term you need to know about and it’s called ‘benching’.

What is benching?

Being benched has been called ‘the worst dating trend of 2023’. You might also know of it as breadcrumbing or stashing.

Essentially, benching is when someone seems to like you, but not enough to seriously commit to you. 

I’m British, but I love US TV teen series’ (relieving the highs of puberty whilst enjoying the fact I’m way past the lows – woo!) 

And so I know that in sports, being left on the bench means that although you’re in the team, you’re not in the game. You are a reserve or backup. And in teen land (and dating!) that is a very depressing place to be.

So being benched in dating essentially means you are a backup. You’re given enough hope that you don’t just quit the connection, but you never actually make it to boyfriend or girlfriend status.

Ghosting on the other hand, usually just means that someone disappears on you, forever.

1) They keep last minute canceling on you but promise to meet another time

Sometimes benching can lead to ghosting. Remember Reilly, my friendly ghost? 

When I looked back at our communication, I realized that he had previously arranged to meet me twice before, but then canceled with reasonable-sounding explanations.

I still have faith in humanity, so I accepted his cancellations without suspicion. But looking back, he was probably benching me. Perhaps something, (or more likely someone), more interesting kept turning up.  And he was just keeping me as a backup.

After the third canceled date, he ghosted me completely, presumably to avoid the embarrassment of actually being real with me.

But if he had been more intent on benching we might have met up a couple of times and then the canceling would have resumed. So erm… Thanks for the blank Reilly!

2) They blow hot and cold

Reilly only blew hot, giving me compliments and everything, before his dramatic invisibility stunt.

But if he had been a bencher (I just made up that word), he would have introduced more ongoing anxiety into the mix. Think responding quickly, then going missing. Having a great date, then seeming totally uninterested for a week.

I’ve had a fair bit of dating experience in my life (and been there for my friends). So take note when I say that 99% of the time, someone that blows hot and cold is not genuinely interested in you. They are probably just keeping you on that bench.

3) They always call you up at the last minute

If someone is benching you, you aren’t their first priority. 

So you’re likely to hear from them just before they want to hang out. This might be late at night, (booty call!), or it might just be the same day.

Either way, the message is clear: they were holding out for ‘someone better to do’, and then they called you. It’s harsh but true. 

If someone only ever arranges to see you at the last minute and doesn’t have a compelling reason (firefighters and crisis negotiators – we’ll let you off), then stay away, because they are probably benching you!

4) Your conversations are dull

My friend Claire went on a date recently, and in her eyes at least, they had a great time. The guy was in the middle of a very intense exam period, so she supported him, asking him how he was getting on, and giving him space.  

He would regularly reply with updates on his course and related emotions, but not much else. 

Their conversations were very one-sided and shallow. He didn’t ask her how she was. In the end, she had to ask him if he did actually want to meet up or just wanted a study buddy.

To be fair to Mr. Dull Conversationalist, he did eventually admit that he was seeing someone else. Therefore proving that despite his ‘study crises’ texts, he was in fact benching my friend.

5) Your messages are shallow 

Other warnings of boring benchy communication are low-effort placeholder messages like:

  • WYD? (What are you doing)
  • Gifs
  • Emojis

(I actually love gifs and emojis but they shouldn’t be the bulk of the communication!) 

And here’s a sneaky extra one from Reilly – boring videos of himself.

It was almost clever because it seemed like effort, but actually wasn’t. He was pretty which I guess was a distraction from the (lack of) content. 

One video consisted solely of him telling me he was starting work and it was raining(!) 

The other was something so bland that my brain has thankfully deleted it. To be fair, the shallowness definitely took the edge off the blade of his ghosting.

So watch out for communication that’s drier than a stale piece of burnt toast, because you’re probably being benched, (or they’re just boring).

6) Your conversations and interactions are all about sex

So we’ve talked about shallow messages and dull conversations. Now it’s time for sexy conversations.  Don’t get me wrong, sex and flirting are great if everyone is having fun!

But if your interactions are flirty and fun, but never end up in deep talks or fun dates out, watch out! It can be that your lover is seeing you as a friend with benefits or just keeping you warm until they find someone else.

If you find yourself in this situation, check in with what you want from the relationship. Then if you need to, don’t be afraid to ask your lover about their intentions.

7) They rarely answer the phone if you call

Sometimes benching happens because your date is actually in a relationship with someone else! If this is the case, then you might find that your calls always go to voicemail.  

Obviously not everyone checks their phone all the time. But one clue might be that they are quick to check their texts, but almost never answer when you call. 

Or if they do they are always out or at work but rarely at home.

If this happens to you, be aware of the possible benching implications!

8) They change their online dating profile

A key reason why people breadcrumb or bench you, is because they are still on the hunt for someone else. Now if you are just starting to see someone, this isn’t exactly a crime. 

In fact, it’s actually normal to look around and many of us will probably do that. 

Still, if someone changes their dating profile while seeing you, this is a clear sign that they are still hoping to be sexually active or dating someone else. 

It’s also harsh since they will know that you will see it. But of course, there is also the question of why are you on the dating site?

Benching – final thoughts

No one likes to think they are being benched, but in the modern world of dating it’s quite normal for people to date more than one person, at least at the start. 

If you want to avoid this then it’s worth having an open and upfront discussion with whomever you’re seeing. 

You can’t be sure of what anyone will do but you can make your expectations clear!

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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