Have you ever heard the of word "benching"? It's a new dating term coined by New York Magazine writer Jason Chen, which refers to a condition where you like someone, but don't want to get into a serious relationship with her...yet. BUT you're keeping her around to keep your options open. When you're doing this, you're called the "bencher."
Meanwhile, if you are someone's reserve option, you're the "benchee." You are unable to leave the "relationship" because you like the bencher so much you're all too game to wait on her. You're being benched when she keeps you around through non-committal, sloppy messages. You'll interpret these as favorable signs, of course. Never mind that she seems hesistant to go out on date with you, or, if she commits to one, bails out for some reason at the last minute. You're her Plan B, the bench player who can be called into action in case the star player needs a breather or is injured.
Nathan Chua, personality and relationship development consultant, says there are three factors why benchers bench: technology, social pressure, and the wanting to have a "reservation," the same way you reserve seats at a restaurant or pair of shoes. He explains: "Our world now has more choices than ever. With technology, it is so much easier to communicate and hold down relationships without being heavily invested."
Another possible reason is the influence of the people around, the relationship expert says. "I would also add the social pressure in our society—that having a partner is a necessary ingredient of the fulfilled or 'complete' life. So you go date someone whenever you feel like there's a need."
As humans, we also have a tendency to shun uncertainty. "We want things to be as predictable as we can possibly make them," Chua explains. "Having a spare tire is one way we accomplish this unconscious wish." Being a person on someone's "bench" means the bencher won't run out of options should their current relationship fall apart.
Is this a kind of behavior that this generation should denounce? Not entirely, says Chua. He notes that if you're aware you're being benched, and you're okay with that, who can say that it's wrong? However, he adds that the benchee must fully know why he's allowing himself to be benched so he can set the proper expectations: "It is the responsibility of the benchee to look out for his or her motivations for settling to be the 'third wheel.'"
Chua, however, warns that this kind of relationship, if left unprocessed, may deeply cause insecurities.
"Most of the time, our choices are dictated by unconscious forces that push us toward either harmful or stagnating choices in life," Chua says. It would be best to stop and reflect on your choices. He advises, "Ask yourself a magic wand question. Is this what you truly envision yourself to be? What drives you to keep a relationship with someone who, more probably, has other plans for the future and sees a different direction for their life?"
In case you are the bencher, and suddenly realized that the benchee doesn't deserve to be benched, it's a good move to tell her directly. There's no easy way to break the news to her as rejection is always painful. But "the least painful would be taking the honest route," says our relationship pro.
"Do not say anything that will harm her psyche or self-esteem for the rest of her life. But know that silence can be more painful than an honest talk. Have the courage to talk but do it gently. You can man up, and be a gentleman at the same time," the therapist concludes.
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