What Is "Benching"? We Asked an Expert to Break Down This Aspect of Dating

We all know that dating can be a distinctly complicated challenge. Optimism is key, of course, so we splurge on the outfit, choose the right location, and hope for the best. But we also try to stay realistic, too, so we remind ourselves that there's a chance of stilted conversation and crossed signals as well as the dreaded potential for ghosting or even heartbreak down the line. It's tough to keep it all straight. And that's why it isn't exactly easy for us to mention another way dating can be hard: benching.

"Benching is when a person expresses interest in a potential dating partner, but the relationship doesn't progress at a normal pace because that person places the prospective partner 'on the bench,'" says Kelly Campbell, PhD, an associate professor of psychology and human development at California State University, San Bernardino. "It's a sports metaphor indicating that the prospective partner is not a top priority because the other person has better options or the timing might be off."

Ahead, we asked Campbell to give us an outline of what benching entails so that you can spot this emotional manipulation (either within yourself or your partner) and work to create a healthier scenario. Since dating is already a complicated challenge, there's no need to make it more difficult.