pp. Maintaining occasional contact with someone while you decide whether you want a serious relationship with that person.
Other Forms
With benching, you don’t even get to a stage where you’re regularly dating. Instead the bencher strings along the benchee with well-timed WhatsApps and witty texts, or small promises that never materialise into big gestures.
—Radhika Sanghani, “Benching: The dating trend that could ruin your love life,” The Telegraph (London), June 16, 2016
If you're "benching" someone, it means that you're not not interested in them but you're not wanting a full blown relationship — essentially, you're on the fence. Therefore you don't want to commit but every so often you send them a text when you fancy a little cyber flirt, suggest a coffee when you need a dose of attention, or just suggest a full-blown night of one-off sex and then go MIA until you decide you want to see them again.
—Alice Howarth, “What the hell is relationship 'benching'?,” Glamour, June 14, 2016
Worth pointing out: This is different from keeping someone in the wings whom you’ve known forever and maybe could see yourself with down the road (otherwise known as a “back burner”). Instead, benching happens between people who’ve been on one or two dates, with the rest of their non-relationship playing out via text.
—Korin Miller, “Here’s the next dating trend that will piss you off,” The New York Post, June 13, 2016
2016 (earliest)
It wasn’t until I started seeing someone I was on the fence about that I understood what was going on. After two dates, I couldn’t quite decide what I was feeling for this person…but I didn’t want to end the conversation either. So I would ping him occasionally, just enough to pique his interest and dangle the carrot of a possible relationship without ever actually following through with plans. To use a sports metaphor (my first ever), he would be on the roster but not in play; I’d decided to bench him.
—Jason Chen, “'Benching' Is the New Ghosting,” New York Magazine, June 09, 2016