“One minute we’re talking about how we would decorate a new place together, the next, trying to organise a simple coffee catch-up is like pulling teeth.”
For Rory*, 26, meeting Alex was a whirlwind.
“I had been talking to so many people that by the time I started chatting to Alex, I was a pretty unfiltered version of myself — I suppose I was over all the small talk,” she tells me.
“So when we started really getting to know each other and figured we had a lot in common, it felt like we were onto something kinda serious.”
Fast forward a month and Alex moved into Rory's place while her housemate was out of town.
“It just felt so easy and I hadn't had a connection like that with someone in a long time. I know everyone was grabbing the first person they could to hibernate with but am I stupid for thinking this was different?”
Having met during lockdowns, Rory and Alex dove headfirst into what's come to be known as a ‘turbo’ relationship, a situationship of sorts, born out of the pandemic, where people feel compelled to get real serious real quick with fellow singles given the restrictions on socialising. Of course, there's a name for it in 2021: Apocolypsing.
It’s a blissful distraction at first — and there’s really no better time to find a partner than when the world is eating itself — but what comes of these turbo relationships now that governments are doing away with lockdowns and reopening borders? Well, not a lot, apparently.
“We still catch up every now and then, sometimes make out a little, but for the most part, it feels like she's just happy to close the chapter on me being her lockdown partner and nothing more,” she says.
Rory certainly isn't the only one falling victim to the post-Apocolypising shed, begging the question: are we on the precipice of a benching epidemic?
'Benching', a dating term that has been around since the 2000s, refers to the act of keeping someone on the sideline as an option when you're either not ready to commit or simply don't feel strongly enough about them to go much further.
The pandemic certainly put a spanner in the works for singles, but as we reemerge into social life, fresh from lockdowns and a year that we'd rather just forget, many more like Rory are finding themselves at odds with their relationship status.
“I don’t even know if we’re technically still dating but he sure looks like he's having fun with other people on his socials,” says Jay*, 24.
“I thought our biggest issue post-lockdown would be separation anxiety or still spending too much time together… now I’m kind of reconciling with the fact that this person was maybe just using me.”
Jay began seeing Sam a the beginning of a state-wide lockdown. While the two never agreed to be exclusive, she can only describe the feeling of being benched so suddenly as 'whiplash'.
“I am so not a romantic, and I don't believe in The One or soulmates, or anything like that. But to experience someone you've spent the last few months seeing up to five times a week, suddenly phase you out the moment his social calendar starts filling up again, is just shitty.”
It’s safe to say that this is only the beginning of what will surely be a host of fresh and gut-wrenching dating trends for the year ahead, but as long as you're armed with a support system and the knowledge that dating is always going to be a rocky journey — and is by no means a reflection of your self-worth — then we say bring it on.
No matter how it comes about, Benching is a horrid feeling and, unfortunately, something that we're bound to stumble upon in this post-pandemic dating landscape. But while there's no right or wrong way to approach the situation, it's important to keep check of what is serving you, emotionally. Investing time and energy into a person that keeps you on the bench is not only going to set you up for a world of disappointment, but you may be holding yourself back from other, healthier options out there — the world is opening back up for you too, after all.
And besides, if someone can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that you're a catch, well, they're not worthy.
*Names have been changed