Going through a 'Ben Stage'? Here's what the new TikTok trend means

Daters are being warned about the 'Ben Stage.' But what does this romantic red flag mean? Here's what to know

What is the 'Ben Stage' on TikTok? Pictured: Jennifer Lopez & Ben Affleck during Daredevil Premiere - Arrivals at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, CA, United States
(Image credit: Chris Weeks/FilmMagic)

It appears that the "Ben Stage" is giving "Main Character Energy" some competition in our FYPs.

While the latter approach asks us to embrace a positive outlook when it comes to 2023 dating trends, the former focuses on those romances that have been less than ideal. The first video debuting the "Ben Stage" hails from @iamgubster (opens in new tab), who can be seen mouthing "You better run!" along with Florence Welch while the caption of the clips reads: "Seeing any girl go through her 'ben' stage."

Over half a million views later, the social media trend has gained traction and people are taking to the app to share their own Ben Stages or looking for ways to help hopeful romantics get out of their own. Here's what to know about the viral phenomenon. (And apologies in advance to anyone named Ben—we're sure you're lovely!)  

@iamgubster (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - yelenabelovasnewvest🍉🍒🥝 (opens in new tab)

What is the 'Ben Stage' TikTok trend?

As you're aware, TikTok has a language all its own, and when discussing a Ben Stage on the app, you're referring to a crummy relationship, one that doesn't help you grow or make you feel fulfilled. We've all been there!

Considering the song of choice for anyone referring to the Ben Stage is "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine, we assume that there's some positivity lurking beneath the trend. We sense it's meant to serve as a reminder that we'll move on from any bad relationship. (Do you remember when our mothers said we'd kiss many toads before finding our prince or princess?)

@fabfindsbtq (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Fab Finds Boutique (opens in new tab)

Where did 'Ben Stage' originate from? 

Though TikTokers have pinpointed the start of the trend with @iamgubster's video, it's a bit harder to uncover why specifically the name "Ben" has been targeted. Some say it's referring to famous influencers who recently went their separate ways. Others think it's referring to Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's early-2000s breakup. No one is quite sure, but they're running with the idea and the name. (Apparently, it's Josh over in Australia—see below!)

@sarahmanias (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Sarah (opens in new tab)

How to escape a Ben Stage:

Sure, we've all had a Ben Stage—though we might not have necessarily been dating a Ben—but there are ways to work through those relationships that bring us down and make us feel less than others. 

Michelle Elman (opens in new tab), a life coach and author of the newly released The Selfish Romantic: How To Date Without Feeling Bad About Yourself, insists that you have to put yourself before others when putting your heart out there, especially in today's world of online dating.

"A selfish romantic is someone who prioritizes their needs and vocalizes them, even if it makes them less desirable or attractive," Elman previously told My Imperfect Life. "They are confident in who they are and present themselves as an accurate version of themselves, as opposed to the idealized, romanticized version that society promotes."

Essentially, a selfish romantic is someone who stays true to her beliefs and those dating deal-breakers. Maybe the Bens will be bypassed if you're being honest with what you want.

Even when meeting someone seems challenging and relatable hashtags on TikTok might discourage you, take a step back and know that things will all fall into place, even if you've dealt with a bad Ben, Rob, Jimmy, etc. Things could be worse—just think of all those TikTok users who have shared horrifying takes on the mascara trend!

Danielle Valente

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 

The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos, new TV shows and relationship trends.  

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 

When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)