Urban Dictionary defines a “situationship” as:
“A relationship that has no label on it… like a friendship but more than a friendship but not quite a relationship.”
If that definition doesn’t confuse you even more, well…
Modern dating dictionary has a slew of these confusing terms: ghosting, breadcrumbing, zombie-ing, benching. You name it.
Since when did dating become so complicated? Back in the days, people just go dancing, go courting, get engaged after a few months and live happily ever after.
But that’s a conversation for another day. Today, we’ll talk about “situationship,” what it means, and the recognizable signs you are in one.
What’s a “situationship”?
Dating and Relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan puts a more official definition on situationship, defining it as:
“It’s a pseudo-relationship. A placebo masking itself as a relationship, but the reality is that it is not.”
And the worst thing is this pseudo-relationship is now considered the new normal in modern romantic relationships.
So to give it to you simply: a situationship is like your ordinary relationship, except that ironically it is not labeled as one.
So you date someone, do the normal relationship things with them, except you can’t call them your girlfriend or boyfriend.
You absolutely can not define this relationship. The question “what are we?” simply can’t come up, whether or not by choice.
Doing so would ruin the already fragile parameters of whatever it is you’re doing.
Think your casual flings and hookups are bad? Situationships are actually much, much worse. In fact, it’s downright toxic.
So if you find yourself relating to these 11 things, then we’ve got some bad news for you, you’re definitely in a situationship.
Sign #1. You haven’t DTR.
You haven’t “Defined The Relationship.” You’re kind of together. I mean, you may even have a toothbrush at each other’s place, maybe even a drawer. And you do everything that normal couples do, except you are not a couple.
Everything becomes awkward when you introduce each other to other people. “This is uhm… my friend… or gym partner, or just a person.”
And you absolutely avoid everything relating to defining the relationship. It’s completely taboo.
According to licensed counselor Nicole Richardson, this is increasingly common in millennial dating.
“People are increasingly terrified to have the relationship conversation because vulnerability is scary.
“In the digital age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be open, sincere and vulnerable. We don’t want to put ourselves out there unless we are sure the other person will reciprocate our feelings.”
You’re in a situationship if your friends keep asking you what you guys are, and you find yourself always grasping for an answer, trying to justify something that isn’t even anything.
Sooner or later one or both of you will be sick of the ambiguity and come to an ultimatum.
Sign #2. You don’t talk about the future.
Not only don’t you talk about not labeling the relationship, but you don’t even talk about the future.
Making long-term plans of any kind is completely off the table. A birthday next month? Too far away and too uncomfortable to talk about. What if you’re just assuming? That will be embarrassing.
Any Christmas or New Year’s Eve plans? Either you’re just too afraid to ask and get rejected, or you’re scared the other person has plans with someone else.
According to life coach Kali Rogers:
“If you have been together for at least … a year and a half and have not talked about future plans for progressing the relationship, that’s not a good sign. If your partner is not discussing future endeavors with you, chances are they aren’t completely invested for the long haul.”
Any kind of future is off limits — whether it be a week down the road or a year. You just avoid talking about the future. Maybe it’s too much pressure. Maybe it’s too early to make any sort of plans. Or maybe one or both of you don’t see each other in your lives in the foreseeable future.
Sign #3. You don’t know each other’s friends.
Have you ever met one friend? Have you ever brought each other in one another’s social gatherings? Or have you just been hanging out and watching Netflix alone?
Introducing a partner to your friends often signifies a relationship is going serious. It’s a big step in any real relationship. It adds permanence to your situation as a couple. And it’s a good sign that this person wants you in their life.
Otherwise, it’s a red flag.
According to therapist Tracy Ross:
“If you are feeling a large degree of uncertainty introducing them is not a good idea.”
If you haven’t met each other’s friends and you’ve been dating for a while, or there are absolutely no plans of doing so in the future, then you’re probably in a situationship.
Sign #4. You’re exclusively dating.
What separates a friends-with-benefits scenario from a situationship is that you are probably not seeing other people.
Situationships are typically a gray area in dating. Sometimes it’s that stage between meeting each other to becoming a couple. But most of the time it’s just a gray area you stay in.
You’re kind of a couple in a sense that you’re no longer dating other people. But you’re not a real couple as of yet. It’s almost a relationship that you’re not inclined to keep looking at other options, but it’s also not a friends-with-benefits thing either.
Sign #5. You have feelings for this person, but it doesn’t feel like love.
You feel comfortable with this person, and they excite you just enough that you stay in a situationship with them.
But you don’t love them. Perhaps this is the reason why you’re staying in this gray area after all.
And you think that being in this situation is better than being alone, so you simply settle for whatever it is you two have.
Sign #6. You’re basically single during important events.
You go alone to important events like weddings, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or important holidays you share with your loved ones.
You can invite them, but you choose not to and vice versa.
Deep inside, you really consider yourself single and don’t even consider bringing the other person as a plus one. This is a part of your life you’re holding back from and you just don’t know why.
Sign #7. You sleep at each others’ place on a routine basis.
Maybe you’re even practically moved-in. You wear each other’s clothes and cook dinners at home. And you stay the night regularly.
You don’t just go there to hook up and leave after sex. You actually hang out with them and do domesticated activities with them. You have stuff at each other’s apartments, even a designated drawer. But somehow, it’s not a big deal or anything exciting. To you, it’s just normal. And maybe that’s what the problem is.
In fact, you only mostly see each other at night. It’s not necessarily a hook-up, but somehow day activities together are just not your thing.
Simply put, your relationship is largely physical with just breadcrumbs of permanence and a little bit of emotional openness. But not so much that it’s a real relationship.
You even have breakfast together in the morning. You’re basically an unofficial couple, you just don’t feel like one.
Sign #8. You don’t “date” each other.
You’ve never been given flowers. You don’t give each other gifts. You don’t even go and hang out outside of your apartments.
You’re not “dating.” You don’t plan activities that you might especially enjoy together. There’s no effort to surprise or woo one another.
No fancy dinners, holding hands at the beach, or anything romantic that might be too “couple-y.”
It’s especially alarming if you don’t do anything together during the weekends.
According to dating coach Karenna Alexander:
“When a guy is in love, he wants to spend Saturdays and much of the weekend with you. Weekends are down time and fun, and if you aren’t going to spend it with your girlfriend, it’s clear that this guy is not super into you and probably has no intentions of settling down.”
In most situations, you both just hang out casually. There is no feeling of effort being made, either on one side or both.
Simply, a situationship doesn’t give you that thrilling experience when you’re spending time with someone you love.
Sign #9. There are no “signs” of you as a couple.
You don’t have any pictures together. Other people have never even seen you together. And you’re not on each other’s social media.
In fact, if anyone ever wonders if you’re dating anyone at the moment, this person won’t even come to mind.
You are ghosts in each other’s lives. Your family or friends don’t know about their existence. And you don’t talk about them to anyone. They might as well not exist in your life aside from your casual hang-outs.
Sign #10. You’re communicating mostly through text.
You barely talk on the phone, if at all. Most of the time you communicate through texts.
It’s not something you intentionally started. You both just fell into the pattern.
With situationships, one or both parties just don’t exert as much effort into regular communication as serious couples do.
If you find yourself texting, and your topics tend to be about the mundane and just sex, you’re most likely in a situationship.
Sign #11. You have insanely amazing sexual chemistry.
Having mind-boggling sex can be the primary reason why you’re staying in a pseudo-relationship.
Maybe it’s not fulfilling you emotionally, but sex can feel like a cure for loneliness, which is probably why many people choose to settle for a situationship.
It’s one of those things that feel like, “having something is better than nothing.”
Be careful. You might end up just wasting your time instead of using that energy to find someone you can really be with, completely.
Situationships aren’t necessarily a bad thing
We all have different needs at different points in our lives, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
Situationships aren’t inherently bad. In fact, it can be a good thing. But there’s a big “if.”
First, both people should be aware that they’re in a situationship. If the situation is established, boundaries are clear, and if both agree that they’re not truly a couple, then there’s nothing wrong in being in this situation.
Situationships can also be ideal if you’re not so settled in your personal life. Maybe you don’t know what you want, you’re moving to another city in the foreseeable future, or perhaps you simply don’t want to be in a committed relationship.
Mental health counselor Justine Carino says:
“If you are spending time in a temporary location like traveling abroad or being temporarily relocated from work, a situationship might be a good thing. If you know right from the beginning that the relationship will most likely come to an end, you may have less of a need to define it.”
How to end a situationship
But if you do find yourself in an unwanted relationship, you’re in for a real heartbreak.
CEO of Plum dating app, Jenna Berch, says:
“Situationships can become painful if you want something more from the person you’re seeing, and they’re simply not on the same page. If you want a commitment, having someone slot you low on their list of priorities is not going to feel fun — especially if you know they are dating others. That hurts.”
If you’ve found yourself in one of these painful situations, you might be wondering how to end it.
It can be hard to break off from a situationship. It’s natural to cling to hope that it will turn out into a real relationship, especially if you have deep feelings for the other person.
But if there’s no chance of it becoming real, you’re better off ending it.
How do you do so?
1. Be honest.
Honesty is always the best policy, especially in situationships. Don’t make it any more complicated by lying or keeping your feelings to yourself.
The sooner you be honest with yourself, the sooner you can deal with your pain and start moving on. It’s also better for the other person involved.
2. Break up in person.
It’s not a real relationship, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean you can end it haphazardly. Be a mature adult and break the situationship off in person.
Maybe it won’t go as planned, but at least you were brave enough to end it in person.
However, if you feel that your situationship wasn’t deep enough for a personal conversation to be necessary, then a thoughtful and well-crafted text can be acceptable.
“You can break it off in person, but I think that’s less necessary these days,” she says. “It’s better to carefully craft a perfect text that conveys exactly what you want to say. Keep it short; they’ll follow up if they have questions.”
What to say exactly? Birch recommends something along the lines of:
“‘Hey. I’ve really enjoyed our time together, but I’m not ready for a relationship and don’t think we’re on the same page there. I wish you all the best!'”
How to turn a situationship into a real relationship
You might want the opposite. Perhaps you feel that there’s some potential between the two of you that it can become a real and serious relationship.
But is it possible to do so? And what are the chances?
It’s unique to every couple and every situation. But here are some things you can do before you dump the bucket.
Have an open conversation
According to psychologist and interpersonal communication professor Marianne Dainton, it’s important that the situationship started with a deep understanding, open communication, and respect for each other.
“The ideal way is to make sure it’s a setting where you can have an honest conversation and no one is an altered state.”
Timing is key.
Dainton emphasizes that it’s a bad idea to pop the question of “what are we?” before or after sex.
Choose the right timing, when both of you are calm and rational.
As to exactly how to handle that conversation, licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson advises:
“I think the way to handle that is to say, ‘Hey, this is the kind of relationship I’m looking for. I don’t know what you want, but this is what I want. And if that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s cool, but I’m going to looking for something else.
“Not like an ultimatum… But basically say, ‘It’s OK if we don’t want the same thing, but please tell me.'”
Be honest about what you want out of the situationship.
Let them “chase” after you.
Sometimes, a little hard-to-get play can work wonders.
Don’t mistake this advice for being rude and unkind though, but it might be useful to let them “chase” you instead of actively trying to “catch” them.
“It might work in the moment, or for a few weeks or months, but it doesn’t come from his heart and it’s not lasting. You have forced him to do something, and he likely – on some level – resents you for telling him what to do.”
If the outcome is good, you’ll benefit from the security that knowing it’s a real relationship. If not, then at least you’re not wasting any more time and energy on a relationship that’s not giving you what you need.
How to avoid a situationship
The truth is, no matter how common situationships are nowadays, you can hardly call it ideal.
If you deliberately want a no-strings-attached relationship, then a situationship could be good for you.
However, if you’re a person who likes being in clear and committed relationships, you should avoid ending up in such a sticky situation.
Here are some steps you could follow if you know what’s good for you:
Know what you really want.
Here’s a piece of solid advice that would do you well in any romantic situation:
Before you try to commit to a relationship, you first need to figure out what you really want. Knowing what you don’t want is equally just as important.
Clear goals and standards of what your ideal relationship is will help you attract the right partner. And it will save you the wasted time, effort, and heartache, too.
Psychotherapist Arlene B. Englander advises:
“Two key questions to ask oneself are: Does this person share my lifetime goals and dreams? Do I feel better about myself when I am with this person? The first question deals with the practicality of the relationship.
“If we want marriage and children and we’re out with somebody who tells us that they’ll never commit to a permanent relationship, we’d do best to tell ourselves to move on, rather than falling for the fantasy of ‘once they love me they’ll change.’
“The second question deals with the equally important issue of how they’re treating us. If their eyes are drifting off of us and onto any other eligible single in the room, leaving us feeling slightly edgy, that’s a wake-up call for us to look further — for a new relationship.”
Be honest with your potential partner. But most importantly, be honest to yourself as well.
A lot of pain can be avoided if only we’re all brave and honest enough to ask the right questions and say what we really mean.
People end up in situationships because they’re too scared of admitting that they want to be in a committed relationship or they’re simply too scared of being single.
But would you rather be honest and move on from a situation you don’t want to be in—or waste your time being stuck in an unhappy arrangement?
According to licensed psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith:
“When you have a relationship and a family, you need to know that everyone is on the same page, and this is hard to do unless both of you are being honest.
“What honesty gives you is a great deal of comfort. Knowing you can implicitly trust your mate allows you to be your best self, and your relationship will continue to thrive because you are able to give each other the positive energy you need to navigate life’s ups and downs.”
Staying true to yourself and what you want is also extremely crucial.
Ohio State University psychology professor Amy Brunell says:
“If you’re true to yourself, it is easier to act in ways that build intimacy in relationships, and that’s going to make your relationship more fulfilling.”
Situationships are complicated and toxic in the sense that these relationships don’t really progress to anything. However, situationships are actually the kind of relationships that last longer than you intend.
This is because you feel that there is a semblance of something, just enough to keep you stay. You think that this will change eventually, but it doesn’t.
In the end, what you have is half of something that won’t ever turn into anything at all.
And to be honest, you ‘re much better being alone than to be with someone only halfway.
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