Situationships: What It Is and How to Deal with It

by John Santana

The dating landscape has changed. The advent of technology – the emergence of dating apps, in particular – combined with hectic lifestyles, are two of the biggest factors that have changed dating in the 21st century. While dating was once clearly defined, today, that no longer seems to be the case. 

In recent years, a new type of romantic relationship has emerged that has made dating even more puzzling: situationships. 

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A situationship can be defined as an informal or unestablished romantic or sexual relationship. You might be wondering, “Wait, isn’t that the same with Friends with Benefits?” The confusion between the two setups is valid, but a situationship is totally different with a Friends with Benefits (FWB) setup.

While the FWB setup can certainly be messy and complicated, the boundaries of this type of relationship are clear: they are physically intimate with one another, but they aren’t committed to each other in any way. Nothing more, nothing less. 

A situationship, on the other hand, can be romantic, yet the relationship isn’t clearly defined, nor are the pair committed to one another. Situationships are often based on short-term situations or even convenience, and while there’s usually some level of physical intimacy, the relationship is more than just a casual hookup. A situationship might not be clearly defined or committed, but it can involve the physical and emotional aspects of a typical, well-defined relationship. Long story short, a situationship is an almost relationship – standing at the crossroads of FWB and a fully-committed relationship. 

The term might be new to you, but it has existed for several years now. In 2017, the term became even more popular when Cosmopolitan published an in-depth article titled Is the “Situationship” Ruining Modern Romance?. In 2022, situationship was validated as an official relationship status by dating app Tinder

While the abundance of information on these various types of modern relationships can be overwhelming and confusing, it’s essential to discuss and understand its details and nuances, especially if you’re active on the dating scene. 

The Characteristics of a Situationship

Situationships have become increasingly common in recent years, leaving many people clueless about what they are and how to navigate them. In a 2023 survey conducted by Tinder, over 1 in 102 young singles said they prefer situationships as a way to develop a relationship.

It’s important to note that situationships can look and feel different to each individual, and there is no definitive right or wrong way to define or navigate them. However, there are common certain characteristics that can help define them. 

  • An undefined relationship. If you’re involved in a relationship with someone yet you haven’t put a definite label on your relationship, there’s a big chance you’re in a situationship. You might want to discuss labels, but avoid bringing it up for fear that you’ll scare the person off. One of the defining characteristics of a situationship is the absence of clear labels or boundaries. This ambiguity can make it difficult to know where you stand with this certain someone, and it can be particularly challenging to navigate when you’re not sure what their expectations are.
  • A superficial connection. A lot of people who are in situationships say that they don’t feel emotionally connected to one another. For example, they might know the basics about each other – where they work, where they live, their favorite color and band, where they’ve traveled, etc. – but they don’t know each other at a deeper level. For instance, you might not tell someone you’re in a situationship with your hopes, goals, and dreams for the future, or your worries and fears. You don’t rely on each other emotionally.
  • Inconsistency. The way you treat one another constantly changes. Conversations and meetups are regular and sweet for several days, then communication stops for a while, and then you randomly start talking and meeting up again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
  • Non-committed plans. If you’re in a defined relationship, you usually make plans with each other in advance; you plan a Friday date night on a Monday or you plan on going to a future event together weeks or even months beforehand. In a situationship, however, you usually don’t commit to plans far ahead of time. You might call or text one another the day before or even hours before you want to meet up. In other words, in a situationship, plans are usually last minute. Plans are usually canceled last minute, too.
  • Confusion. The beginning stages of a new relationship are usually very exciting. You get butterflies in your stomach, a simple text message can complete your day, and you want to spend as much time together as possible. While these types of euphoric feelings can also be experienced in a situationship, they usually don’t last. More often than not, it will be replaced by confusion and stress due to the undefined nature of the relationship.

Why People Engage in Situationships

People can engage in situationships for several reasons. As society changes, so do our expectations of relationships. People tend to be more focused on developing themselves; committed relationships, however, involve developing together. For someone who is still trying to figure out what they want out of life – where they are now and where they see themselves in the future – but aren’t ready to commit to someone else, yet still want companionship and intimacy, a situationship is an easy solution. Likewise, people who are afraid of or who don’t want to deal with the emotional baggage that’s associated with a committed relationship, tend to gravitate toward situationships. 

If you find yourself in a situationship and you discover that you’re starting to develop emotional feelings for the person and you’re hoping that things will transform into something serious one day, you might be wondering, “Can it work?” or “How can I make it work?”

Technically speaking, yes, it can work. But at the end of the day, it depends on the other person and the partnership that you have. 

We know you might be nervous about this, but we recommend coming right out and asking your partner where they see things in the future. Sure, it could scare them away, but that’s something that you have to be prepared for in a situationship, whether or not you come out and talk about your future.

You can’t control your partner’s feelings, nor can you control what they want in life or how they want things to progress. However, there is a chance that he or she could share your feelings and that you could work together to turn our situationship into a committed relationship in the future. 

Situationships: The New 21st Century Relationship

Situationships are increasingly prevalent in modern dating. While there can be some fun and excitement to having an informal, non-committed romantic relationship, there are also potential downsides to consider. If you find yourself in a situationship or are considering entering into one, it’s a must to prioritize your happiness and be mindful of your values and needs.

The decision to enter a situationship is a personal one that should be made with care. As long as you stay true to yourself and your partner, it’s possible to create a relationship that works for both of you – whether that means a casual, non-committed situationship or something more serious and committed.

John Santana

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