“We’re just hanging out, we don’t want to put a label on it, you know.” Sound familiar? Here’s the honest translation: “We’re too scared to have an honest conversation, and we’re both as confused as a fresh-out-of-college arts bachelor.” You’ve got yourself a “We act like a couple, but we are not official” situationship going on.
You don’t want to let the other person go but you don’t want to commit. You’ve got one foot in the pool, the other on the edge, ready to plunge out should you see any sign of trouble. Perhaps circumstances have kept you from committing, or just your mind. Regardless, when you’re “seeing someone” but are not in a relationship, things can get confusing.
You can go with the flow all you want, but soon things are going to crash and burn. In such cases, clarity is what will keep you afloat, and that’s exactly what we’re offering you today. Read on for the complete guide to the situationship you’ve found yourself in.
What Does It Mean For You When You Act Like A Couple But Are Not Dating?
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Before we go on to discuss why you’re not together but are together, or why you can’t describe your current scenario to your friends any better than “We’re not dating, we’re just friends who…you know, do a lot of couple-y stuff”, let’s get on the same page about what exactly is happening.
In a nutshell, you’re more than friends but the lack of labels means you’re not in a relationship. You’re a booty call away from the other person, and you’ve probably never discussed exclusivity. You’ve never defined the relationship and you’re not talking about the future. On top of all this, you end up doing a lot more relationshippy stuff than you’d like to admit.
When you’re in a “we act like a couple but we are not official” scenario, you’re in what’s known as a situationship. Signs of such a dynamic include:
- An acute lack of labels
- You’re not going on actual dates, you’re just “hanging out”
- You’re not too involved with each other’s lives
- Things may be purely physical
- You’re confused, perhaps even anxious, but still hold on because you don’t want to lose what you have
Whether you’re wondering what it means for you when you’re acting like a couple but never talk about it, the answer is pretty straightforward: it’s a ticking time bomb.
The explosion has the possibility of robbing a few weeks from your life (when you’re left eating ice cream straight from the bucket while binging trashy TV on your sofa) and may leave you with a considerable amount of regret.
But then, why exactly do people get into situations where they say they’re friends but act like a couple? Why is it that you’re not in a relationship but it sure feels like one? To understand why it’s bound to end badly, or even how you can put an end to it (or finally, DTR), let’s take a look at the causes behind it.
Related Reading: Situationship – Meaning And 10 Signs You Are In One
Why You Are In A “We Act Like A Couple But We Are Not Official” Situation — 5 Reasons
“It started with cuffing season, we just ended up being each other’s go-to cuddling partner. Before we knew it, we ended up doing everything together and acting like a couple. I’m not sure why it is that we act like a couple but he won’t commit, because I sure could use someone who’s more than just a cuddle buddy,” Madeline, a 27-year-old “single” lawyer, told us.
Sometimes you know exactly why it’s happening. Sometimes, unfortunately, you’re the one who is left on the hook, trying to understand why the other person won’t make things official. Here’s a rundown of some of the possible reasons why you might be in a “We act like a couple but are not official” dynamic:
1. Commitment issues
The age-old problem, the issue that has ruined countless “could be” relationships and killed many before they could even start. Commitment issues remain the number one cause of situationships. It may be you, it may be the person you’re “not together but together” with, or it may be both of you. At the end of the day, someone is avoiding commitment like it’s the plague.
2. Somebody’s not sure what they want
Perhaps you’ve got an opportunity to change locations and that’s why you’re staying far away from any relationships, or the person you’re with might be trying to understand if they’re the polyamorous or monogamous kind.
When you can safely say, “We’re acting like we’re in a relationship” but aren’t really in one, someone’s probably at war within themselves, and you may even be getting all the mixed signals in the world.
3. Someone’s scared, or you just believe this person isn’t “the one”
The harsh truth is that the reason behind your complaints of “We act like a couple but she won’t commit” might just be because she doesn’t think you’re the one. Or, it may also be because either of you is scared about the strength of the relationship should you decide to get into one. In such situationships, it’s better if you get on the same page.
That is what happened to Reddit user Cartoonistfit4298, who shares, “I was involved in a situationship in 2019. While I was hesitating from jumping in because I had just come from a rough breakup and didn’t want to commit so quickly to someone else, the person I was with once told me that they were not committing to me because they don’t see much of a future here. I was pissed but glad we were somewhat on the same page. After we both realized that, it was a lot easier to end our fake relationship.”
4. Somebody’s trying to get over someone
Another prominent reason why you might be in a “We act like a couple but are not official” might be because either of you might feel that you’re not ready for a relationship since you’re trying to move on from someone. It’s like you’re dipping your toes in before you dive headfirst into another relationship, but the only problem is that a toe left dipped in water for too long will eventually start to rot.
5. You’ve just never gotten around to the DTR conversation
“We met through a dating app, had a lot of fun on our first few dates, decided it was just something casual, and never got around to defining the relationship. We’re acting like we’re in a relationship but there are no labels. Nobody’s complaining,” said Jason, a 21-year-old student.
Sure, this may happen as well, but the chances of it are very slim, and there’s almost always a timer set for such situationships.
Now that you know why it might be happening, it’s time for you to make a decision. Are you the one left wondering, “We act like a couple, but s/he won’t commit!” and racking your brain over it? It’s time to either leave or figure out how to turn it into something more serious.
The former is easy. You drop in a text, find yourself someone who isn’t riddled with commitment issues, and take off. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but at least you’re clear on what you have to do. The latter might need some more explaining. Let’s get into that.
Related Reading: 9 Types Of Situationships And Their Signs
How To Move From A Situationship To A Real Relationship — 8 Tips
Sure, there are some pros to a situationship. For starters, you’ve got the “no label, no pressure” thing going for you, there aren’t any expectations, and the whole experience of this casual relationship is pretty thrilling. But if you’ve started to develop feelings, those pros quickly turn into cons.
When you’re seeing someone but not in a relationship with them and you start to catch feelings, you suddenly go from, “How great, we don’t have any expectations!” to, “Why can’t I expect the bare minimum from this person?” You go from, “It’s so great that we can end things at any time,” to, “I can’t believe this person might just take off at any minute.”
You get the gist. When you’re “friends” but act like a couple, somebody’s bound to catch feelings and want to turn them into a relationship. Here’s how you can try to do that:
1. Let this person see more of your life
“That happened to me too, and the only way I was able to get out of it was by involving her in everything I was doing. She met my friends, and my family, got to know more about my job, and sooner rather than later, I was more involved in her life too. That eventually brought us to a stage where we weren’t just “friends” anymore, we were literally meeting every two days. By that point, we both knew we had to define it,” says a Reddit user.
No more will you be going to just their place, hooking up and then back to yours. You’re now going to let this person meet your friends, your colleagues, you’re going to try and get them more involved in your life. The whole “acting like we’re in a relationship” aspect of it needs to be dialed up. It’s time to face those commitment issues head-on.
2. No more booty calls
Say goodbye to the 2 AM “U UP?” messages that end up with someone at someone’s place. You can’t only meet each other for physical reasons anymore. If you want to end the whole “seeing someone but not in a relationship” scenario with them, sex can’t be the only basis of your relationship with this person.
3. Be a good listener
If you’re stuck in a phase of, “We act like a couple but he won’t commit”, it might just be because this person does not see you as a worthy partner. You can fix that by simply being a better listener. Literally.
Listening in relationships is an underrated skill, and when you’re truly hearing what the other person has to say, you allow them to be vulnerable with you, which fosters better emotional intimacy.
4. Understand what this person wants and why
If you’re able to listen to them attentively, you’re also bound to understand why they’re not keen on ending this whole “We act like a couple but we are not official” shebang. If they’re firm on their beliefs and think that they absolutely cannot afford a relationship at this point, it’s best to leave.
But if this state of limbo is because of something fixable, you’ve got yourself half a chance. Of course, provided the other person is also equally invested in fixing the fixable. Trust us, a one-sided relationship will be worse than the limbo you’re currently in.
5. Talk about what you’re feeling and what you want
The best way to get this person to be on board is by actually letting them know what’s going on in your mind. Let them know that you’ve been thinking about ending the whole “We’re not dating, we’re just friends” dynamic by actually starting to date.
Yes, that means having that difficult DTR conversation. If things are going well for you, we’d advise that you take this step as soon as possible. If your chances of turning things into a relationship seem grim, maybe try your hand at the other points we’ve listed out.
6. See each other more often
Another thing you could do when you’re practically “seeing someone” but are not in a relationship with them is to simply meet them more often. Make more plans with them, and make sure that they’re exciting enough that this person won’t want to cancel (that means no invites to grocery shopping unless you two are that couple-y. If you are, you have nothing to worry about).
7. Try to enter this person’s world
Simply letting them into yours is not going to be enough. If you want to change “We’re not dating, we’re just friends” to “We’re so glad we turned this into a relationship”, you’re going to have to get to know this person better. That way, you can also get to know if you’re just infatuated by the idea of this person or if you’re actually keen on making things official with this person.
Encourage them to invite you to events with their friends and colleagues. However, make sure you don’t overstep your boundaries.
Related Reading: 11 Signs You Are In A ‘Complicated Relationship
8. Put your foot down
If everything’s going well and you’ve both established quite a rapport, and if you also believe that whatever’s keeping you from being in a relationship is completely fixable, it’s time to be stern about what you want.
When you’re not in a relationship but it sure feels like one, you can’t drag it out for too long. There’s a time limit attached to such a dynamic, and if you want to change it to a relationship, you’ve got to act fast. Let this person know that it’s either a relationship or nothing. Sure, it’s tough to do, but it’s also pretty much a necessity. It’s time to get any communication problems you may have.
- Situationships largely happen because one person is afraid to commit, is moving on from someone, or doesn’t know what they want
- Such dynamics usually have a time limit attached to them
- To change them into a relationship, you need to start establishing more emotional intimacy than physical
- Have an honest conversation with the person and try to define the relationship if you want to change it into a committed relationship
By this point, situationships might even seem like over-glorified trends with a short shelf-life. Things invariably get messy and one person always gets a bad case of “feelings.” Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.
Make a decision about what you think is good for you, and don’t let your heart take over your brain. If you know you must leave, make sure you tell a best friend about it who will pretty much force you to get out of this situationship. If you want to give it a try, the steps we listed out for you can help.
If the whole “We act like a couple but we are not official” situation has got you confused to the point where you don’t know what’s good for you, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists and dating coaches may be able to help you. In the meantime, try to stop stalking this person’s socials so much.
Yes, situationships can definitely turn into relationships. However, it’s going to involve you two having the much-dreaded “define the relationship” conversation, among other steps listed in this article. You must both be willing to enter into a relationship as well, or at least consider the possibility. Lest you fall into a one-sided dynamic, which is going to be a lot uglier.
Though there’s really no timeline on how long two people should date before it becomes official, a good rule of thumb is to date until it “feels right” to get into a committed relationship. If one person, or both, feels like they’re not getting the clarity on labels that they want, the casual dating phase may have been going on for too long.