Have you heard of a situationship? Maybe you don’t know the term, but it’s entirely possible you’re in one. While definitions of ‘situationship’ are still rather vague, it seems to be balanced precariously somewhere between friends-with-benefits and a relationship.
To bring in a little clarity on the meaning of situationship, and round up some signs that you might be in one, we got some insights from psychotherapist Hvovi Bhagwagar (M.A. in Clinical Psychology), who has over two decades of experience in the field of mental health practice, training, and research.
To define a situationship is still difficult. But, if you’re wondering about situationship vs friends-with-benefits, or thinking about walking away from a situationship, read on.
What Exactly Is A Situationship?
“Any kind of relationship (same-sex, heterosexual) which hasn’t been legalized/formalized, and where a sense of commitment is lacking, is a situationship,” Hvovi says. In other words, a relationship that has no clear definition, where you’re ‘seeing each other’ but not ‘dating’, where it’s simply a convenient situation for one or both of you, can be termed a situationship.
How Do You Know If You Are In A Situationship And Not A Relationship? (10 Signs)
The more loosely defined and vague your connection is, the more likely it is that you’re in a situationship. If you’re thinking about a situationship vs friends-with-benefits scenario, remember that friends-with-benefits is also a definition, as long as both sides are on the same page.
In a situationship, it’s likely that one of you is a little more committed than the other, and since there are never any discussions about where you stand, you’re basically floating in relationship limbo. You could even be in a long-distance situationship, which brings its own complications.
“Friends-with-benefits is a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. The dynamics and boundaries are ‘clear’ in that way. In a situationship, the couple are in a place where the relationship boundaries are undefined so it is neither merely casual sex nor is it a dating relationship,” Hvovi points out.
If you’re uncertain about your status, and wondering whether or not you’re in a situationship, here are 10 signs you probably are:
1. The relationship is inconsistent
One moment they’re love-bombing you, the next thing you know, it’s been 2 weeks and you haven’t heard from them. On Monday, they tell you they’re going to meet you for sure on Friday, but they cancel at the last minute or don’t follow up at all.
“I was seeing this girl off-and-on for about three months,” says 27-year-old Michael. “She was fun and we had a great time. But she would disappear for days on end, and then suddenly reappear and shower me with affection all over again. I really had no idea when I would see her next, or what we were doing.”
While people and relationships evolve and change, consistency is a key component of committed, healthy relationships. Even if you haven’t planned out the rest of your lives, there will be some solid similarities to how your time together pans out.
When we define situationship, inconsistency is one of the first words to come to mind because one or both of you aren’t even clear on what you’re doing or where things stand between you. Maybe your affection for them depends on your mood or you just like having them around when you’re lonely. Either way, there’s no steady thread of feeling binding you.
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2. You haven’t defined the relationship
Defining the relationship or DTR is still one of the scariest conversations to be had in a fledgling relationship. Let’s face it, we’re always afraid the other person doesn’t want what we want or doesn’t like us as much as we like them.
“In a situationship, there might not be a willingness to even discuss giving the relationship a name/tag,” Hvovi says. So, forget having ‘the talk’, even hinting at having the talk is sometimes not an option.
Defining the relationship would mean all kinds of expectations and an opening up to each other about common relationship goals and other such intimate matters. Obviously, if one of you is content to let the situationship float along as it is, you won’t want to discuss changing it in any way.
In fact, while a situationship is inconsistent in every other way, perhaps the only consistency will be the fear of emotional change, or letting feelings enter the picture at all.
3. One or both of you is seeing other people
So, you haven’t defined the relationship, you haven’t discussed in so many words that you can see other people but you are. Or they are, or you both are. And you’re left wondering if this is an open relationship or a relationship vs situationship scenario, and what you should do. What are the situation rules, anyway?
As far as we can tell, a situationship has very few rules – it’s sort of a law unto itself. So that could mean it’s okay to see other people but the glitch is that you probably won’t discuss it or lay down any ground rules before doing it.
“I went out with this guy I met on a dating app for 6 months,” says Tanya, 24. “We’d never agreed to be exclusive, but we did meet almost every weekend, and it started to feel like it might be something. And then, I realized we were still both on the dating app and seeing other people. We never talked about it, though.”
If one or both of you are seeing other people and there’s been no discussion about it, it’s a definite sign that you’re in a situationship and not a relationship.
4. The ‘relationship’ is based on convenience
We’re not saying relationships need to be inconvenient to be real, but life does get inconvenient. And someone who loves you and wants to be with you will navigate those inconveniences and stick with you no matter what.
In a situationship, it will be all about what’s easy. Do you happen to live in the same area, is it an office romance of sorts, and are you just generally available to each other on short notice? As long as that stands, you’ll be seeing each other. But, as soon as it takes extra effort, you’ll notice a marked drop in communication and meetings.
If you’re not making any effort to see each other unless circumstances throw you together or you really need a date and they’re available, it’s leaning toward a situationship. If, in a long-distance scenario, you’re not making an effort to talk to each other or have at least one cyber-date a week, it’s more of a long-distance situationship. And, as always, there won’t be any conversation around what’s happening.
Related Reading: 10 Signs Your Relationship Is Just A Fling And Nothing More
5. No one’s meeting the family or friends
So many rom-coms revolve around a convenient date to a family wedding, that then turns into a passionate romance. This could happen in a situationship, but it’s more likely you won’t be meeting each other’s families or even friends at all.
“Socially, a situationship doesn’t resemble a couple dynamic. There might not be a readiness to even inform social circles or family circles about the person,” Hvovi says.
“I don’t want questions from my folks or my friends,” says 25-year-old Sally, who enjoys her casual situationships. “I’m not ready to sit around and discuss what my bond to a guy is or where it’s heading. I’m okay with not knowing what it is, and I don’t want to be put on the spot. So, I keep my dates away from my social circles, usually.”
Meeting the family is often seen as a major step in a relationship, a sign that it’s becoming serious. Since a situationship isn’t really meant to be heading anywhere, you won’t find yourself in their family home on their sister’s birthday or having Sunday brunch with their friends.
6. You don’t celebrate special occasions together
It’s your birthday? They either won’t know the date or will perhaps send a text message. Christmas and other holidays? We’ve already discussed that you won’t be unwrapping presents around the family Christmas tree or sharing a turkey.
If there were any situationship rules, one would probably be that special occasions or holidays will be spent solo or with people other than your ‘situation person’. Again, sending someone a special gift or flowers would involve really getting to know them and what they like. It’s also a sign you were thinking of them, which doesn’t fall under situationship rules.
Now, a situationship doesn’t mean you don’t care about each other at all, but celebrating special days together has an underlying comfort and intimacy that you probably haven’t reached in your connection. You might wish them well but you won’t be saying it with flowers.
7. Dates are few and far
You might get together a few times but you’re not planning date nights. When a cute, new café opens in town, they’re not the first person you think of. When the weekend rolls around, they’re vaguely on your mind, but you’re not spending Friday night together as a rule.
“I met a girl at work and we hit it off,” says Kristen. “We went out a few times, and had fun. We didn’t talk about where things were heading, so we never really broke up or anything. We continued to see each other sometimes but there was no thought or expectation of spending every weekend together.”
Planning dates, sharing time with someone makes them significant and makes the relationship important. You’re getting to know one another and making memories. A situationship will rarely involve making the effort to spend time together or plan mini-breaks with each other, so there’s not much question of having cozy date nights.
8. There’s no deep connection
Everything we do in a relationship – spending time together, meeting family and friends etc. – is to form a connection and greater intimacy with the person we’re seeing.
“In a situationship,” says Hvovi, “The partners might be awkward expressing their feelings to each other and prefer to stay at casual talk/casual sex.” There will be little interest in going beyond the surface and getting to know the other person beyond the obvious surface conversation and maybe physical intimacy.
Again, a parallel could be drawn here with friends-with-benefits, but honestly, it doesn’t look like there’s always a lot of friendship involved here either. In fact, to term someone a friend would also be defining a relationship and a situationship falls outside those parameters.
9. No discussions about the future
A situationship depends on the here and the now. There’s no thinking ahead, no planning for a future together. In fact, you might not even know each other enough to think about being together in the days to come. Either that, or you’re still so uncertain of where you stand, that you don’t see a future together, even if it’s on your mind. Again, you’re probably not even certain when you’re seeing each other again, so looking any further into the future seems futile.
This isn’t to say you could never have a future together, but if that’s something you want, it’s vital to have that discussion with the other person and make sure they’re on the same page. Also, introspect a little and see if they’re on your mind when you’re making future plans. And if you feature in theirs. If not, well, you’re in a situationship.
10. Maybe you have feelings, but it’s not love
A situationship might be based on convenience, but that doesn’t mean there are no feelings involved. It’s possible you have a certain warmth for the other person, and it may even be reciprocated. There could be affection, friendship, and a genuine enjoyment of each other’s company. But, that doesn’t mean it’s true love.
It’s not really easy to define love in any specific way, either. But it’s safe to say that for love, you’ll go the extra mile. You’ll want to take care of them when they’re sick and coughing and look like something out of The Exorcist. You’ll want to know their quirks and eccentricities. And you won’t mind making an effort to align your life with theirs.
Love is to acknowledge strong feelings and act on them every day. A situationship, while it can contain feelings, won’t go all the way with them.
How Do You Handle A Situationship?
Hvovi says, “While the terminology around relationships might have changed with the turn of the millennium, our brains continue to process emotions in a timeless and universal manner. So, our attachment needs toward a partner has a very instinctive basis to it. We find comfort and security in a partnership where there is consistency and commitment. Any relationship that doesn’t have access to deep emotional intimacy, or a sense of commitment is unlikely to lead to fulfillment for either partner.”
Related Reading: 11 Signs You Are In A Complicated Relationship
She adds, “While situationships might have temporary advantages, such as the couple know they are relocating and want to be in a relationship until then, most people look for long-term partnerships. If you are in a situationship and feel dissatisfied with its shaky foundation, then it’s best to have a heart-to-heart with your partner, and share your feelings. If they don’t seem to want a commitment, it’s best to move on.”
“For this generation,” Hvovi says, “It appears that using less ‘confining’ terms (such as dating, boyfriend/girlfriend, going steady) to define a relationships leaves them with more choices. Also, due to social media, most young couples find their lives completely exposed to the world, and the pressure on them is fairly high. Using ambiguous terms to define a partnership allows them to have relationships without the social expectation, and also allows sexual exploration and sexual agency.”
She goes on, “However, if we go by the way our bodies and minds are attuned to relationships, we are instinctively not cut out for ill-defined partner roles. Ambiguity in relationships can reduce attraction, and lead to poor sexual intimacy. A number of studies have also recently explored how the hookup culture has perpetuated misogyny, sexual violence, and attachment insecurity in partnerships. So, the advantages and disadvantages need to be explored mindfully by a couple before either gets emotionally affected.”
While there’s no fixed timeline for a situationship, it shouldn’t continue unless both partners are on the same page. If one of you is more committed, or looking for more commitment, the relationship power dynamic is disbalanced and this can lead to misery and an unhealthy situation.
Be clear about what you want from a relationship? Are you all right with a casual, no-strings attached situation, or do you want more? Then, talk to your ‘situation partner’. Find out if they’re on the same page. If not, end things. You can perhaps remain on friendly terms, but make your terms clear when walking away from a situationship.
Yes, if both parties want to. A situationship is when you don’t define where you stand, so to turn it into a relationship, you will need to dig deeper and see what your feelings for each other are, and how far you’re willing to go for the relationship.