A situationship is a romantic relationship that’s undefined or uncommitted. It may be based on convenience or short-term circumstances. That doesn’t mean a situationship can’t have some or even all the trappings of a regular relationship, including an emotional connection.
Most situationships involve some form of physical intimacy, but they’re generally more than a casual sexual encounter.
Unlike friends with benefits, where both parties agree to avoid developing feelings, the boundaries of a situationship are usually less clear. One or both partners might be waiting to see if the relationship becomes more serious over time.
Not everyone agrees on what defines a situationship, but the following are just a few signs that you might be in one.
- You haven’t defined the relationship. You might be in a situationship if you haven’t put a label on your relationship. Perhaps you’re just hanging out or taking things slow. Maybe it’s too soon to have a talk about where you’re headed, or one person isn’t ready to commit to a relationship.
- You only make last-minute or short-term plans. People in situationships tend to make plans on a daily — or even hourly — basis. If you find it difficult to make plans for next week, it might be a situationship.
- There’s a lack of consistency. With a relationship, meeting frequency is more regular and tends to increase over time. On the other hand, people in a situationship may meet sporadically. Perhaps you see the person once a week for several weeks, and then suddenly don’t hear from them for 3 weeks.
- You don’t feel emotionally connected. Some people describe situationships as superficial. Perhaps you know the basics about the other person’s life, such as their favorite food or trips they’ve taken. But you haven’t really opened up to each other about the deeper stuff, and you don’t rely on each other for emotional support.
- They might be seeing other people. Perhaps they’ve hinted at a busy dating life with euphemisms like not being ready to settle down or keeping their options open. In a situationship, you might not know for sure because you haven’t talked about being exclusive.
- They haven’t introduced you to their friends or family. Do you tend to hang out one on one more often than not? If they haven’t made an effort to include you in their plans beyond dates or booty calls, it might be a situationship.
- You feel confused. For some people, the early stages of dating are an exciting time. Others associate situationships with confusion and anxiety. A lack of clear direction can be a source of stress, especially if you have feelings for the other person.
- You don’t think you have a future. Perhaps you feel lukewarm about the other person, or you’re not really sure you even want to be in a committed relationship with them. If you don’t really see yourself with the person in the long-term, it’s likely a situationship.
Situationships take all kinds of forms. For instance, maybe your current lifestyle is temporary. You might be traveling abroad or studying in a place you plan to eventually leave. You might go on casual dates without the intention of starting something serious.
If you’ve just moved to a new city, you may find dating is the fastest way to meet new people and socialize. In many cases, it’s easier to go on a date than it is to actually make a new friend.
Maybe the reason for your situationship is a recent breakup. If you or your partner recently ended a serious, long-term relationship, the timing might not be right to commit.
In other cases, a situationship develops out of a casual hookup or one-night stand with someone you don’t know that well. You might be waiting to get to know the person better.
Pop culture trivia
It’s not clear who coined this portmanteau, which appears to have been in use as early as 2014. The term became more popular in 2019, when Alana Morrison, a participant on season one of the reality television show Love Island, used it to describe her dating history.
Situationships are neither all good nor all bad. Like other types of relationships, they have advantages and disadvantages.
Know what you want
If you’re currently in a situationship, spend some time thinking about the pros and cons for you personally. What are you willing to accept and what aren’t you willing to accept?
Whether a situationship is right for you will depend on a lot of factors, including your values, current needs, and long-term goals.
Know what you don’t want
Remember that you can learn more about what you want out of a romantic relationship by figuring out what you don’t want. That doesn’t mean that you should stay in a situationship that’s causing you undue stress or anxiety.
If you want more, do you really want it with this person? Based on what you’ve seen so far, would they make a respectful and supportive partner?
Recognize healthy relationships
You should prioritize relationships with people who make you feel good. A healthy relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be monogamous or even committed in the traditional sense, but it should be built on open communication, trust, respect, and intimacy.
Know that you’re allowed to change your mind
Obviously, these qualities don’t simply materialize overnight. For some people, a situationship is a nonthreatening place to start. Even if it works for you now, it might not work for you in a few days, weeks, or months.
The key is to keep communication channels open, even if the relationship is casual. If you’re unhappy leaving things undefined, don’t assume your partner is aware of your feelings.
If you’re in a situationship that you’re hoping will become more serious, you might worry that telling your partner how you feel will scare them away.
This is a legitimate risk, but it’s one that’s probably worth taking if you actually envision a future with this person. For the sake of your own mental health, you should be as honest as possible with them about how you feel.
You can’t control how the other person feels. Give them some time to think about and process what you’ve said.
Keep in mind that even if they reciprocate your feelings, your relationship likely won’t transform into something more loving overnight.
Of course, if they don’t share your feelings or the relationship doesn’t change with time, it’s probably time to end it.
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to breaking off a situationship. If it isn’t working for you, stand up for yourself by telling your partner that you’re moving on.
The same goes if your partner wants to get serious and you’re not ready.
How you actually transmit this message — via text, over the phone, or in person — is up to you. For short, casual dating relationships, a short, to-the-point text message is usually fine.
If you feel disappointed that it ended this way, consider it a learning opportunity. Did the other person show signs that they weren’t interested in you from the beginning? Did you avoid expressing how you really felt?
Recognizing red flags can help you avoid falling into a similar situation.