Situationship — what is it and how do you know if you're in one? A situationship is a dating term that was born out of the ever-nuanced, complex modern-day world of dating.
Dating is difficult. We live in a world in which singles are stuck with their noses in their dating apps, swiping left and right and sending out generic mass messages in droves. Of course, there's no denying that dating apps work — or that finding a partner with whom to share experiences, whether serious or casual, long-term or short-term, can improve the quality of your life — but too many of us are plagued by dating app fatigue and a whole slew of modern-day labels that set dangerous expectations.
People never used to use so many labels to define relationships. It was what it was until it felt serious or not. That was it.
But that'd be too simple. How do you know if the other person is seeing other people, or if they actually want to be with you, or if they're only using you because they're bored, or if they're really ready for a commitment, or if they're interested in getting married some day down the line, or if they'll never want to be monogamous or what it is that you're doing and where it is that you're headed? How do you know?
Leaving it up to love or lack thereof is just not so much a thing these days. And that's why situationship is one of those labels that didn't before exist.
What is a situationship?
A situationship refers to any kind of connection between two people that precedes the "DTR" (define the relationship) conversation — the period of time when two people used to just not put labels on it. (Yup, there's another new dating term in the definition of a dating term for you.)
There are tons of terms like it.
Perhaps you might find yourself in a textlationship, when you message with the person all day long but never seem to spend any face time together.
Maybe you're just a fluffer, someone who prepares the other for the next actual relationship they'll be in.
Maybe you're actually friends with benefits, two people who like each other as friends and occasionally, with no strings attached, engage intimately.
Maybe you're simply hooking up, if you're sexually involved with one another but are not committed to one another.
Maybe you're being benched — when someone isn't into you enough to actually date you, but they'll hit you up when they're bored.
Or maybe you'll put in all this effort and you'll just get ghosted — when someone totally drops you out of nowhere and never reaches out again. (They may slow fade, too, to fizzle conversation over time and let you down easy.)
All of these situations, until you're ghosted or some slow fades you, are situations that can make up a situationship until you DTR.
How common are situationships?
Situationships are common, especially in today's world of online dating when people are hesitant to commit.
In fact, some 40 million Americans use online dating websites — specifically, 27% of young adults report using online dating sites, which is up 10% from 2013, according to The Pew Research Center. Meanwhile there's been a 6% increase from 2013 to 2014 among those between 55 and 64 years old. Perhaps so many people are using dating apps because research has proven time and time again that they indeed work. According to eHarmony, 20% of those in current, committed relationships met each other online, and 7% of marriages in 2015 were between couples that met on a dating site.
There’s even scientific evidence that relationship quality and duration do not depend on how couples meet, according to a study aptly titled "Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary." Couples who meet organically are no more likely to stick together.
But while dating apps seem to work thanks to all the doors that they open, because people are spoiled for choice, there's also becomes the issue of "dating fatigue." Apps are actually the least preferred way to meet someone despite about half of 16 to 34-year-olds using them, according to a Radio 1 Newsbeat survey. There's something about swiping on countless random faces that takes the romance out of it all, especially when we grow tired of doing it or when we become obsessive over it out of loneliness (yes, a dating app addiction is a real thing).
Never mind the fact that every dating app actually wants users to stick around; it's a business after all.
“The thing with design is, at risk of belaboring the obvious, how all of these apps make money is by keeping people on the app,” Moira Weigel, a historian and author of the recent book Labor of Love, told The Atlantic. “Yes, there’s better and worse design, but there is ultimately this conflict of interest between the user of the app and the designer of the app.”
When dating becomes such a choice and a chore and a business, it's of course hard to build real relationships.
Enter: The age of terminology we've all pulled out of thin air to describe these not-relationship relationships many of us tend to find ourselves in. Hence, the situationship.
Upsides and downsides of a situationship
There are tons of ups and downs to a situationship.
On the upside, you have flexibility. Even though you defined it as a situationship, you're technically undefined, since that's what a situationship actually means. Because you're theoretically undefined, you have the option to date other people. You can keep your dating apps and see what else is out there. You don't have to worry about committing to one person, taking on all of the responsibilities of a relationship or making any sacrifices that you otherwise would in a committed relationship.
That said, the downside of a situationship is also that you're undefined. It can be difficult to navigate this gray area, especially if there are emotions and serious feelings involved. Perhaps you want to take on the responsibilities of a relationship and are willing to make sacrifices for this other person, but the feeling isn't mutual — and there's not much to say about that because you haven't yet had the commitment talk. A situationship is an iffy period of time that requires patience, self-worth and respect for both people involved, and it can be an anxious time as it ultimately leads to an actual relationship or doesn't.
How do you know if you are in a situationship?
There are some signs to tell whether or not you are in a situationship. Here are five ways to know.
1. You only make last-minute plans.
People who head for a relationship tend to make actual plans with one another because, simply put, they want to actually spend time together. So they make the effort and carve out the time to be together. If you only make last-minute plans all the time, it may be because one or both of you don't actually take the situation seriously enough to plan ahead.
2. You mostly have surface-level small talk.
Those interested in a real relationship, of course, start out with small talk when they're first meeting one another, but they ultimately end up wanting to have and engaging in deeper conversations. In order to have a relationship with someone, you need to know and understand them well. And, in order to get to that level of comfort with someone, you need to have real conversation. But if one or both of you don't have intentions to get to that point with the other, you'll likely stick to surface-level small talk.
3. There's no consistency in how much you talk or spend time together.
Maybe you text all day long some days but other days barely talk at all, if at all. Or maybe you spend one week together and things seem to be going great, but the next week you don't see each other at all. Consistency shows interest, and if there's no consistency in your communication or in how much you spend time together, then there's a chance that you two don't plan on moving past this situationship any time soon.
4. They tell or show you that they don't want to be serious.
If the other person tells you that they're not looking for anything serious, or if their actions suggest it to you (like the aforementioned signs that they never have deep conversations with you or they're not consistent in their communication, for examples), take it at face value. They don't want a relationship, and so you're in a situationship.
5. You stay stagnant.
If the situation never seems to evolve, it may be because it's just that: a situation. A relationship has stages. It starts out casual and usually moves toward becoming more and more serious, with more communication, time spent together and experiences shared. If you and the other person don't seem to be moving forward, it may be because there's no end goal here.
What is pseudo dating?
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.