Huh? What Does a 'Situationship' Actually Mean?

Casual couple in a situationship

You’re at your favorite local bar, looking to have a couple of drinks and have fun with your friends. But by the night's end, you’re chatting and flirting with someone; it’s an instant attraction, but you want to be upfront about your intentions. You’re not looking for anything serious; you just want to have a good time—maybe find someone to go on a couple of dates with or a romantic companion. You want something that’s not quite a committed, long-term partnership, but it's not too casual, either, and lacks a clear definition. Does this type of relationship exist? Yes, and we'll go over a "situationship's" meaning here.

Online dating has made these casual (but not so casual) relationships even more popular across all age groups. In a YouGov poll, almost 40% of all US adults disclosed they had been in a relationship that meets the definition of a situationship. Young adults (ages 18 to 34) reported the highest percentages of situationships, with 50% acknowledging they had been in at least one in the past year.

First, let’s answer your burning question: what is a situationship, exactly? 

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Situationship Meaning

A situationship is a gray area between friendship and a committed relationship. It's when two people are more than friends but not quite a couple. You might spend significant time together and share intimate moments, but there's no official label or commitment. 

However, this no-strings-attached approach to romance can confuse you and the person you’re “situationing” with, leaving you wondering where you stand. Sometimes, it's temporary while both people figure out what they want, while other times, it can lead to hurt feelings if expectations aren't clear.

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How Is a Situationship Different From a Relationship?

Situationships are often associated with impulsivity, which isn’t always true—especially compared to a traditional relationship. Two people can enter a situationship intending on only having casual sex but catch feelings and want to explore each other further.

A situationship is different from a relationship by a sense of ambiguity and lack of commitment. While a relationship typically has a clear label and mutual exclusivity agreement, a situationship has no defining characteristics. In a situationship, there may be emotional intimacy, spending time together, and even physical closeness, but without the official commitment or clarity of expectations that come with a relationship.

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Situationship vs. Dating

If you’re not ready to put a label on your relationship yet still care deeply for the person, try a situationship. For something with a little more structure but still no official commitment, dating may be a better option. The Oxford Languages dictionary defines this as “going out with (someone in whom one is romantically or sexually interested). It's also when you spend time getting to know someone to see if you’re compatible.

If you're seeking a balance between emotional connection and independence, dating allows you to explore compatibility without the pressure of defining the relationship. It's a phase of discovery, where you assess shared values, interests, and long-term potential before deciding whether to commit. 

Unlike a situationship, dating often involves openly discussing intentions and expectations and developing a deep sense of togetherness. Whether you choose a situationship or dating, both offer opportunities for finding someone you have a meaningful connection with. The only difference is that they each have their own level of commitment and exploration.

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How Do You Know if You're in a Situationship?

Moving from solely physical intimacy to emotional and physical intimacy is a big step. Before planning the future with your lover, you’ll want to identify whether or not you’re in a situationship.

Here are a few telltale signs to help you figure it out:

  1. There’s no clear definition of the relationship.

  2. Your communication is inconsistent and typically limited to making plans or casual conversations.

  3. You haven't met each other's friends or family; if you have, it's rare.

  4. Plans for the future are rarely discussed; if they are, they're vague or uncertain.

  5. There are no established boundaries or expectations for the relationship.

If you notice one or more of these signs, you’re likely in a situationship. The key to having a successful situationship involves establishing clear boundaries about what you and your partner expect. Are you both okay with a lack of commitment despite being emotionally invested in each other?

If not, the ambiguity of the situationship can wear on you mentally, causing depression or anxiety. In some cases, it may begin to cause issues with your identity and self-worth. That’s why taking care of your mental health should be a top priority, especially in a situationship.

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