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What is a Situationship, and How to Tell if You’re in One

By Danielle Kam 

Have you ever been in one of those “I’m not really sure what we’re doing, I think we might be together but maybe we’re not” dating scenarios? If you have, then it’s likely you’ve been in a situationship. Situationships can be confusing and bring up a lot of questions, like: what is a situationship? How can I tell if I’m in one? What should I do about it? Well, we’ve got answers. Here, experts share everything you need to know about situationships.

What is a situationship?

A situationship is a romantic or sexual relationship that isn’t considered formal or established. “It’s basically the new way of saying ‘it’s complicated,’” says therapist Michele Miller. “It’s that in-between phase of going on regular dates with someone but without a discussion of exclusivity or your relationship status.” So while you two are clearly something, that something is undefined. Situationships are often marked by a lack of quality time, infrequent communication, and confusion. You might not know where you stand with the other person, and vice versa. 

How can you tell if you’re in a situationship?

A tell-tale sign of a situationship is when there’s no direct conversation about the nature of the relationship and it errs on the more casual side, says therapist Leah Aguirre. Whether you want more from the relationship or not, a lack of communication about “what you are” is a huge signifier that you’re sitting in situationship territory. 

Dating coach and founder of The Broom List, Tennesha Wood, agrees. She explains that without defining the relationship, you may feel unsure, anxious, or confused because you don’t know what to expect from the person you’re seeing. She adds that conversations can feel more surface-level—and there’s a good chance you haven’t met the important people in their life, despite knowing them for some time. 

Can situationships be a good thing?

While they’re sometimes portrayed in a negative light, situationships can be positive! Wood notes that if you’re interested in exploring and learning more about your needs through dating, a situationship can offer the option to date multiple people at once without the pressure to commit.

Miller agrees, and notes that some committed relationships may even start out as situationships. In these instances, a situationship can help feelings to develop more organically and give both people time to build a deeper connection. 

So, does that mean situationships can be a bad thing? 

Situationships are often confusing, which can cause unease. You may feel like you’re in relationship limbo, notes Aguirre. “You’re not a couple, but you’re more than two people who just met,” she says. “Feelings are usually involved and they can be hard to manage if you’re unsure of where the relationship is going.” 

This status could also prove uncomfortable if one of you is unaware that you’re in a situationship, and wants to be in a more committed relationship. This type of complicated dynamic—and the gray area it creates—can cause miscommunication and hurt feelings. 

What should you do if you’re in a situationship but don’t want to be?

As with every aspect of a relationship, communication should be a top priority. “First, ensure you understand what you want from the relationship and what you want from the other person,” suggests Wood. Once you’ve established what you want, tell them—and ask them to share what they’re looking for with you. “This conversation requires vulnerability and bluntness, and you have to prepare yourself for the fact that they might not be on the same page as you,” says Wood. “But there’s no point in being stuck in a situationship if a relationship is what you really want.” 

Whether you want to be in a situationship, relationship, or something else, you should feel empowered to pursue the type of connection that feels right to you.