In this article, you will clearly learn the meaning of a situationship. You will also learn what to do if you realize that you are in one.
The Meaning of a Situationship
A situationship is most basically an undefined romantic or sexual relationship. This is when, one or both, people involved don’t want to make the relationship formal or established.
Typically, this means at least one person in the “situationship” is resistant to using labels to define what they are to one another such as “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” or “partner.”
Dating without Commitment
A situationship, by definition, is a romantic or sexual relationship that lacks commitment.
Common terms for such relationships include a “casual” relationship or a “friend with benefits.” A relationship that has “no strings attached” could also be a situationship.
Is a Situationship Toxic?
A toxic relationship is one in which the relationship is “poisonous” or harmful to the wellbeing of one or both partners.
Therefore, the answer to the question if a toxic relationship is toxic is – it depends.
Because a toxic relationship is harmful to one or both partner’s mental and/or physical health, the negative impact of a situationship is well, situational. If a situationship is toxic or not depends on each person involved and their needs.
Signs of How a Situationship May Be Harmful
Toxic relationships may be detrimental to a person in a variety of ways.
Some examples of how a situationship may be poisonous and therefore toxic to a person include:
- Degrading their self-esteem and reinforcing that they aren’t “good enough” of commitment,
- Leading to overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks,
- Contributing to depression which symptoms include struggling to get out of bed, sleeping a lot, appetite changes, and no longer enjoying things you used to like time with friends.
- Trauma being consistently triggered especially related to abandonment and/or rejection
What to Do if You’re in a Situationship
If you find you’re in a situationship, the most important thing to do is to be honest with yourself.
There is nothing inherently wrong about a situationship or casual relationship. Rather, the only problem is if you would want something more defined or serious with the other person in the situationship.
Take a moment to really think about – or journal – the following questions:
- How would I feel if this other person wanted to define or label our relationship?
- What if they wanted to call me their partner/boyfriend/girlfriend?
- What if they wanted to be committed to one another?
- What if they wanted to work towards building a future together?
If the Situationship Works for You
Your response to these questions is incredibly important to identify.
You will know you are fine with a situationship if you don’t want to move towards a more defined, committed relationship. Feelings of anxiety or wanting to run away are clear indicators you only want a situationship with this person.
The Best Way to Have a Situationship
If a situationship truly meets your needs, it’s valuable to clearly communicate the other person. And if the other person keeps trying to pressure you into more, it’s wise to take a step back from a situationship with them.
There are people who will respect a situationship meets your needs (because they want one too). And there are people who can’t. Maintaining a situationship with someone who doesn’t want one will ultimately create stress in your life.
Understanding Your Needs if You Like a Situationship
As a side note, if you like situationships, you may want to explore your needs and feelings further for your relationship health.
Ask yourself the following question too: Is the idea of a committed relationship, in general, something you feel conflicted about?
If not, wonderful to notice.
What If You Feel Conflicted about Commitment
If yes, maybe a part of you wants a close relationship in theory. But no matter who you are with another part of you feels trapped in a close relationship. If you relate to this, you may want to learn more about avoidant attachment as you may have this attachment style.
If you do, and you ultimately want a close relationship, it will be important to work towards a more secure attachment style. This book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller is a good place to start.
If You Don’t Like Being in a Situationship
When you answered the journal prompts, it is a sign that dating without commitment doesn’t work for you if you wish, hope, or desire for more with this person.
Firstly, please know this is completely ok and understandable. It’s completely natural to want a close, intimate partnership with someone you may be doing everything such a relationship involves minus the commitment.
Secondly, please give yourself grace and celebrate your authentic honesty with yourself. This is a critical step to building a life you truly love with the relationships you want.
Exploring Why You’re in the Situationship
At this point, if you know you don’t like the casual setup with the other person, it’s important to explore why you have settled for a situationship.
Here are questions to ask yourself related to common questions a person may find themselves stuck in a situationship:
- Are you doing it because the other person isn’t “ready” for commitment?
- Do you feel like you have to “trick” someone into wanting something more with you?
- Do you feel that you have to “prove” yourself to others to earn your place in their life?
- Are you hoping that if you stick around and are awesome enough they will change their mind about commitment?
- Do you feel like this other person is so awesome that you must stick around because you’ll never find anyone as great as them?
There is no shame to relating to any of these questions. The most important step to changing something you don’t like is building awareness.
Caring for Your Needs
There is absolutely no shame in this. In fact, trauma is often the root cause you may find you sacrifice your own needs and wants to make others happy. Because of this, it’s important to be kind and compassionate with yourself.
While also honoring that until you respect your own needs, you cannot create the close, committed healthy relationship you want….which you already deserve!
A Situationship May Make You More Insecure
Sadly, codependency and/or anxious attachment may tell you that you are not worthy of more commitment or that you’ll never find someone as great as the other person.
But, staying in a situationship only reinforces insecurities you may already have like that this person isn’t ready for something serious because you’re “not good enough.”
To fully change this pattern of settling for relationships which hurt you, it’s helpful to work on changing your attachment style. For more guidance, you may want to read the article, How Do I Heal My Attachment Style?
Setting Boundaries in the Situationship
Being in a situationship when you don’t like it is actually a sign of a broken boundary.
For your own mental health, and to find the partnership you deserve, it’s important to set boundaries in the situationship. In such a situation, you may want to ask the other person if they’re willing to have a committed partnership because this is what you need.
If yes, wonderful. If not, it will be important to leave rather than bargaining with yourself and staying in a situationship which hurts.
Of course, this can be very hard to do but the longer you stay in a situationship when you don’t like it, the worse you will feel about yourself and your love life.
When you walk away from a situationship that doesn’t meet your needs, you may naturally feel sad and grieve for the other person.
But the pain of being in a situationship you don’t like continues for as long as you’re in it. And the pain of walking away eventually subsides and is replaced with more self-respect and self-love.
You are worthy of this love – and there are people out there who will want to commit to you. Your job is to make space for them right now.
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About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist and author with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to find their voice, deepen their ability to self-love, and improve their relationships.
Her newest book, Setting Boundaries: 100 Ways to Protect Yourself, Strengthen Your Relationships and Build the Life You Want…Starting Now! (Therapy Within Reach), gives you the tools necessary to identify, set, and stay firm with your boundaries.
Her other books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many overcome people pleasing, self-neglect, and resentment to have a healthier relationship with themselves and others.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.