What the Heck Is a Situationship, Anyway?

That undefined time at the beginning of a relationship can be confusing and frustrating — but it doesn't have to be.

two people holding hands while their hands and bodies are wrapped with string — visual representation of a situationship
Photo: Getty Images

New dating terms are invented every other day and, TBH, it can be tough to keep up. But one, in particular, has been circulating for a while now and seems to be becoming more and more popular — and it's something you've probably had experience with yourself if you're dating in this day and age. The term? Situationship.

Urban Dictionary defines a situationship as "a relationship that has no label on it" — which is pretty much any relationship before you have the DTR ("define the relationship") talk. For many, this limbo period of being in an undefined partnership can be torturous, especially if you really like the other person. (Cue the dramatic "what are we?!" inner monologues.)

The good news? If you reframe how you view it, situationships don't have to be quite that stressful. Don't believe it? Here's exactly why situationships aren't all bad, plus how to get out of a situationship if you don't think it's working for you — all according to (hi!) a dating expert.

The Bright Side of Situationships

It's true: This time period — where you don't have to decide what this relationship is or exactly what you want — can actually be fun. Even liberating, if you allow it to be.

Situationships give you time and space to really think through and evaluate how you feel about a person and what label you do eventually want to slap on them. If you can train your brain to view your situationship in this way — as an exploratory period where you're in control, versus being taken advantage of or strung along — it could save you tons of heartache, frustration, and confusion.

For some reason, when you start seeing someone new, there can be this pressure to quickly make a decision on the other person. (How many times have you reported a new boo to friends or family only to be met with tons of probing questions about whether you're going to get married and have kids and live happily ever after?) In reality, going slow and evaluating the person in front of you should take time. You need to figure out who they are, how they handle things, and if they're still as wonderful as they seem after the honeymoon haze wears off.

The thing is, so many people forget to think through their choices for potential partners. For example, you may tend to cling to things that feel good and fit into the limitations of what you think you want without ever really evaluating if it's what you actually want. Pretty much everyone does this; it's totally normal. What a situationship offers is a great amount of time to evaluate whether you actually want this person in your life or not. This will lead to better choices in the long run if you use that time wisely. (Also read: All of the Relationship Attachment Styles, Explained)

How to Figure Out What You Want from a Situationship

Plus how to get out, if that's what you decide you want or need.

Step 1: Do a brain dump.

Many times, people trick themselves into thinking they want something specific when what they actually want is clarity — and, in turn, that clarity actually tells them what they want. The truth is that many people default to thinking they want a relationship with a person because we've all been conditioned to think that relationships will make us happier or whole. But in reality, you may not really want a relationship — or just not with this person.

Good news: You can actually give yourself that clarity without needing to involve the other party. How? Journaling. It's the best way to get clear on what you want — and this is true for topics other than your situationship dilemma. Putting pen to paper makes all your feelings defined (as much as they can be), tangible, and realistic.

When you allow thoughts and feelings to remain in your head, they can expand, warp, and mutate to levels that don't necessarily match your true desires. Writing them all down gets all that muck out of your head so you can see what you really feel and want. Perhaps you'll realize you don't want a conventional relationship at all — maybe ethical non-monogamy or relationship anarchy is a better fit for you.

So, your homework is to do a brain dump and get all your thoughts onto paper. Write in a journal for one week about this situationship: how you feel about it, what you want, and what you don't want. Each day, dump your brain for 20 minutes and then close the book. The next day, go back and read what you wrote, and then do it again. Every day will bring more clarity and really help you figure out what it is you really want from your situationship.

Step 2: Write down what you want to say.

Let's say your journaling has confirmed that, yes, you do really want to be in a relationship with this person. Before you take a big leap and express your wants to your potential partner, it can help to organize them first. Why? The more concise and clear you are about your wants, the easier it will be to express them. When you don't prepare and figure out what you want to say, you may ramble, and much of what you want to express gets lost in the process.

Organize your thoughts, feelings, and wants on a piece of paper in bullet points. This helps keep what you want to say concise and clear. When writing this list out, start using "I" statements, such as "I want..." and "I feel..." etc. For example, "I want to see you more often," "I want us to explore a relationship," "I feel amazing when I'm around you," or "I feel like we have similar values and that's refreshing for me."

Step 3: Express yourself.

So you've thought it through, given it time, and now you know what you want out of your situationship. How do you take it from being just a situation to something more? Or even something less?

If you want to take your situationship to a full-blown relationship, or want to break it off completely, the first step is talking. Easier said than done right? Opening your mouth comes with risk — of putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, of not getting what you want and losing the good thing you have, of embarrassment, of feeling totally different from the person in your situationship — and that can be scary.

But what's scarier than being vulnerable? Being stuck in a situationship for who knows how long, when you desperately want something to happen and change. You know what you want after step one. You know what you want to say from step two. Now, express these things to your partner. In-person is always best but, again, this process can be scary.

It makes sense if you feel that you need to do it over text, but the truth is, if you can't express your wants to a potential partner's face, you're probably going to have a lot of issues down the road. Use this to see what you and the other person are made of — if the other person handles it well, that gives you a lot of information about how this person will be as a relationship partner. And if they don't, then you have even more of a reason to let the situationship go. (See: The Potential Red Flags In a Relationship You Need to Know About)

The takeaway? Situationships don't have to be torturous if you don't want them to be. You can always figure out your situation when and if you are ready to take that risk. And if the other person isn't on the same page as you, then at least you'll know — it might be hard, especially if it results in the end of your connection, but it beats spending months wondering, only to be dumped many months down the line.

Marni Kinrys is an author and the founder of the Wing Girl Method, helping gentlemen navigate the often tricky waters of dating.

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