Situationships: The Pros and Cons of this Gray Area of Dating

by Harsh Kushwah


Have you ever been in a relationship that you can’t define?

Are you someone’s friend or more than a friend? 

Are you in a committed relationship but haven’t ‘finalized’ it?

Are you in a mutually beneficial arrangement but without fixed terms and boundaries?

Do you face difficulty telling your partner what you want in a relationship but are afraid to state it?

There are situations where people can’t define what their relationship is. Where are these relationships headed, and what should they call it?

What exactly is a Situationship?

I remember the character Ross from FRIENDS trying to talk to his girlfriend about their relationship but facing difficulty defining it.

This video does paint a good picture of the nature of situational relationships – situationship.

Now, the experts seem to define situationships as romantic arrangements that do not have formal or traditional definitions and roles.

Some also explain the term in the context of a lack of commitment and expectations.

However, the nuances of such relationships (and their origins) can be complex, and some definitions seem like an oversimplification.

Sometimes, the explanations can feel loaded with judgment about people and their choices.

However, these definitions do at least talk about the elephant in the room – the non-committal nature of one partner or both and the pressure of the “outsiders” to be in a “relationship” that suits them.

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It is one of the terms that society, sociologists, psychologists etc. have invented to define the ambiguity of human relationships, the uncertainty among people, to make sense for their convenience.

At the heart of the word is your situation. I see the definition as –

“Situationship” is a romantic relationship that has not matured enough to head in a particular direction and is currently morphing with every situation.

situationship meaning

Terms like “friends with benefits” or the delightful “booty call” can upset some people. Perhaps it’s because it questions their version of the reality of relationships and what commitment” means to them. Additionally, there’s another term we’ve discussed previously—Fantasyship.

But it’s worth considering that a situationship may sometimes reflect a void in the perceived relationship between two consenting adults.

So, it has more to do with what the people in that relationship feel (rather than what others define).

Understanding whether you are in a situationship requires you to discover the answer yourself – Not a judgement call of experts or others.

How do you tell if it’s a Situationship?

When you are in a situationship, you will know.

It has the hallmarks of a relationship with a lack of boundaries. 

You may also like to read- 3 Boundaries In Relationships To Set When Dating After A Breakup Or Divorce

The rules keep changing, the goalposts keep moving, and the definition of a relationship can change over time.

It’s more like you are in a democracy.

In a situationship, you oscillate on questions, like –

  • Are they the ONE?
  • What if there is someone who understands me more?
  • Is it okay to ask them where the relationship is going?
  • Should I keep silent and enjoy the life we have?
  • Am I happy to be in this arrangement for years?
  • Will I expect more from the situation as time passes by?

If such questions are emerging in your mind, then you might be in a situationship. 

Having said this, you might have your own unique questions. Your unique confusion. You own unique compromises.

If you can discover the answer to all this, then you can be sure of your situation and relationship.

Pros of a Situationship

There are some definite upsides to being in relationships with loose societal and personal labels.

Consider these benefits of a situationship – 

  • Time – They allow time for you to know what you want out of the relationship without diving into commitment. This time factor can save you from a relationship that ends with heartbreak, divorce, broken homes, and traumatized kids. The speed of the beginning of any relationship can be a critical element of the success or failure. Letting things develop ‘organically’ may iron out problems and highlight issues relating to both parties. 
  • Understanding – They allow you to understand whether you are actually looking for companionship and partnership with that person. It helps you to understand yourself better.
  • Priorities – They can help you think about your priorities (rather than pleasing others).
  • Trust and Commitment – They can assist you in deciding whether you are afraid of a committed relationship or don’t trust the institution of a defined relationship.
  • Personalize – These relationships allow you to define the relationship you can build with your partner instead of accepting societal norms and expectations (which either of you do not agree with).
Cons of a Situationship

As with everything, there is usually a downside. Here are some of the cons of being in a situationship –

  • Lack of Accountability –These situations can easily become an excuse to avoid commitment or responsibilities.
  • Avoid difficulties – They can make you avoid facing difficult discussions about the future (like more ‘Serious’ relationships) because you might want comfort, lack of responsibility and escape routes.
  • Self-doubt – You might question whether you are not meant for a long-term commitment with someone, even though you want to be in a long-term relationship.
  • Resentment – If the rules are unclear to both, the situationship may make it hard to communicate your needs and wants to your partner, which can turn into resentment. If you’re looking to improve your communication in relationships, explore this Guide for valuable insights.
  • Maladaptive Behaviours – A confusing situationship could lead to maladaptive behaviours. For example, you might self-sabotage a good relationship due to the comfort of a situationship.

The pros and cons are just possibilities for your situationship. Most people have different approaches towards life and unique circumstances.

Many people make the mistake in relationships and other areas of their lives by over-complicating things.


How to deal with the label of Situationship

If you are confused or struggling with other people’s definition of your relationship (or your partner’s definition), try the following –

  • Ask others what their definition of a situationship is. See what they mean and why they think that way.
  • Most people have just adopted these terms without understanding them. So, it’s better to ask what they consider as a situationship.
  • Ask yourself whether you worry about the different labels of your relationship OR  it’s your partner/relationship you have concerns about 

If you are getting along with your partner, have clear boundaries, understand each other’s needs and wants and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, then don’t waste time and energy worrying about current ‘acceptable’ terms for your situation.

Find and agree on your terms and definitions for the relationship. (And if you find a few well-wishers, friends and loved ones that accept it, then you are doing much better than most traditional relationships!).

  • Find acceptance of your situation in yourself and move forward. If you have accepted a particular situation as a current state of the relationship, then savour it first. It will clarify what to do, who to avoid, who to tell and what not to do.

A good rule of thumb for most people to deal with their situationship is to stop taking others’ definition of your relationships (and other areas of your life!).

If a situationship is working for you, it doesn’t matter what others think it should look like or the label it’s given. With all the challenges of modern living, this is the least of your worries!

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