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What is a situationship? 5 clear signs you’re stuck in one (& what to do about it)

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Summary: What is a situationship? Discover the tell-tale signs and how to deal with this modern dating trend.

Relationship statuses used to just be “single” or “in a relationship.” Soon after, “it’s complicated” found its way into the mix.

Let’s also not forget domestic partnerships, open relationships, friends with benefits, and a whole slew of other terminologies.

The latest one to come into our urban dictionary might have you stop to ask, “What is a situationship?” 

It’s a term made popular by writer Carina Hseih, who explains it as this: “Relationships sitting at the intersection of ‘hooking up’ and ‘in a relationship.

It’s a scary precipice, teeter-tottering between ‘more than hooking up’ and ‘very much dating,’ where a simple ‘what are we’ can throw the entire system out of balance.

So if you’re neither here nor there with the other person, better understanding this buzzword and what it entails may save you from the emotional roller coaster of unstable relationship dynamics.

What is a situationship?

You and your person hang out, spend time together, and even share intimate moments… But you find yourself with no defined label or future plans—there’s no “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” or even “it’s complicated.” That’s situationship meaning in a nutshell.

This mash-up of “situation” and “relationship” is a romantic (for lack of a better word) limbo, so to speak. It can be exhilarating—all the butterflies and fun without the pressure of exclusivity. However, it can also be frustrating—the lack of clarity can leave you feeling emotionally vulnerable and wondering the infamous couple question: “What are we?

This is more common than you may realize. Surely you’ve run across examples of this, if not in real life, then on the screen. Think Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald in Scandal, Rory and Logan in Gilmore Girls, or Monica and Chandler in Friends.

Interestingly enough, a 2023 survey by Real Research found that  40% of Gen Z’s think situationship should be considered an official relationship status. Which begs the question: Does a situationship deserve a seat at the relationship status table, or is it a recipe for emotional entanglement?

It does seem that daters nowadays are seeking more flexible ways to connect. However, it’s also clear that the lines between casual and committed relationships are becoming increasingly blurred, resulting in the need for the status of “situationship.”

Situationship vs. friends with benefits

Situationships and friends with benefits may seem similar. However, there are distinct differences between the two.

Friends with benefits is an arrangement where you and the other person are usually clear about their relationship being purely physical. No romantic intentions. No dating expectations. Just friends… with “benefits.”

Situationships, on the other hand, have an emotional aspect and a deeper connection, plus physical intimacy. It’s essentially monogamy without the labels.

Situationship vs. relationship

The similarities between a more modern situationship and a traditional relationship run deep. There’s the emotional intimacy, sexual relationships, connection, and companionship.

What’s different between the two is that in a relationship, you and your partner have a mutual understanding and agreement about your status, commitment, and future together. This takes clear communication, defined boundaries, and shared relationship goals.

In a situationship, there’s a lack of definition. You likely don’t know where you stand or what to expect. This ambiguity can (and often does) lead to uncertainty and emotional turmoil.

Pros and cons of being in a situationship

While uncertainty can seem like a downside to most, a situationship can be appealing to some, especially after a breakup or if you’re not ready for something serious. You get all the perks of a relationship without actually being in one.

But before you dive in head first, heart open, let’s weigh the pros and cons:

Pros

  • It can offer you a chance to explore intimacy and physical connection without the pressure of commitment.
  • There’s a certain level of freedom and ease that come with a lack of expectations in this kind of casual relationship. You can enjoy each other’s company without worrying about labels or long-term plans.
  • The attention and validation that come with it can be a welcome boost to your confidence.
  • It can give you the space to learn more about your own desires and boundaries in a relatively low-stakes environment.
  • It can be a stepping stone potential where the situationship can turn into a relationship if both partners are ready for it.

Cons

  • The lack of commitment can lead to emotional confusion and insecurity or something much deeper, like fearful-abandonment attachment issues.
  • Mixed messages and unclear boundaries can cause frustration and resentment.
  • One person may desire more commitment than the other, which, then, can lead to hurt feelings.
  • Ending a situationship can be messy, especially if feelings are involved.
  • It might keep you from putting yourself out there for someone who can offer a serious commitment.

Signs you might be in a situationship

How do you know if you’re in a romantic limbo? Here are some signs that your entanglement might be a situationship, not a full-fledged relationship:

Signs you might be in a situationship
  • Lack of labels. The dreaded “what are we?” conversation is avoided like the plague or is nonexistent altogether
  • Unclear future plans. Planning things to do over the weekends, holidays, or even next week is also dodged.
  • Social media blackout. You rarely, if ever, appear together on social media. There’s a sense of secrecy or a desire to keep the relationship under wraps.
  • Jealousy with a side of confusion. The idea of them seeing someone else might sting, but you can’t quite pinpoint why since there’s no label or claim on your time or theirs.
  • Unequal investment in the relationship. The emotional energy feels imbalanced. One person might be more invested, texting constantly and hoping for more, while the other keeps things casual.

The question that may arise is: can you be friends after a situationship? The answer depends on the specifics of your situation and how deeply your feelings run.

But if you find yourself nodding along to several of these signs, it might be time to have an honest conversation with yourself (and maybe even your situationship partner) about what you truly want from the connection.

Red flags: What to watch out for

Not all relationships are built the same, even in types such as this. While some can be a fun exploration, others can leave you feeling emotionally drained and disrespected.

Here are some situationship red flags to watch out for:

  • Lack of consistency. They text you back sporadically, cancel plans last minute, and leave you feeling like an afterthought.
  • Refusal to commit. They’re still actively dating and make no attempt to hide it, making you feel like you’re just one option on the table.
  • You’re kept a secret. They don’t introduce you to their social circle or integrate you into anything happening in their life.
  • Emotional manipulation. They use guilt trips or emotional blackmail to keep you around.
  • Disrespect your boundaries. They pressure you into physical intimacy or situations you’re not comfortable with.
  • Disrespectful behavior. They put you down, make hurtful jokes, or prioritize other people over you.
  • Negative impact on your mental well-being. You feel anxious, confused, or constantly questioning your worth while you’re in the situationship.

Here’s the thing: you deserve a connection that is respectful, supportive, and leaves you feeling good about yourself.

Even if they feel good and safe,” says the founder of Integrity Dating, Neelam Verma, if they’re not the partner you’re seeking, it’s time to release them.”

How to end a situationship

If you ever find yourself feeling that this entanglement is no longer serving you or that you’re in a toxic situationship, it may be in your best interest to get the heck out.

Toxic energy blocks love,” Neelam points out. “Whether it’s an ex, an unhealthy on/off relationship, a job you don’t love, or someone who refuses to commit, it’s time to break up with negative energy that drains you.”

Here’s how you can navigate the breakup with grace and clarity, based on the tips she shares on her Finding Love with Integrity Dating Quest on Mindvalley:

  • Prioritize your energy. Toxic situations can zap your energy. Make a list of what drains you in the situationship (inconsistent communication, lack of respect) and what lifts you up (supportive friends, hobbies you enjoy). Refocusing on the positive will empower you to move forward.
  • Have an honest conversation about how you feel and what you want. Be clear about your desire for a committed relationship or more emotional connection.
  • Respect their response. While they may be toxic, they have feelings, too. So they might be surprised or even hurt. Give them space to process your words and avoid pressuring them to agree with your perspective.
  • Consider a clean break, especially if the situationship has been emotionally draining. Going no-contact for a while might be necessary to protect your emotional well-being. Plus, it’ll allow you both time and space to heal and move on.

Remember, ending a relationship that doesn’t line up with your values and desires is an act of self-love. So don’t feel guilty for prioritizing your happiness and setting boundaries for the type of connection you deserve.

How to get over a situationship

The end of anything can absolutely be devastating, but that’s only one part of the battle. The next part can truly test your patience and strength.

As you work through the emotional aftermath, prioritizing self-care is essential. Here are three expert tips to help you through this transition:

1. Become the love of your life

Did you know that every relationship in your life reflects the relationship that you have with yourself?” Neelam poses. That’s why, before you swipe right or go on a date, it’s important you build a strong relationship with yourself.

It’s really about self-love, first and foremost. Set healthy boundaries. Prioritize your needs. Say “no” to dates or relationships that don’t align with your values. Pursue what makes you happy. 

When you’re able to do that, you become a more magnetic and confident person. You show up on dates authentically, knowing your value, and ready to share love with someone who deserves it.

2. Embrace integrity

Integrity is about being true to yourself, both inside and out.

It’s where your beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions are congruent, and you show up honest,” explains Neelam. “You honor your word not only to others but to yourself. When you get into integrity, you get into alignment with your true self. You honor your feelings. You listen to your inner voice, and you speak your truth.”

Why’s that important in dating? Simply, there’s no room for games or pretending to be someone you’re not.

Dating with integrity takes courage, but it pays off. It’ll help you attract partners who share your values and create connections built on trust and authenticity.

3. Open your heart

No doubt, dating, especially after being in a situation where the status is beyond “it’s complicated,” can feel scary.

Many of us fear rejection or we’re afraid of getting hurt,” says Neelam, “but that’s just the risk that we need to take in order to get on this journey of dating.”

Being vulnerable can seem like weakness, but it takes strength to be upfront and honest about your feelings and needs. You’re able to chuck out the masks and not hide behind a facade.

It takes courage, of course, to put yourself out there and risk getting hurt. But true connection happens when you open your heart and share your authentic self.

Love deeper, connect stronger

Have you heard the saying, “When one door closes, another one opens”? That’s applicable to situationships, too.

Sure, it can be tough to end one, but it also opens the door to finding a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

If you’re ready to transform your dating life and meet amazing people, consider joining Mindvalley’s Finding Love with Integrity Dating Quest. Created by Neelam Verma, you’ll learn the tools and techniques to end the cycle of bad dates and create unforgettable encounters with potential partners.

By signing up for a free Mindvalley account, you can access the first few lessons and start your journey toward finding your highest love. Just like Buhlebenkosi Tshuma, a Mindvalley Member from Johannesburg, South Africa:

When my last relationship failed, I decided to take time off and re-evaluate my dating life. I knew Mindvalley had something for me; that’s how I found this course. I am not afraid to communicate my wants and needs. I am open about not wanting to have sex, as I was taught about the spiritual aspect of the act from a young age. I show up as my authentic self, and I absolutely love it for myself.”

The moral of the story is: Don’t wait for love to find you. Instead, create the love you deserve.

Welcome in.

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Watch the First Lesson of the Quest

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International speaker and dating expert Neelam Verma teaches the art of better dating. You'll learn how to end the endless cycle of bad dates and create unforgettable encounters with potential partners that light up your heart and soul.Get started for free

Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Neelam Verma
Expertise by

Neelam Verma, an upcoming Mindvalley trainer for the Finding Love with Integrity Dating Quest, is a former TV presenter and Miss Universe finalist. After a near-death experience, she embarked on a spiritual journey, learning about love and relationships from experts and healers.

She founded Integrity Dating to revolutionize dating with a conscious, heart-centered approach. Neelam offers transformative courses, events, and coaching, helping people find love with integrity. Her mission is to change dating from mere entertainment to finding true love.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.