And are you in one?
Much like the pain scale—that inexact linear graph that helps you chart the intensity of your own anguish—relationships, carry on in gradients. There’s a fluid spectrum at play here. Gone are the days of the dating/not dating binary. If you disagree, I would humbly suggest that you are an outlier here.
While perhaps, in the dating days of yore, you were single, then you were “going steady,” right now, in the blank space between “single” and “coupled” there’s casual dating, maybe a preliminary “hooking up” stage, followed often by exclusivity—arguably, formal dating’s precursor. But somewhere, lingering around the casual dating stage, there’s another vague, amorphous phase: The Situationship.
Much like it sounds, this particular genre of courtship occupies a placid space. It lacks inertia. Be it a friends with benefits arrangement, a looser f*ck buddy scenario, or something more bespoke to you (think: “we exclusively sleep together after particularly high stakes episodes of Jeopardy”), the idea is that you’re meandering in an in-between realm. You’re neither dating nor not dating —and you don’t seem to be edging any closer in either direction.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times—a product of app dating or a way of avoiding burnout with any one particular partner—or maybe, instead, it’s a long-standing trope, and we’re only just nailing the clever nomenclature for it now. Either way, it endures as a deeply prevalent, entirely normalized mode of romantic fixation. So, now that you know what the hallowed “situationship” actually is, we’ve taken the liberty to address your follow-up questions.
How do I know if I’m in a situationship?
Like snowflakes, no two situationships are entirely alike. But nevertheless, there are some telltale signs that you are, in fact, engaged in one. For starters, it’s likely that you only make short term or last-minute plans. Your conversations are often relegated to small talk territory. You’ve actually had the “I don’t want anything serious” discussion. You’re often either anxious or bored when it comes to your correspondence. Consistency is rare. In short, it’s an utterly unreliable fling.
Is it a bad thing?
There’s no implicit judgment call here. The real question is: Do you want to be in a relationship in the more classic sense of the word? The middle space is by no means problematic, but often, it can feel like a way of being strung along—or doing the stringing. The quasi-consistency of a romantic rapport with someone you’re expressly “into” can make it feel as if you’re verging towards a relationship. But take a look at the signs. Are you at a stand-still? Is this the situationship?
What should you do about it?
If things feel off to you, you’ll want to parse out some key information: What do you want? What do you not want? Once you’ve got your new answers there, think about some of the other healthy relationships in your life. Compare, contrast, assess what it is that you find most essential in those relationships. Then, communicate. Talk to your “partner.” Explain what’s missing, and why it’s important to you. Give them the chance to respond. Rather than a malicious exercise, there’s a chance what you’re enduring is merely a product of routine. If that’s not the case, be honest with yourself about whether you’re comfortable in the continued stagnancy.
Maybe this is your jam. Maybe you’re coasting. In that case, ride it out.