“Look, we don’t have to put a label on it. That’s fine. I get it. But, you know, I just… I need some consistency.” If you ever find yourself repeating this quote from Tom Hansen in 500 Days of Summer, you might be in a situationship—and one that you might not be entirely on board with.
Thanks to TikTok’s “Texts with my Situationship” trend, I’ve learned a new dating term, and a new relationship type to avoid. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve witnessed it before, at least in many romantic comedy films like the one starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. And if 500 Days of Summer wasn’t enough of an intro course on toxic relationships, this article could help you decide if a situationship is right for you.
What Exactly Is a ‘Situationship’?
The term situationship is a portmanteau of ‘situation’ and ‘relationship’. You might hear of it in modern romcoms, reality dating shows like Love Island, or when a Tinder match tells you that they’re not looking for a serious relationship—they only want a situationship.
It’s sort of a murky middle ground between being a booty call and being in a relationship with defined terms like boyfriend and girlfriend. You’re not technically together—meaning, you haven’t gone through the DTR milestone—but you’re more than friends with benefits. A situationship is not all sexual in nature. There’s emotional entanglement, for sure, but not serious enough to make either one of you commit.
Maybe that’s the kind of setup you’re into, or maybe you weren’t even aware of what to call that nebulous affair you’re currently in. In a way, anyone who’s been in a relationship has gone through this status. Think of a situationship as the early stages of dating. It’s that romantic space you share with a person where there are no defined boundaries or commitments…yet…or maybe ever.
How to Tell if You’re in a Situationship
Not sure if you’re in a situationship? Don’t worry! It’s pretty easy to spot—getting out of it is the hard part.
1. You haven’t defined the relationship
Before two people can call themselves a couple, they usually go through the DTR phase. It’s a conversation where you define what you are to each other. Are you exclusively dating? In an open relationship? You should know. If you haven’t had the talk and can’t call yourself someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re probably one-half of a situationship.
2. Your meet-ups are usually impromptu and plans are short-term
Long-term plans like attending the wedding of someone’s newly-engaged friends are not normal in a situationship. Instead, you’ll find yourself receiving texts like, “Are you free tonight? I’m in the area.” Dates typically come out of the blue and depend on your situation, hence the term.
3. You haven’t introduced each other to close friends and family
People who are in a situationship typically don’t introduce each other to their close friends, let alone family members. They don’t consider the relationship serious enough to bring them to reunions where questions about their status might arise and put unwanted pressure on the situationship.
4. You haven’t talked about the future
Since a situationship is more casual, there’s no talk of future plans. You don’t even plan dates two weeks in advance, why would you discuss things like marriage or the decision to have or not have kids? You might also not even really see yourself with this person down the line. That’s okay, since the beauty of being in a situationship is that you don’t have to make important decisions.
How to Tell if a Situationship Isn’t Right for You
There are many reasons people find situationships appealing. Maybe they don’t have time to date someone seriously, or don’t want to be committed to one person. Maybe the emotional connection is not there yet and it’s too early to define anything. A situationship isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
However, there are signs that a situationship is becoming toxic for you and that you should get out of it. Here are the red flags to watch out for:
1. You don’t exactly agree on the terms of your situationship
Do you want to DTR but they don’t, or vice versa? When the question of what you are to each other surfaces, one of you dodges it like a bullet? That’s a telltale sign that you’re not on the same page about being in a situationship. Maybe one of you wants to be more than two people who see each other when the opportunity arises. If one wants to be a couple and the other isn’t ready to make a commitment, a situationship might no longer work for you.
2. There’s resentment from not meeting expecations
There are expectations in any relationship. But it’s trickier in a situationship where the expectation is that there should be no expectations. If one person, however, starts to feel bitter about their needs not being met, then a situationship has become too toxic to function. Resentment can lead to passive aggressiveness, which can lead to anger and toxic behaviors that are enough reasons to leave.
3. There’s stress and anxiety caused by the unclear circumstances
Being with a person, even if that is a more casual setup such as a situationship, should never mess with your self-esteem and mental health. It’s natural to feel worried when the terms of your relationship are unclear, but if you’re already experiencing stress or relationship anxiety, it might be time to move on. Your mental health is more important than any situationship. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. Maybe they just really don’t want a serious relationship and you do, or vice versa. But that is a sign that you two are incompatible and need to break up.
If you’re struggling to recognize a situationship, I recommend revisiting 500 Days of Summer. Tom and Summer are as close to an on-screen situationship as we have gotten from romcom films, with Tom being the person who develops deeper feelings and expectations for commitment. Their relationship became too toxic because of their major incompatibilities. Summer simply didn’t want to commit to Tom because for her, he just wasn’t the right person.
How a situationship ends—whether it’s to part ways or to make a commitment to each other—is never a guarantee. At the expense of sounding cliche, there’s no harm in seeing how it goes. Unless, of course, it’s too toxic for either or both of you to keep being in a situationship.