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10 Signs You’re in a Situationship and How to Deal With It

Antonia Greco - Writer for Top10.com
Upset woman in a situationship on a coffee date with a man
New relationships are tricky enough. But recently, situationships have entered the dating sphere. Instead of being in a committed relationship or simply dating, do you find yourself somewhere in between?

Working as a dating coach for over a decade, I’ve been privy to helping individuals avoid casual dating and create well-defined relationships instead. Meeting other singles through friends or online dating sites can be tricky.

But when my clients become intentional about their dating lives, they find themselves less susceptible to flings. I'll help you identify the signs of a situationship and offer advice on steering away from this connection.

» Wondering how long it takes to meet "the one"? Find out now.

What Is a Situationship?

A situationship is an undefined romantic relationship. It's more than just a physically intimate partnership, but at the same time, it's less than a clearly defined romantic relationship (like dating or partners).

There's no particular amount of time a connection like this should go on for, but the longer it lasts, the harder it can be to move on. In my experience, casual hookups evolve between the first two relationship stages for couples. These are the initial meeting (attraction) and when attachment begins.

For some people, a situationship is like normal dating because it's more than just a casual fling. For others, it's a healthy relationship. When neither partner wants the commitment to develop further, this type of connection meets both people's needs. If it doesn't feel healthy, consider what you want before giving someone an ultimatum.

Situationship vs. Casual or Committed Dynamics

These casual commitments can feel intense because they're unstable. Rather than having the comfort of a defined relationship with clear expectations, situationships have blurry or non-existent boundaries.

They're also only intermittently reinforced. This means you never know what to expect. You'll constantly wonder and wait for the other person's signal or invitation.

Communication: Situationships vs. Relationships

Situationships typically don’t engage in effective communication. Both parties tend to go with the flow and don't want to rock the boat with their expectations. You may fear that speaking up and voicing what you genuinely want may lead to rejection.

In traditional relationships, couples speak openly and honestly. Their goals and intentions are usually made clear to their partners.

Societal Views and Stigma Surrounding Situationships

Flings or the “it’s complicated” status typically indicate a reluctance to speak about the relationship but not a fear of displaying it. For many people I know—myself included—who've been in a situationship, it can be embarrassing not to have a formal commitment.

A problem with casual commitments is that many people hope the connection will improve. In reality, many may not develop further.

Signs of a Situationship and How to Deal With It

You may want to be in a situationship because you're not ready for a commitment. That is perfectly fine. An effective way to handle the blurriness of boundaries or expectations is to be open about what you’re looking for. Let the other person know your intentions. If it scares them away—let it.

1. There’s No Routine to Your Contact

When you see someone regularly, you'll fall into a routine about how and when you contact each other. It can be daily or every few days, but a pattern develops. In a situationship, this structure is missing, and contact is random.

This unpredictable pattern is what is known as intermittent reinforcement. Intermittent reinforcement is like a roller coaster of highs and lows. It can be highly addictive, like a drug, which makes it difficult to break away from. Talk to your partner about establishing a routine to move closer to a relationship.

The first step is to clarify what you want from your partner and what that looks like for you. The next step is to communicate that clearly so that they understand. If your requests are met with backlash or refusal, then your answer as to whether or not to continue should be clear.

2. No Name for the Relationship

You don't know what to call your person or how to label your relationship. Not having a title in a relationship can be unsettling. It could lead to confusion about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. It may also cause feelings of rejection.

Moreover, an untitled relationship can cause you to obsess about the other person rather than being open to other potential partners. You'll have to have the "what are we" conversation to change this. The define the relationship (DTR) conversation can be scary due to fear of rejection and loneliness.

The best way to tackle this conversation is to remind yourself that not discussing it can cause more complications and difficulty down the road. A good strategy is to talk from the your perspective. Talk about your expectations rather than leading the conversation by asking them what they want.

» Explore the world of Gen Z's dating culture.

Women in a situationship embracing each other

3. You Haven’t Met Any of Their Friends

In relationships, we introduce our partners to our friends and family. In situationships, it’s common not to be introduced to your partner’s family or friends. This is typically because your partner doesn't want to overcomplicate the situation. They want to keep their options open.

A person’s family and friends are their inner circle, and to be let into that inner circle is a healthy and commitment-oriented step. To move a situationship on, start bringing your partner to events and introduce them slowly to your inner circle.

An excellent way to familiarize your partner without high pressure is to invite them to casual outings with friends. For example, low-key meetups like happy hour drinks or park hangouts. It's best to start with acquaintances or friends. Coworkers, cousins, or close siblings are less formal than parents and grandparents.

4. There Is No Future Planning

You and your partner talking about the future is one of the signs your relationship is going well. Reluctance to discuss this topic indicates that you’re in a situationship. In healthy, defined relationships, partners speak openly and directly about their direction and intentions.

The goal is to be a teammate with your partner, which means being on the same page and discussing your individual and shared goals. To move your relationship forward, start planning future events together.

A good test to see how open and willing your partner is about a future with you is to plan an event with them. It could be a trip together or a concert that's a few months away. Gauge their commitment by seeing how willing they are.

It should be mentioned that some situationships can mimic relationships. But remember that without a title, there is no commitment.

5. Your Person Says the Relationship Isn’t Serious

When your person says they're not looking for anything serious, you may be tempted to look at this as one of the signs your relationship is over or a situationship. What they’re telling you is that they’re not emotionally available. Recognize that someone who does not want anything serious but continues to officially date you, lacks integrity.

This is because their actions don’t match their words. This can cause you to feel as though you need to be better to win your partner back. Not only is this untrue, but it’s also a waste of your energy. Instead, have an open and honest conversation to clarify what each of you wants.

Direct communication can seem scary, but it’s a way to clarify. Find a convenient time to speak rather than springing this topic on someone unexpectedly. Give them time to prepare. Try not to get defensive. Instead, approach the conversation cooperatively.

6. You Don’t Share Anything Deep

Most relationships start with surface-level conversations like where you went to school and your career. Relationships progress to sharing deeper information, while situationships don't. Emotional intimacy can help develop strong bonds between partners.

By only speaking about surface-level topics, you don’t get to engage with a person’s emotional side. If you want a deeper connection, be honest about your desire for a more committed relationship.

To deepen your conversation, start small. Tell your partner about how something made you feel and assess their reaction. Reciprocation could be one of the signs that your relationship is getting serious, but remember to take it slow.

Upset woman and distracted man in a situationship in bed

7. Monogamous Claims, but They Still See Other People

It's not unheard of to date multiple people while deciding on a longer-term monogamous relationship. But when this goes on for a longer time, it can be a sign of a situationship. Trust is paramount to a healthy commitment, and situational relationships can breed distrust because of unclear boundaries.

This makes it challenging to feel safe and secure within a relationship, which are essential building blocks of trust. To find out if you're monogamous, have a direct conversation about where your relationship is going. For some people, becoming sexually exclusive is the precursor to being official.

Don’t wait until you’ve already become sexually intimate with someone to have the exclusivity talk. Make sure you and your partner agree on sexual boundaries or partners before you become intimate. Without this, there may be a lot of anxiety and distrust.

8. You Wonder When You’ll Hear From Them Again

You're never sure if they'll phone, text, or email. The uncertainty of a situationship can be stressful. Anxiety over whether or not you should contact someone is a personal red flag, as it signifies that you do not feel safe or secure. I’ve seen this type of stress disrupt a client’s sleep cycle as well as cause them to become physically ill.

If you want to move your fling to relationship status, you can start scheduling calls and asking for consistency. Be straightforward rather than trying to play it cool. None of us are mind readers. What one person wants might not be what the other wants.

Get on the same page and establish boundaries about what you require to feel safe in a relationship early on. If your partner is in a different frame of mind, someone else might be a better match for you.

9. You’re Uncomfortable Reaching Out to Them Often

Perhaps sending a silly meme or texting good morning every day feels awkward. You worry they'll pull away or think it's too much contact. You may be in a situation where you’re afraid to overstep a boundary. Maybe you fear rejection or abandonment, which keeps you from a genuine connection.

Try to push past your discomfort, reach out, and see how they react. If their response is positive, you can address moving to a relationship. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you may build your confidence. Impromptu greetings or check-ins are thoughtful ways to connect with your partner. They're also a helpful tactic to learn their communication patterns.

10. You Don’t Have a Date Night

Many of your plans are made at the last minute. It feels like they're seeing you because they don't want to be alone rather than because they're really into you. Last-minute plans can sometimes feel unthoughtful, which reinforces the feeling of instability in a friend zone environment.

When you make plans with your partner in advance, it indicates that time has been put aside specifically for you. It also gives each of you something to look forward to. But most importantly, it shows the willingness to stick to a commitment. Have a fixed day of the week or month devoted to each other to build some consistency within your situationship.

One way to spend time together is to plan dates that are specific to the season you’re in. For example, winter months could involve ice skating or cozy movie nights. Try to set up a regular date night. If they don't seem into it, perhaps they're not ready to move to a relationship.

» Spice things up with these out-of-the-box date ideas.

From Situationship to Commitment Through Dating Sites

Define the type of relationship you want to be in before choosing between dating platforms. Some platforms are more targeted to hookups, while others take a more serious approach. For example, BeNaughty might be a fit for you if your intention is for a situationship or casual hookup.

For more profound commitment, Match may be more suitable. These days, you can choose from online sites for almost any age, religion, or race. SilverSingles, for instance, is one of many apps for dating over 50.

Stuck Situationships: Self-Respect and Moving On

The only person’s behavior we can control is our own. If someone doesn’t want the same thing as you, no amount of conversation or convincing will change their mind. The strongest and boldest move you can make is to take their words seriously and move on.

By staying in a situation you wish was a relationship, you only delay the possibility of finding the right partner. Our feelings are a result of our words and our behaviors. You must invest your energy into the right situations to achieve emotional well-being and happiness.

»Breakups don't have to get ugly: Learn how to call it quits without hurt feelings

Steer Your Relationship With Confidence

A situationship is another version of the friend zone. Have clarity on what you want, know your worth, communicate effectively, and set boundaries to avoid confusion. If you find yourself in one, remember that the longer you entertain what isn’t for you, the longer you delay what is.

You can use the help of online dating trends from sites like Match for more precise choices about the type of partner you want. Use their tips to date according to your personality type. If your partner isn't willing to commit, move on.

» Want to keep things lighthearted and fun? Check out our top tips for casual dating.

Antonia Greco - Writer for Top10.com
Antonia Greco is an IDCA certified personal development coach, relationship expert, author, and communications graduate. For almost 15 years, she has helped clients reach their goals in life and love. Antonia has written for several leading publications, including Elite Daily, Bustle, Seattle Weekly, and Top10.com.