How To Navigate Situationships (Break The Casual Relationship Cycle)
Have you found yourself asking “what are we doing?” when it comes to your relationship?
Did you fall into something before you knew what was happening?
Then chances are you may be in a situationship.
A situationship is a casual, undefined, commitment-free relationship that is entered into by convenience or happenstance rather than intentionally. So say, you slept with your friend a couple of times and now you’ve been spending a lot more time together but you can’t figure out what they want. Or you’ve been hooking up with an ex and now you’re wondering if you’re back together.
Or maybe you’ve been seeing someone in secret because they used to date a friend. There are too many examples of situationships to name them all here but basically it’s any relationship that’s casual and ill-defined.
The Problem With Situationships
So what’s the problem with situationships? Well if you’re just looking for something casual with no strings attached then a situationship is actually a great thing to explore but there are definitely potential pitfalls. First, it’s very common for these relationships to form because one person wants more than the other and, to avoid conflict, they keep things open-ended. And second, because neither of you define your wants and needs, it’s very easy for one or both of you to get hurt.
In order to explain what makes situationships so potentially painful, we need to look at why people enter into “proper” relationships in the first place. This sounds obvious but stay with me here. People fall in love for all sorts of reasons and when they do, they want to spend more time with the other person.
In order to facilitate this, they’ll have a conversation about what they’re looking for, and, if their needs align, they’ll decide to enter into a relationship. This has the effect of avoiding miscommunication and hurt feelings.
It also creates a safe space to grow closer, indicates your intention to stay together and opens up the possibility of more commitment down the line. It most often includes a promise of monogamy for both partners. And it’s also a way of saying “you can count on me. I’ll be there for you in times of need.”
Why Do Situationships Happen?
So then why do people avoid making something official? Well there are many reasons that a situationship might be preferable to people. Maybe they’re not sure what they want or what the other person wants.
Maybe they want to get to know this person and spend time together but do not want to ramp up the closeness and intimacy of the relationship. Maybe they don’t want to be responsible for another person.
Or maybe their life is not conducive to spending a lot of time/energy on a more official relationship.
The truth is, there are plenty of reasons that a situationship may be more preferable to a relationship for many people and not all of these are malicious or are cause for alarm. I think people get into trouble because they often see a lack of commitment as a reflection on them and their value.
They think that if their partner doesn’t want to commit to them and grow closer together then this means that they’re being used or disrespected but this is not necessarily the case. I think we can all think of times in our lives when we wouldn’t have wanted to start a relationship even if the best person in the world came along. This is what we’re talking about here.
But, of course, many people do enter into situationships because they’re less interested than their partner is. Maybe they don’t see the other person as relationship material. Maybe they think there’s someone better out there and they want to keep their options open. It’s pretty hard not to take this one personally and, if you can, this is the type of situationship that you should avoid.
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In essence, the main reason to enter into a situationship is to get to know another person and pursue them romantically while avoiding commitment and preventing more heartbreak than is necessary. This may seem like eating your cake and having it too and that’s often how it turns out but I think the takeaway here is this: there ARE perfectly valid reasons that people avoid traditional relationships, and situationships can be healthy and even necessary at different points in your life.
Think about it. Haven’t there been times when you failed to appreciate a relationship because you were so fixated on what was coming next? Don’t you wish you could go back and experience these moments without constantly stressing about what they were thinking and feeling?
Embracing a situationship means living in the moment and letting things develop naturally rather than following an established script for what a relationship is supposed to look like. That’s just my two cents on the issue.
But I’m sure many of you came here for the answer to the obvious question: can a situationship develop into something more? Can a situationship become an actual committed relationship?
The answer to this is “absolutely.” It’s very common for relationships to begin in this gray area and blossom into something serious over time. But you need to look at WHY it hasn’t yet and HOW LONG you two have been together.
For instance, if you met someone at a party, slept together that night and have been in relationship limbo for a couple of months, it’s very likely that this is still developing and given the right circumstances, will become more serious.
But if you two met on a dating app, went on a couple actual dates and now only see each other after midnight and it’s been two years? That’s a different story.
This is why I recommend you take a serious inventory of your situationship before moving forward. Look at the last couple of months. How often do you talk? When you see each other, what do you do? Are things moving forward, backward or staying the same? Are they there when you need them? These are all things to consider when you’re thinking about whether or not this is worth continuing.
As with any relationship, there are going to be pro’s and con’s to consider here. At the end of the day, you have to go with how you feel above all else. I do think that oftentimes people struggle in situationships because they crave the stability of something more serious.
I think that if you can get out of this mindset you’ll find that casual relationships have huge benefits. But if that’s just not you then it’s important to understand that and not force yourself to stay in a situation that’s causing you problems. Luckily there’s no huge rush to figure this one out. That’s the beauty of a situationship.
How To Thrive In A Situationship
If you do decide to keep going with your situationship, you need to follow these rules if you want it to be successful.
1. Stop making assumptions about what they want
I think one of the biggest issues with situationships is that they naturally obscure your wants and needs from one another. This can easily cause miscommunication especially when you make assumptions and try to read the other person’s mind.
Instead, I want you to take this opportunity to be completely selfish. Since you don’t know what they want, focus on getting yours instead. Don’t feel the need to stay in constant contact with them and update them on your every move.
Don’t modify your behaviour to be the kind of person you think they’re looking for.
Be unabashedly yourself and make decisions that are right for you. If they take issue with that then this will naturally lead to a discussion that will clarify things for both of you.
2. Stop making assumptions about what YOU want
When we’re dating someone who is playing hard to get, we can naturally fall into the mode of chasing after them, trying to get closer to them with the goal of making them commit to a more serious, defined relationship.
But before you take this approach, you need to ask yourself “is this actually what I want or am I just falling into an old pattern?” Don’t let your anxiety around the relationship determine your actions.
Instead, take stock. Look at your connection with this person. Is this someone that you want to get into a relationship with? Are they worth this kind of effort and time on your part?
The answer may well be yes but don’t take this for granted without really examining your desires and motivations.
3. Understand that it’s okay not to know what you want
Again, I’ll caution you against rushing into a more structured relationship if you’re unsure. It’s okay to take time to get to know this person and make up your mind. The beauty of a situationship is that you don’t have to make a decision right away.
Take your time to really get to know this other person without any agenda. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole “should we get together or should we break up?” debate but you may find you’re missing out on the small things that make dating valuable.
Embrace the ambiguity and don’t get obsessed with the end result.
4. Embrace the freedom
One of the best things about casual dating is that you’re not beholden to the other person. Of course, you should always treat them with respect, but you don’t need to consider their feelings as often as you would if this was your actual partner.
This means that you have more freedom to make your own decisions and do things your own way. For example, you can take a spontaneous trip with your friends without having to check with them first. You can stay out late and not text them for a few days.
You can even date other people if you two haven’t made it clear that you’re exclusive. This stuff can be scary and feel wrong to some people but just remember that this isn’t a serious relationship so you don’t have to act like you’re taken.
Freedom is one of the biggest reasons that people embrace casual dating so don’t leave yours on the table.
5. Go with the flow
Remember that nothing is set in stone. Your relationship is subject to change at any time and for any reason. One day you might learn something about this person that makes you want to finally take things to the next level. Or you might suddenly decide that this is someone who you shouldn’t be with at all. You might get busy and not see them for three weeks, only to pick things up right where you left off.
This can be a scary prospect but it’s also very exciting. If you’re sick of conventional relationships that follow a set pattern, situationships can mix things up in ways that you’d never expect.
This will require both of you to be flexible and open to change. And practicing this is going to make you more adaptable in other situations and that can only be a good thing.
6. When all else fails, talk about it
A situationship is largely marked by the absence of serious talk about your relationship and your needs. As I’ve said, this can be a potential benefit but it can also be confusing and detrimental, depending on your situation.
If you find that things are not developing the way you’d like them to, you’re getting mixed signals, or that conflict has been cropping up between you, then it may be that the costs of this arrangement outweigh the benefits.
In this situation, I recommend you take the plunge and have an open discussion about exactly what it is that you two are doing here. Many people avoid this conversation because they’re worried that this might spark the end of the relationship. That could very well be true but it could also mean the beginning of something that’s even better.
At the end of the day, this is your only real option if things just aren’t working and you want to continue to see this person. They’re not just going to wake up one day and decide to start treating you better and if you never let them know how you feel then they may have no idea that there’s even a problem.
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So how do you have this conversation? Well first off, I advise against going into this while you’re upset or angry. First, take a step back and think about your own needs and wants for the relationship. What are they doing that’s hurting you? What are they not doing?
Broach the subject when you have an opportunity to talk. Don’t be accusatory or confrontational at this time. I know you’re hurting and they have wronged you but if you want to get a good outcome here, keep your objective in mind: your goal is to get on the same page about this relationship.
This does not need to be a “do you want to be my partner” conversation if that’s not what you want. It can simply be about setting up some ground rules to avoid conflict in the future so you can continue on in a casual relationship.
And while you need to make your feelings clear here, you also need to be open and listen to what they have to say. Remember that this is a two-way street and their wants and needs are just as important as yours.
This conversation is going to mark a turning point in the relationship one way or another. Remember that situationships are short term by nature and if it’s no longer serving you, don’t be afraid to move on to something else. Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable for you at the time and full of lessons that you can take forward.
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