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What is a situationship and how to navigate one?

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Jul 28, 2023

What is a situationship and how to navigate one?

You’ve probably heard of the terms friends-with-benefits (FWB), no-strings-attached (NSA), or even booty call before. Situationship is the newest buzz word added to the lexicon of non-committed relationships. But what is a situationship, and how do you know if you’re in one? 

Are you tired of using the phrase, “it’s complicated but” everytime someone asks you your relationship status? 

So… what is a situationship?

A “situationship” is another word for a type of romantic relationship that is undefined, casual, or commitment-free. 

They aren’t the same as casual hookups, but they aren’t committed relationships either. Perhaps you’re in a short-term situation because you’ve only been seeing someone for a short period of time, it’s still early days, and you haven’t had the talk about labels yet. 

Most situationships evolve when you’ve been dating someone for a while, but you aren’t exactly sure what you mean to each other.  If there is a lack of commitment and clarity in the relationship, you might be in a situationship. While it can be confusing to know what to do, situationships are extremely common in the modern queer dating world. 

How can I tell if I’m in a situationship?

Here’s how to tell the difference between a situationship and a relationship, how to have a conversation about it, and—if that doesn’t work—how to set boundaries or get out of it. 

Signs you’re in a situationship:

  • You’re not sure exactly what you are doing with each other 
  • There is a lack of consistency, lapses in communication, or periods of time where you’re not sure when you will hear from the other person
  • You might do the same things that couples would do, but you’re not sure if you’re in a relationship or not 
  • You haven’t integrated into each other’s lives in meaningful ways—as in, you haven’t met their friends, family, or co-workers 
  • Sex or hooking up might be a big part of your connection
  • There’s no discussion of what the future could look like
  • The connection feels more-surface level or compartmentalized 
  • While there might be emotional vulnerability between the two of you (we’re queer ok), you’re not entirely sure if you can trust them 
  • There is no natural evolution or growth of the relationship 
  • You feel anxious about talking to them about your wants, needs, and desires 
  • You feel a pressure to just go with the flow, keep it light and fun, or  just “be chill” about things
  • There have been no conversations about exclusivity, ethical non-monogamy, or boundaries with other connections to people
  • You’re left with a feeling of wanting more from them than they want from you 

Pros and cons of being in a situationship

While there can be pros and cons to situationships, they are not inherently good or bad. Everyone experiences relationships differently. Whether a situationship is right for you will depend on exactly what you’re looking for right now in life. 


Depending on what you are looking for, situationships can be a great type of relationship. An advantage to situationships is that they allow you to have emotional or physical intimacy, but also live your life separately from someone else. If you’re interested in ethical non-monogamy, situationships can give you the flexibility to date multiple people rather than being exclusive with just one person. 

Maybe you’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship, and you aren’t emotionally available to commit to someone else. Perhaps you have trust issues or a fear of commitment. If so, being in a relationship without defined labels might feel safer for you during this chapter of your life.

If you find yourself gravitating toward situationships, you probably value your independence and freedom. It might be fair to say that you aren’t interested in the commitment, responsibility, or hard work that usually comes with a relationship at this moment in your life.  Situationships can be healthy and a positive thing as long as both people respect each other and are upfront and honest about what they want. 


The biggest disadvantages of a situationship can be the lack of clarity and communication. In this type of obscure dynamic, it’s easy for each person to develop different expectations of the relationship. Even if you’ve both agreed to keep it casual, one person might catch feelings for the other and end up wanting more than they are able to give. 

It can be stressful and anxiety-producing not knowing where you stand with someone. You might feel like you’re being used or like your feelings aren’t being considered. You might also start to fall for someone and end up heartbroken when the feelings aren’t reciprocated. 

A queer couple sitting on a couch, both wearing jeans. One woman’s legs are resting on top of the other’s lap, while she reads a magazine.

What to do if you’re in a situationship

The first step is to get real with yourself about what your needs actually are. If you’re actually fine with how things are going and don’t mind the ambiguity, that’s cool. But don’t minimize your own needs and feelings just because you don’t want the connection to end. 

The first step to transform a situationship is to figure out what you want and need from a romantic relationship right now. Most situationships are resolved with a conversation about what is going on, and it either progresses towards a more clearly-defined dynamic or ends. Whether or not things get messy or people get hurt probably depends on the parties involved and their communication skills. 

How to turn a situationship into a relationship

It is possible for situationships to progress into relationships, but, in order to do this, both people need to be on the same page. You might be hoping that if you play it cool for long enough, the other person’s feelings might change. But if you are looking to turn a situationship into something more serious, you need to be honest about how you feel. 

Own your feelings. Speak up for yourself and let the other person know what you want from the connection or where you see things going. There is no guarantee that they will reciprocate your feelings, but at least you will know where you both stand. 

Once you see how they respond, you get to decide whether or not they are able to give you what you need. It can be hard to be vulnerable and confront things, but you deserve to be in a relationship that feels good for you. 

Establishing boundaries in a situationship

While you can’t control what other people do or don’t do, you ultimately get to decide how you let other people treat you. Don’t settle for a situationship just because you don’t want to lose the other person. If your time and energy isn’t being respected or matched, it’s time to set some boundaries. 

Don’t keep trying to get what you need from someone who is constantly showing you they can’t meet you.  If you are being ghosted or left on read, resist the urge to continually reach out. Instead, try to focus on yourself, spend quality time with friends, and pour your energy into other areas of your life that feel meaningful.

You can also have an explicit conversation about who else you are dating, how often you text, or when you are going to spend time together during the week. Make sure that you are coming to the table with clear expectations. If the other person is vague, dishonest, or doesn’t want the same things as you, it might be time to pull back or break things off. 

If you are going to have a conversation about your situationship with someone, 

it’s always better to talk in person (if possible) or over the phone/Facetime. Texting about things might feel a lot easier, but it will most likely lead to more miscommunication and conflict down the road. 

A black woman with curly hair walking on an orange footbridge using a smartphone to call someone.

Situationships in the queer dating scene

I’ve been in what you might call a few situationships myself—show me a queer who hasn’t by the time they turn 30. But most of the resources out there on situationships are about straight relationships. I asked a few of my friends on the wlw dating scene to describe their experiences with situationships of all flavors. 

“I’m currently in a situationship (my second ever), and right now it’s a vibe without expectations! But it will probably end in tears, so I’m just vibing until it reaches that,” Maxine, who is 31, says. “I appreciated the transparency of them saying they don’t want to be in a committed relationship, which suits me anyway as we live in different places. But sometimes the perks of reliable intimacy with someone safe and familiar who gets you while actually having (probably) no future with them feels a bit pointless to me.”

Mito, 25, told me that all of the situationship she’s been in “legit served their purpose” but if you’re wanting longevity or anything super deep, she wouldn’t recommend it. “A defining factor of the situationships I had been in seemed to be a lack of communicating what we both wanted. This either extended the gay honeymoon phase or everything went south real quick.” 

Landon, 27, is now married to the person she was in a situationship with. Her (now) partner “was in an open relationship and I was looking for something casual when we met, so it was perfect. Except we fell in love!” That relationship ended a year later, and Landon I told them she still wanted to be with them, and they’ve been together ever since!

Whether or not a situationship is right for you is a personal choice. As long as you are in touch with what feels good and what your limits and boundaries are, there is no wrong decision. 

If you aren’t happy in your situationship, just know that you are not asking for too much! There are a million people out there who will bring the same amount of love and intention into a relationship as you do. 

Respect yourself, your time, and your energy enough to know what you deserve. And if you’re looking for a different kind of relationship, consider downloading HER today to find someone new. You never know who is out there waiting for you to text them back. 

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Dusty Brandt Howard is a writer & a fighter. He is a trans masculine cultural narrator who builds worlds with words. You can follow his thirst traps on Instagram, his writing on Substack, or find him at your local queer bar in northeast LA.

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