Understanding the Rules of a Situationship and 11 Signs You’re in One

A situational relationship sounds about as romantic as watching paint dry, but you could actually be in one and not even realize it. 

As if the dating landscape needed to get any more confusing, now we're faced with the growing vine of “situations” as another relationship layer. 

Heck, some of you beyond the Millennial generation might be prone to Google the word “situationship” and then be surprised to find out there's actually a dictionary definition of the word. 

What Is a Situationship?

The technical definition is “a romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established.” While that might sound a lot like “Friends with Benefits,” it's not.

FWB might be a messy concept, but it has firm boundaries of “we ONLY do this or that,” whereas a situationship offers versatility rooted in convenience and self-appeasement. 

“..if you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” – Hey Jealously, Gin Blossoms

  • No Titles: You aren't just friends, dating, or partners. You're just… in a situation. 
  • No Commitment: This isn't a relationship, and neither party can set expectations one will evolve from it.  
  • No Guarantees: A common situationship happens around the holidays when both parties agree on companionship and loneliness avoidance for a set period, including social engagements. 

7 Situationship Rules That Are Part of the Pairing

Both people involved must understand situationship psychology and should be emotionally and mentally prepared to follow this situation's rules. 

1. Keep It Light

A situationship happens somewhere between the first meeting or DM and a committed relationship. 

It's a time when you should just have fun being around someone else. Try new things and keep meeting other people. You can actually be in more than one situationship at a time. 

2. Keep Your Feelings in Check

A situationship might not be your best option if you tend to fall hard and fast. The balance of a situationship is delicate, where both parties aren't indifferent or devoted to the other. 

It's somewhere in the middle, and while those feelings might be bouncing around, you certainly don't offer more than statements like, “I really had a good time tonight” or “I enjoy spending time with you.” 

3. Keep Being Self-Focused

While a relationship of any kind involves two people, you remain the priority in your own life. While it's encouraged to try new things, you should do it because you want to, not because you are trying to appease or impress someone else. 

young couple walking in the street situationship rules

This is a time to explore what you want and expect out of a partner in general. Think of this stage as trying on partners like you would try on clothing at the store. 

4. Keep Your Own Schedule

By all means, do NOT start rearranging your schedule to accommodate the situationship partner. One benefit of this type of relationship is that you can go to happy hour with your friends or stay home solo. 

You are always driving the bus to serve your needs, and you fit that person in when you can or want to. 

5. Keep Firm Boundaries

You can and should set boundaries in any relationship. If both parties agree on the situationship, they should also agree on those boundaries. 

You might draw a line that intimacy is only between you two, even if the emotions haven't evolved. You could insist that no social media photos are posted of you as a “couple.”

6. Keep Your Secrets

A situationship becomes a time to learn about someone else, but you don't want to start blabbing about your trauma and toxic traits. 

Oversharing and deep discussions can lead to the next phase or a relationship or can quickly cause one person to pull the ripcord and escape. 

7. Keep Evaluating

This form of relationship isn't designed for longevity. You should always first evaluate if this situationship is still serving you and your needs, but also protect the other person from getting hurt. 

While it's hard to leave without someone getting hurt, it's better than being stuck in a long relationship that feels like friendship when you deserve fireworks. 

11 Signs You're in a Situationship

Situationships provide an environment similar to walking on the edge of a knife. Exhilaration is as prominent as anxiety at times. In a dating world that tries to avoid labels, you need to look for the telltale signs. 

1. It's Compartmentalized 

You have a place in each other's lives, but it's a small space serving a certain purpose. It's not always sexual, but even when it is, even sex is in its own compartment devoid of real emotions. 

During the situationship phase, you won't meet parents or spend the holidays together unless you need a “plus one” at an event. 

2. It's Giving You More Anxiety than Adoration

Cute “good morning” texts are less likely than 10 pm “WYD?” texts. You never know quite where you stand because the relationship is on a moving platform of convenience. 

Situationship playmates don't ask, “Where is this going?” because the hallmark of the concept is that it's not going anywhere beyond the current date or next planned event. However, you do have the option to extend it to another date. 

3. It's Not Monogamous

A situationship is also a “get out of this relationship free” card of relationship Monopoly. Should one party meet someone they like better, they expect to be able to walk away without drama or consequence. 

group of friends drinking situationship rules

Each person will decide if they will be intimate with more than one partner and how far that intimacy extends. You could “Netflix and Chill” with them on Tuesday night and be at the same happy hour bar the next night, each of you with separate dates. 

4. It's Not Consistent

Since neither one of you is making space to fit the other person into the other's life, you might spend a full weekend together before not seeing each other for a month. 

The situationship fits the missing puzzle pieces of time. Time is not adjusted to accommodate the other person as in an evolving relationship.  

5. It's Post-Breakup

Often, this type of connection develops when one of the parties just got out of a long-term relationship or divorced. Companionship is craved. Commitment is not. You must believe someone when they say they aren't looking for anything serious. 

You should be clear that you don't want a commitment any time soon if you're the one post-breakup. Too much healing must happen for a person to be ready for another devoted relationship, and you're helping nurse each other's wounds. 

6. It's Never Planned

Situationship dates usually evolve from last-minute plans. You (or they) could get attention because other, more important, plans fell through. 

When you get a “Save the Date” for a wedding in June, you won't ask your situationship sidekick to put it on their calendar in March. 

While a bootie call can fall into this category, it could also be a boring Sunday afternoon when you want someone to go to the park with you. 

7. It's Always in the Present

While mindfulness and self-awareness come from being in the present moment, a situationship is always in the present moment. 

You might resist the urge to ask, “When can I see you this week?” You are only guaranteed this one moment in time with them. Tomorrow is always negotiable. 

While it's imperative never to rush into a relationship just for the namesake title, every relationship should evolve to a place of planning and accommodating each other as your lives blend together. If this isn't happening after 3-6 months, it's time to re-evaluate if this is right for you. 

8. It's Uncomfortable at Times

Situationships can foster anxiety and jealousy, but both parties are handcuffed to do anything about it. Social media posts with another person can't be questioned. Unanswered texts are just a part of life. 

Your friends might confront you about the relationship, and you cannot explain it without suspicious looks. On the flip side, you might feel no obligation to return their phone call or be completely unconcerned about what they might think of your photo with the beefcake from CrossFit. 

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9. It's Not Progressing

Relationships aren't meant to be stagnant. They evolve or evaporate. If you're stuck in situationship limbo, you'll always be a side dish in the other person's life. Even addressing the topic of moving forward can make you feel uncomfortable for fear of breaking the invisible rules. 

Without either party expressing the desire for more of a commitment, both sides end up saying nothing and being caught in the cycle. 

10. It's Every Man/Woman for Themselves

This situational partner isn't devoid of compassion or caring, but likely this person won't be the one to call when you need tampons at the last minute or have a flat tire. If you do call, you'll find yourself repeatedly apologizing because you know this is a violation of the situation. 

mature couple in a coffee shop situationship rules

If they call you for help, you might feel inconvenienced, but a true partner would be more than happy to rescue their prince or princess. 

11. It's Extremely Boring or Extremely Exciting

Situationships can be humdrum, with the other partner being the “best of what's left” when there's nothing else to do. Since you aren't wooing each other, you also aren't getting that endorphin rush when two people connect subconsciously. 

On the other end, it could be a completely physical relationship devoid of any personal connections. You might have nothing in common besides the fact that you like how they look, dress, or think. 

The sex might be stellar, but the conversations are superficial. The dates might include mentally stimulating conversation, but you might not be attracted to them sexually. 

How to Deal with a Situationship

For every person who is aghast at this article, another person thinks this is the best relationship concept yet. Your experiences, approach, and tolerance will add up to how you should handle this.

  • Is this what you want? Don't get stuck in a situation just because you fear you might lose the person. If this doesn't serve you, don't stick around. If this is convenient for you, ensure you aren't doing emotional damage to the other person. 
  • Is this mentally and emotionally hurting you? Self-esteem can take a hit during a situationship. It can breed anxiety and depression while exacerbating past pain. You must be confident enough in yourself as a badass before entering this kind of relationship purgatory. 
  • Are you waiting for them to realize how wonderful you are? You can't make someone ready for a relationship, and you should always believe someone who says they aren't going to commit. You should also be consistently clear about your commitment avoidance if the other person pushes for more when you're not ready. 

Even though a signature of this relationship is not going into deep conversations, you should still openly communicate about how the other feels in this realm. 

Final Thoughts

A situationship isn't for everyone, but it is a stop on the road to a relationship. The gray area of getting to know each other isn't a bad thing. It's better to take your time getting to ‘ know each other than plunge into something that could leave someone emotionally mortally wounded. 

Be safe with your heart, body, and health before and during a situationship. Kenny Rogers once sang, “Know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em,” and only you know when that time has come. 

situationship rules