The buzzword defines a problem that people have long struggled with: romantic relationships that aren't official, but are still, well, something. In other words, a non-committal relationship that hasn't been defined, aka no "DTR" (define the relationship) conversation has taken place.
Even celebrities are familiar with the term — and the struggle. Taylor Swift mentions it in "Glitch" off her "Midnights" album. “Depending on what kind of mood and situationship I’m in,” she sings.
Then there's Lizzo, who called out a fan's situationship during her concert at Madison Square Garden in October 2022. “Brittany is my homegirl, and she told me what’s going on, homegirl to homegirl. So, what’s the f--kin’ deal? You about to miss out on a bad b---h or what?” Lizzo told the fan’s situationship over the phone (and in front of thousands of concert-goers).
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What is a situationship?
Clinical psychologist Vijayeta Sinh says a situationship is simply a relationship that hasn't been defined. This could be due to a lack of willingness from both people to define the relationship or a lack of commitment toward one another.
"As long as both people are OK with it, then that's kind of sort of OK because everybody's kind of on the same page," Sinh tells TODAY.com. "But I think when it becomes problematic is when one person wants to define the relationship a little bit more and flesh out what it means, and the other person is not quite willing to or hasn't really given it consideration."
Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist, adds that situationships are tricky because you get all the benefits of being in a relationship without the title.
In a situationship, Schiff says you're not as beholden to a person the same way you are in a formal relationship. There are no expectations. No set boundaries. No consistency.
"You don't know what to expect from the other person. You don't even know when you're going to see them next, or how long it will take them to respond to your text or if they're going to make an effort to reach out," Schiff tells TODAY.com.
In a defined relationship, on the other hand, "you understand there's some consistency, we'll talk every day, and we have date nights on Saturdays."
The pros and cons of situationships
Not all situationships are created equal — at least that's what Jennifer Klesman, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Chicago, thinks. As she tells her clients, “have fun until it’s not fun anymore.”
“I think situationships are kind of a fun way to just practice dating,” Klesman tells TODAY.com. “You can have casual connections with people, and they also help you figure out what you do and don’t want in a partner.”
Sinh, on the other hand, argues that it's nearly impossible to not let feelings get in the way.
“Whether it’s a fear of being in a relationship, fear of committing to a relationship, or it’s a fear of defining relationship or fear of our ability to actually be a good partner to the other person,” Sinh says. Whatever the reason, "as long as they know what the reason is as to why they are not defining the terms and conditions of the relationship, then that’s a conscious choice."
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Signs you're in a situationship
You don't meet each other's friends or family
Do they like to keep things just between you two? Schiff says this might be a sign that things aren't progressing. In a more serious relationship, your partner will know about your friends and family, whereas in a situationship they only hang out with you out of convenience and don't make an effort to learn more about the people in your life.
You haven't talked about the future
“They might make plans in the future, but usually the ones that are just physical and casual," Klesman says.
See how often they bring up the future — whether it's a wedding six months from now, a concert a few weeks out or something else that insinuates you still have many, many years together.
In a relationship, you plan for the future in some capacity, whether it's a specific event or the next steps you're going to take as a couple. "In a situationship, there is really not too much discussion of the future,” Schiff says.
You're missing an emotional connection
You should be able to get deep with your partner. In fact, that's the only way for relationships to really thrive.
Schiff points out that conversations tend to be superficial and surface-level in a situationship. "They're not really asking you personal questions," she says. "You're not really talking about your hopes and dreams and biggest fears and like all those deep things."
You haven't defined your relationship
"So, what are we?" If you've ever asked this question and been left without a clear answer, then chances are you're in a situationship.
There are no labels whatsoever. What's more, Schiff says that there's a chance you aren't in an exclusive or monogamous relationship since it hasn't been defined by both parties.
Your communication is inconsistent
Klesman says there are no set expectations on what communication should look like in a situationship.
"Situationships are typically kind of an unspoken arrangement two people that are casually seeing each other romantically or physically," Klesman says. "That can vary from having regular communication to like kind of hitting each other up every so often."
You never know when you're going to see them
Unlike being in a relationship where you might have set dates and plans, a situationship is spontaneous and lacks consistency. You might see a person many times one week and then not see them again for a few weeks. "
Everything is based on convenience
"You don't want to really commit to the relationship, but you are sort of enjoying the benefits that you get from a relationship just based on convenience," Klesman says.
Schiff adds that it's more convenient for some people to be in situationships rather than committed relationships.
"You and that other person aren't really prioritizing each other. You're not really going out of your way to see the other person or make plans," Schiff says. "So, it may be more, you know, spur of the moment based on when you're available or if someone cancels on them or bailed on them."
You don't go on dates
Dates are a great way to help you get to know one another outside of your everyday environment. But in a situationship, there aren't many dates planned — if any at all. To that end, you might also not take the person you are seeing to official events like weddings and company parties.
The relationship isn't going anywhere
Feeling stuck? It's up to you to decide if you're happy with where you're at or want something more.
Some people are perfectly content with relationships that aren't progressing, which is why Sihn says it's important to take some time to determine what's best for you in the long run.
You aren't exclusive
If you're seeing other people, then you're not in a committed, monogmaosIf you're seeing other people, then you're in a situation as opposed to a committed, monogamous relationship.
Schiff's advice: Ask yourself if you've discussed exclusivity, and if one or both of you are actually seeing other people. You're the only one who knows the answer.
How — and when — to end a situationship
Situationships work for some, but not all.
If you're ready to end things, Schiff recommends being honest with yourself and the other person. “You have to be clear about what your intentions are for the relationship and kind of asking for what you want,” she says.
But don't wait until you're in too deep. As soon as you start to develop feelings for the other person, Sinh says you should let them know and ask how they feel about the current situation.
“Once you’ve kind of done that and you feel like you’ve gotten a response that gives you an indication that they’re on the same page as you, then that’s a good sign,” Sinh says.
But if you feel like you've invested a lot of time, given a clear idea of what you're looking for and still not getting the answer you're looking for, then "it's probably best to move on."
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: