Whether or not you and the guy you’re dating are involved in a “situationship” or a “real” relationship often comes down to matters like timing and progression.
What is a situationship?
A “situationship” is another term for “hanging out” or when two people are exploring “a thing” — i.e., a casual relationship without a label.
Serious romantic relationships, in contrast to casual dating, usually start out serious because two people have strong feelings for one another from the get-go.
As a result of this close connection, they naturally build a relationship without needing to have a heavy DTR (determine the relationship) talk about their relationship status.
As a psychologist, I’m ambivalent about casual relationships.
On one hand, casual dating seems to be the new norm. But on the other hand, if you hate the uncertainty of being in a situationship, it all feels like a frustrating game. As you lie in bed at night wondering, “What the heck am I doing?”, the ambiguity of your relationship status drives you crazy.
Looking at casual relationships objectively, the truth is that many relationships that start out as casual do end up becoming more serious.
Casual dating allows two people to ‘test drive’ the other person for compatibility before making a commitment. You get to know each other in an organic, less pressured situation.
The trick is figuring out what type of relationship you are in.
Everyone’s situation is unique, and if you do decide you want more, it might be worth having ‘DTR” (determine-the-relationship) talk.
Casual relationships have become a popular trend because they offer the following perceived benefits:
- A cure to loneliness
- Sex without the responsibilities of a serious relationship
- Less time commitment
- Good practice for future relationships
- No need to worry about missing out on dating other potential partners
- A source of emotional support
- A cheaper way to see someone than formally dating them
Additionally, situationships have become popular because they allow you time to gather information about someone and see if deeper feelings for them develop. Men and women alike worry that while someone might seem cool up front, they can’t be sure right away what this new person is really like.
But while it may sound like #relationshipgoals to get serious right from the start, there are certainly disadvantages to doing this.
Once in an exclusive relationship, partners can easily relax into their roles. As a result, they may become lazy or sloppy, taking each other for granted and making assumptions. They might even say something like, “Hey, you’re my girlfriend/boyfriend. You should put up with my bad behaviors.”
The tricky part thing about casual relationships arises when one person catches feelings before the other. This leaves the person who’s struck first by cupid’s arrow unsure of what to do.
They end up wondering, “Should I say anything, or should I be patient and hope things progress naturally? Should I move on to someone who’s certain about me in order to avoid having an awkward talk? If I do bring up how I feel, will I risk losing my current situation, or worse, getting rejected?”
Many people have the fantasy that if this person was perfect for them, things would progress naturally and there would never be a need to talk about it.
This also presumes that two people should always be on the same page, which is seldom the case.
A person can be so afraid of conflict or talking about their situation that they leave without any explanation.
After all, that’s supposed to be part of the deal, right? “I’m not responsible for your feelings.”
Recent studies show that 78 percent of Millennials have been ghosted at least once.
People turn to ghosting because they think it’s easier to start over than to confront difficult feelings. However, when you ask people what they would have preferred instead, most say they would rather be told directly that things are over.
What are your actual chances of turning your situationship into a relationship?
In real life, many relationships do start out as casual and progress. You probably know many couples who have successfully managed the transition from casual dating to a serious relationship. Despite what people think about the tendency for casual relationships to not work out, many people do commit, get married and maintain healthy, long-term relationships.
No one knows whether or not a situationship can grow into a relationship other than the two people involved.
In order to get a better assessment of your unique situation, you must keep your eyes open. Stay alert and aware. Watch what a man says and does.
Remember that behaviors are more telling than words. He might tell you he wants a relationship, while only calling late at night and seldom making time to see you.
In order to find out more about him, you can ask about his history, like how many relationships he’s had in the past. But, be careful. Just because he has had girlfriends in the past, that doesn’t mean you will be next. It’s easy to get caught up in his words or his past, but if he never catches feelings for you, it won’t matter what he says he wants.
Problems arise when the person who has more feelings begins feeling trapped.
You may have started out agreeing to keep things casual, but now feel jealous and possessive. You might have even agreed to see each other casually even though it wasn’t what you, which can lead to feelings of resentment.
The growing discomfort causes you to wonder, “Are they seeing someone else?”
If this sounds like you, and you now know you want an exclusive relationship, you have three options:
- Wait and see if your relationship develops naturally
- Bring it up by speaking openly about what you want
- Walk away and hope that he or she misses you and comes back
Essentially, there’s no reason for you to feel trapped because you always have options. You can wait, bring it up, or leave.
If you believe the two of you make a good team and that he may be open to making a commitment, ask yourself what the worst-case scenario might be if you choose to have “the talk.” If your feelings aren’t reciprocated, will you survive?
If you decide to be direct, good for you. Try not to put too much weight on the talk, and bring it up in a way that doesn’t feel like a confrontation.
Anyone can get freaked out by the words, “We need to talk.”
Relax, approach the topic of your relationship status in a positive way and picture things turning out well.
It’s also helpful to think through possible scripts ahead of time.
Here are some phrases that can help you have a successful DTR talk about your relationship status:
- “I think we are good together. I really like hanging out with you, and I want to see what a committed relationship with you would be like. What do you think?”
- “I know when we met you said you weren’t looking for anything serious and you didn’t have the time, but we do spend a fair amount of time together and you already treat me like your girlfriend. Is there something about a commitment that scares you?”
- “I’m scared too, but agreeing that we’re in a relationship doesn’t mean we have to get married.”
- “I know myself, and when I’m in a committed relationship, I can relax. I won’t have to feel worried about what else you might be doing, and we’ll have a chance to see what we really have here.”
Casual relationships can be tricky, but they don’t have to be impossible to negotiate.
Even if a ‘thing’ starts out with no title, rules, or expectations, people aren’t robots. They are entitled to change the way they feel.
Before you give up on your current situation or ghost the person you’ve been seeing, why not take a risk and ask for what you want?
Most men prefer when women can be direct with them instead of playing games.
How two people treat each other is more important than a label. You should be sensitive to one another while remaining true to yourself and authentic.
If you are willing to share your time and your body with someone, they deserve your respect and sensitivity.
All you can do is be responsible for your end of things.
As long as you feel good about the way you handle yourself, you’ll be fine. At the very least, you’ll be able to move on and keep looking for the kind of relationship you want.
Even if this particular situationship doesn’t work out, remember that your future relationship will benefit from practicing and continuing to build effective good communication skills.
Good for you!
Diane Strachowski is a licensed psychologist, dating and relationship expert, author, and researcher with more than 20 years of clinical experience. For more information on her services, visit her website.
This article was originally published at Secure In Love . Reprinted with permission from the author.