Skip to Content

Situationship: Meaning + 15 Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore

In this post we will talk about the meaning of the word situationship and the main red flags you might be in one.

Language surrounding relationships can be fascinating. The first time I heard the term ghosted I knew exactly what it meant without needing to be told.

I had felt haunted for some time by a person who dated and then discarded me, disappearing without any explanation. This behavior is called ghosting, and it so perfectly encapsulates the experience.

Situationship is a term that has arisen in our culture to describe something you might have experienced — or might even be experiencing now. What is it exactly? How can you tell when you’re in one? 

What Is a Situationship?

A situationship is considered relationship purgatory. You’re not single, but you’re not in a relationship either. You seem to be in a transitional phase, but you’re not sure if they’re coming or going. 

Situationships can be uncomfortable because of the uncertainty that comes with them. You might feel like you’re in a relationship, but you see indicators that the person you’re dating still acts single.

You might be in a place where you’re getting to know someone but don’t know if you can update a relationship status yet.

15 Situationship Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore

While situationships can apply to new dating scenarios, many can go on for weeks, months, or even years. These types of relationships can come with a lot of heartache.

Let’s take a look at 15 key situationship red flags.

1. There’s Not a Label

The harsh truth is that if you’re in a relationship without a label, you’re in a situationship. It’s that simple.

If you’re dating someone new, there will be a progression when you’re getting to know each other where you might be in a situationship.

You think it’s going to become more, but you aren’t there yet. This is normal, natural, and nothing to be worried about. When the time is right, you can discuss the relationship and find out what label best fits what you both want. 

If you’ve been dating for a while and still haven’t had the discussion, it’s likely time to ask what’s going on. You need clarity in your relationship. If it’s casual, open, or polyamorous, you’ll want to know that upfront.

Otherwise, if you’re meant to be exclusive, that’s something you’ll want to discuss, too.

If you’ve been dating the same person for a while and have no label, it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship and ask yourself if you’re comfortable with continuing this way. 

2. The Relationship Isn’t Exclusive

In situationships, you might be sitting around being monogamous while your partner is living the single life. Unless you’re in a polyamorous relationship, you should know if the relationship you’re in is exclusive or not.

There should be talks about whether or not you agree to date other people. 

If you suspect that your person isn’t just your person, it might be time to discuss the boundaries of the relationship.

If you aren’t comfortable sharing or if you are but want to be kept informed, this is something that’s important to discuss as the relationship progresses. 

3. The Relationship Doesn’t Grow

Situationships stagnate. They don’t grow. You’ll find that one important sign of a situationship is that the relationship might start strong, but it tends to fizzle out.

In normal relationships, you should be building intimacy and getting to know each other better. To use video games as an analogy, you should be progressing to different levels of the game.

In situationships, you stay on the same level repeating the same moves over and over again but never getting anywhere. Rather than thriving, you might even find this situation to be draining. 

4. You’re Not Planning for a Shared Future

Normal couples can talk about a shared future. You can plan for how your lives will grow together. This is something that rarely happens in situationships.

In fact, you might even notice that your partner avoids discussing the future. If the future comes up, you can’t tell if you’re in it.

It doesn’t feel like you’re building something together. It might just feel like they’re passing the time with you.

5. You Don’t Have Any Couple Pictures

Whether or not you like to post pictures on social media, it’s completely normal to have photos of the person you’re dating on your phone.

In fact, in that early glow of a relationship, you might have all kinds of loved-up selfies saved. Some might even be of the sexier variety. 

There’s proof that you were together when you have photos. In situationships, you likely don’t have any evidence you were ever with them.

You don’t have the cute selfies — not even private ones for your own enjoyment. You certainly don’t post photos of the two of you together. 

6. You See Them Inconsistently

In a regular relationship, you have a pretty good idea when you’re going to see someone. In a situationship, you never quite know if you’ll get to see them or not. Most plans seem to be last-minute, and you’re not ever sure if they’ll come through for you or cancel. 

Without regular communication, the relationship loses some of the spark that kept you invested. You’re afraid they’re dating someone else — and they probably are.

You see them so little that you begin to fear that they’ve moved on without telling you. This is a sign of a situationship, not a relationship.

Recommended read: FWB Relationships: Meaning and Rules to Make It Really Work

7. You Don’t Go Out on Actual Dates

Be honest: Do you go on actual dates, or do you just “hang out”? If you’re just hanging out together, you’re likely seeing a significant sign of a situationship. 

In relationships, you can go on actual dates and be seen out together. The entire relationship doesn’t just take place in your bedroom or in theirs. You want to share experiences with each other that involve clothing and going outdoors.

Without actual dates, your connection might be more casual than a relationship, landing in the situationship category.

8. They Avoid Major Holidays with You

Ask yourself this: Does your lover disappear around major holidays? Do they become suddenly busy and no longer have time for you? Are they going to holiday events without you? 

In a relationship, you usually have a plan for how you’ll spend holidays together. Even if you’re going separate places, you’ll still touch base and try to spend time together around your schedules.

In a situationship, you shouldn’t expect to be included in their holiday plans — or for them to want to be included in yours. Major holidays are avoided because they signal commitment — something many people who prefer situationships avoid at all costs. 

9. You Aren’t Each Other’s Date for Events

One of the main situationship red flags is that you have a person you see regularly, but you don’t actually have a plus-one when it comes to important dates and events.

You have someone to keep you warm at night, but you still end up sitting at the lonely singles’ table at weddings. You have someone you date regularly, but you still are left enduring the questions of your relatives about why no one has seen this person you claim to be dating.

In situationships, you don’t have a person filling in the role of partner. You might have a bedmate, a lover who is always happy to be there for you when it’s convenient. You don’t have a partner you can rely on to show up for you in good times and bad. 

10. You Haven’t Met Their Friends or Family

Could their friends and family pick you out of a line-up?

If you haven’t met any of their friends and family but you’ve been dating for a reasonable amount of time, it’s possible that you haven’t made the leap from situationship to relationship.

It would be normal to meet some of the people in their lives during the course of your relationship.

What’s not normal is dating the same person in an ongoing relationship and never meeting anyone close to them. Do they not have friends? Do they not have family in the area?

Meeting each other’s people is a relationship step, but it’s not a situationship one. 

11. The Connection Is Shallow

One of the most common situationship red flags is the level of connection within the relationship. Do you make small talk or keep all the talk around what you do in the bedroom?

If the intellectual and emotional connection is shallow, there’s a good chance you’re in a situationship, not a mature and healthy relationship.

If you keep finding that you don’t have a lot to talk about in this undefined relationship, you’re in situationship territory.

It could be that you’re simply not a good match and haven’t admitted it to yourself yet, or you could have been slotted into a more casual role in their life rather than in a steady relationship one. 

12. You’re Not Integrating Your Lives

Not only do you not share a future in a situationship, you also don’t integrate your daily lives. Your lives run parallel to each other, but they don’t mix.

If one of you didn’t reach out to the other, you’d likely never meet again.

It’s not that you need someone to come in and take over your life, but there should be some overlap between your paths if you’re in an actual relationship.

Situationships require no such overlap. You’re like ships in the night, briefly passing on the way to somewhere else. 

13. They Get Philosophical When You Ask About the Relationship Status

There are so many excuses you’ll be given when someone wants to avoid a relationship.

You might find that your lover suddenly becomes a philosopher questioning monogamy and labels. They claim that they don’t want to be put in a box and that they don’t want you to be put in one either, but the only box you want them to check is the relationship one.

If you want a relationship but they keep avoiding that label, you’re in a situationship. All their pretty philosophical excuses mean one thing. No.

No, they don’t want to be in a relationship with you. No, they’re not going to change their minds later. Just no.

14. You’re On Again/Off Again

Situationships can be a rollercoaster. You’re on again/off again most of the time. It might not even be because you’re fighting.

They may just appear and disappear from your life out of convenience. You were never “together” so you could never breakup, but it might have felt like a breakup every single time they left. 

If you have the label, your on again/off again scenario could just be the sign of a toxic relationship, but if you’re without a label and keep dealing with a lover who circles back around, you might have found yourself stuck in a situationship pattern. 

15. You Have Anxiety About the Nature of the Relationship

You’re anxious, and the uncertainty of the relationship stresses you out. You want a relationship, but you’re not sure what they want.

Maybe it’s because you haven’t talked about it yet, or perhaps you’ve brought it up, but they’ve evaded a definition of your relationship. You’re not getting what you want and need, but you care about them and don’t want to leave.

Congratulations: you’re in a situationship. You know you want more, but for whatever reason, you’re not advocating for your needs. Instead, you’re allowing this not-relationship to continue in hopes that it turns into what you want. 

What To Do About Your Situationship

If you’re in this limbo but want to be in a relationship, there are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What kind of relationship do I really want? Is it monogamous or polyamorous? Is it Facebook official or something we only tell close friends and family?
  • Am I okay with things as they are if there’s no hope if it growing into a relationship?
  • Does a casual, open relationship work for me and what I want in my life?

Situationships can be wonderful for people who just want casual connection and intimacy without the responsibilities and commitment of a relationship.

But for people who are longing to be in a committed relationship, situationships really are purgatory.

They are so close to what you want but fall short. You might want to ignore all the ways they let you down, but your underlying sense of unease won’t let you forget. 

You might want to romanticize the connection, make excuses for their fear of commitment, and even “stand by your man” (or other gender) while they work out their issues, but at the end of the day, you get to decide if you want to be in a situationship.

If the answer is no, you’ll need to advocate for yourself. It will take courage. After all, they may not want what you do.

But you need to ask — and to decide what you’ll do if they don’t ever want to level up with you. 

Recommended reads

Photo by Filipp Romanovski on Unsplash

The Truly Charming