8 Signs You're in a Situationship (So You Never Have to Say, "We Were On a Break")

Let's define the undefinable.
Big and Carrie Sex and the City Situationship
Photo: Getty Images / Staff
Jamie Cuccinelli the knot writer and wedding expert
Jamie Cuccinelli
Jamie Cuccinelli the knot writer and wedding expert
Jamie Cuccinelli
Senior Editor, Sex & Relationships
  • Jamie is a Senior Editor for The Knot where she oversees all sex and relationship editorial content.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, she worked with an array of digital publications that include Brides, The Zoe Report, Bustle and MyDomaine.
  • Jamie graduated with a degree in English and Media, Culture & Communications from New York University.
Updated Aug 31, 2023

Before it was even dubbed its official moniker, the situationship was alive and kicking. Case in point: Big and Carrie in the OG run of Sex and The City, and Friends' Ross and Rachel. (Were they ever really on a break?!) But as the term grew in popularity, so it seems that the rise of the actual relationship type did as well. Seriously: How many times have you had to weigh in on "What does XYZ mean?!" over brunch?

So whether you're looking to navigate a situationship or just learn what one is in the first place, you've come to the right place. We've enlisted Shari A. Loveday, M.A., LCMFT of Love Well Family Therapy and the podcast Black Girl, Love Well to help us help you define the undefinable.

In this article:

What Is A Situationship?

Loveday can put it succinctly: "A situationship is a romantic relationship that is not defined or labeled." So although the couple may be sexually active or seeing one another regularly in romantic settings, "they refuse to label it one way or the other," she says.

These non-committal relationships may be dragged on if neither partner wants to begin the discussion of clarifying their relationship, expectations, and long-term goals. And, in addition to quite a bit of confusion, they can also cause hurt or unrequited feelings—mainly due to the lack of communication in situationships.

Situationship vs. friends with benefits

In case you're unfamiliar with the 2011 rom-com flick of the same name, a friends-with-benefits relationship is one in which two friends begin a sexual relationship. They may or may not date others during this time, but this is clearly communicated. While by definition a situationship lacks clarity, those in a friends-with-benefits relationship should be clear about where they stand. Healthy "friends with benefits" can exist when any and all parties communicate honestly and adhere to their set boundaries.

Situationship vs. relationship

"In a healthy romantic relationship, we clearly define who we are to each other and what expectations there are within the relationship," Loveday explains. "We have difficult conversations that help each partner feel secure and clear about the connection."

These difficult conversations may be related to your relationship structure (such as monogamous or polyamorous), hopes for the future and how to best support and show up for one another. You can learn more about the signs of a committed, healthy relationship here.

8 Signs You're In A Situationship

Nervous that you and your boo fall under the situationship category? Here are some signs of those non-relationship relationships.

1. Undefined boundaries

In situationships, you're often unclear on your partner's boundaries (such as those related to monogamy)—and they may be unaware of yours.

2. A lack of communication

"You don't really know what the nature of the relationship is," summarizes Loveday. One or more parties in the situationship may fail to communicate (or withhold) their expectations for the relationship and/or their plans for the future.

3. Feelings of confusion

"You might be asking yourself, 'What do I call them? Who should I tell people they are to me?'" says Loveday.

4. One-sided effort

"One partner might become more attached and want more—only to have their hopes dashed when the other partner wants to remain non-descript," says Loveday. This can also manifest in one partner putting in more effort planning dates or caring for their partner, and not having these actions reciprocated. You can learn more about one-sided relationships here.

5. You haven't met one another's friends or family.

They may be reluctant to introduce you until the relationship is more clearly defined and established.

6. You don't make plans in advance.

Scheduling dates last minute could be a sign of a lack of commitment.

7. You or your partner are still seeing other people.

Continuing to date around (when monogamy in long-term relationships is preferred by either partner) is indicative of a more casual arrangement.

8. You are not emotionally vulnerable with each other.

While you may be physically or sexually in-sync, one or more parties in a situationship may avoid emotional vulnerability.

What Should You Do If You're In A Situationship?

"First, you get to decide whether or not a situationship is what you want," says Loveday. "Are you sacrificing clarity and security to be with someone because they desire this type of relationship?"

If you decide that you want a more clearly defined arrangement, Loveday outlines two options: "You can either break off your situationship and move on, or you can talk to your situationship partner and find out if they would be willing to have a conversation in which you share what you'd like to see more of,..[and] invite them to define what [a relationship] could look like together."

How To End A Situationship

When it comes to defining or putting an end to a situationship, Loveday encourages a bit of self-reflection first. "To clarify a relationship with your partner, you will first need to clarify it with yourself," she says. "Sit with what you are feeling and what you need, so that you clearly understand those things before you try to communicate them to a partner."

When you're ready to end the sticky situationship and begin the conversation with your partner, "Start with what has been positive about the relationship, so they know what you love about it," Loveday encourages. "Next, lead with your heart. Tell them how you feel about the lack of clarity and what you need. Ask if they have the capacity to meet those needs."

"If they can't, you may have your answer," says Loveday. "They may not want the same things as you or they may not have the capacity to move into a relationship marked by clarity and vulnerability. If that is the case, you will have to decide what space this person will hold in your life."

How To Get Over A Situationship

If you've made the tough decision to stop seeing your situationship partner, know that this allows the opportunity for other new relationships that may better meet your needs.

Still, moving forward can be difficult—and that's putting it mildly! For help getting over a break-up, find expert-approved tips here.

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