The Rise (and the Inevitable Fall) of the Situationship, Explained
Welcome to Gen Teafication, where Esquire’s Gen-Zers explain the insanity that is internet culture. Bussies, Rizz, Big Boys, and more–we’re breaking down every new (and sometimes cringey) trend to hit this cesspool we call social media.
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This is a safe space to feel and to vent. For today, a user asks:
"I've been seeing person A for a few months now. 'Seeing' is one way to put it. It feels great when I'm with (A), but truth be told, I think I want something...safer. I've heard of how popular situationships are these days, but most of the time, it seems like someone's always on the losing end of it. I'm not really sure if I want to go on like this... I just want to feel secure, considering that Valentine's Day is coming up, too. I know (A) would hate it if I asked the 'What are we?' question. Ugh. Is this too toxic?"
What the hell is a situationship?
Well, it’s certainly not a relationship. It’s not a commitment, it’s not a promise, it’s barely even a connection. A situationship is the vague label that we slap onto even vaguer situations that we’re unwilling to develop into something else. At best, it’s an arrangement. At worst, it’s the early stage of leading people on. I’m having a hard time seeing the good side of a situationship. You’re essentially stuck in a state of limbo that’s undefined and uncommitted. For whatever, our generation is paranoid of labels, as if they’re bad luck or, worse, shackles. So we settle for situationships, which are neither here nor there.
Call me old fashioned, but situationships seem a little sus. It essentially lets people have all the perks of a relationship without laying their intentions on the table. Seems a little disingenuous to me.
Interestingly enough, Tinder's Year in Swipe data from 2022 (their version of the Spotify Wrapped thing) tells us that situationships are the most popular dating trend right now. It's a supposedly "valid" relationship status, users say. You do all the BF-GF things without the actual label. There's a connection, but not deep or meaningful enough for both of you to go all in. That can say a lot.
But the thing is, it's not for everyone. And just because it's popular with young people doesn't mean it has to appeal to you, too. It's hard to feel secure in situationships because, well, there isn't any commitment. It's "allegedly" a middle ground thing that encapsulates the not-really-sure-about-you-but-okay-this-is-nice-in-the-meantime. Feeling let down is an appropriate response to wishy-washyness.
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Why do people even choose a situationship?
I think “choose” is the operative word here. And by that we mean that stuationships are something you settle for, not actively choose. Unless you’re terrified of commitment, situationships aren’t really your first option, are they? People crave companionship and attention. There’s nothing wrong with that, and most importantly, there’s nothing wrong with asking for it. When did being honest with our feelings become unfashionable? Seriously, sometimes this generation is just a contest of who could care less.
Well, it's either because they're not sure about you or you're not sure about them (one of you just doesn't like the other that much). It can be as simple as that. But I think situationships appeal to people because they sort of foster the kind of emotional intimacy we (secretly) crave. Situationships put feeling good over everything else (the hugging, kissing, date-going, brunch-having, banging, etc.). A real relationship indulges in the mess and all the other ugly parts of commitment.
People get to keep their freedom while they're at it. We live in an era where individuality is king, and part of that sense of individualism is taking control of our selfhood as often as we can.
Or worse, they're just biding their time to find someone else. If that's the case, then there's the door.
Situationships are a form of casual dating, basically. Suffice to say, it's not for everyone. You don't have to make it your thing if it's not.
Are situationships just a way to excuse red flags?
It’s a yes from me. Situationships = all the perks of relationships without the consequences or responsibility. You put on blinders and you’re not judged for it. And that’s facts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone for their situationships. Or at least I’m trying not to. Or maybe I’m just judging the reason why it’s a situationship in the first place. Ask yourself: would you date this person outside of a situationship? Would you finally recognize their red flags?
I think a big part of situationships is that people are scared of getting checked for their red flags. There's a form of hiding here: offering just enough for you to stay, but not enough for them to commit. It can feel misleading to someone on the receiving end of this crapshoot.
My personal litmus test is the "three-month appraisal," if you will. If it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere after 12 weeks or if the novelty is gone and it feels dull, then reassess and talk to them about it. This should be enough time to determine if you (or they) want to continue or not. At this point, if they tell you that they're scared of getting their hearts broken, they're giving you the signal loud and clear. Christ, love is scary, but we all break the rules for that one person.
Also, the proverbial "What are we?" talk should come up earlier than that anyway. Say, six to eight weeks is a good sample size. If the answer is less than ideal, run.
How do you know when your situationship is toxic?
The moment you feel like you’re being led on a string. The moment you feel disappointed or dissatisfied, cut your losses and run. Like I said, situationships mean no commitment, so you don’t owe the other person anything. The moment you start wasting your time and money on something that’s going nowhere, take a page out of a man’s book and tell yourself, “Don’t let your situationship stop you from finding your partner.”
You deserve better than something half-assed, sis.
Any form of dissatisfaction should be enough reason for you to leave at any point of the situationship. If it gets to a point where you think too little of yourself and are just bargaining, that should be your cue. It's toxic.
Chances are, the ambiguity is going to take a toll on your overall well-being. That restless ambiguity over a long period of time means that it's not healthy anymore for you. There's also a small chance they've been thinking about ending things, too, if it's gone too long, and just don't have the guts to pull the trigger. Do it for them. Do it for you.
All opinions in this column are our own. The replies are written by u/saltysis (F, 26, PH) and u/mommyissues (M, 26, PH), two writers in the midst of a quarter-life crisis caught in the passive-aggressive war between millennials and Gen Zs. Alexa, play “Middle Child” by J. Cole.
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