The Pros and Cons of Situationships: Ultimate Insights From a Relationship Expert

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Published Date|
February 20, 2024

The Pros and Cons of Situationships: Ultimate Insights From a Relationship Expert

You’ve just started seeing someone new, and things are going really well.

You love spending time together, they’ve met some of your friends, and you’re happy whenever you’re around them.

But when you’re introducing them to someone new, you don’t actually know what to call them - and you aren’t sure if they really want a relationship or not.

Situationships can be complicated, and here at KMA Therapy, we know you want advice from the best of the best. For over 15 years, we’ve helped our clients and community connect with experts to answer their most pressing questions about life, love, and relationships.

With insights from relationship expert and therapist Dr. Kimberly Moffit, this is the only situationship guide you’ll ever need.

After reading this article, you’ll know what a situationship is, how dating apps have influenced situationship culture, the positives and negatives of situationships, and how to leave a situationship that’s no longer good for you.

What is a Situationship?

“A situationship is a dynamic that exists somewhere between early dating and a more serious, long-term committed relationship,” shares Dr. Moffit.

You’ll know you’re in a situationship when there are romantic feelings involved in a casual relationship. Situationships often (but not always) involve a sexual relationship. If you’re in the grey area where you find yourself wanting to ask the classic “what are we?” question, you’re in a situationship.

what is a situationship

While situationships can be a healthy way to explore different relationship dynamics with less pressure, the problems begin to arise when both people don’t feel the same way.

One person might start to develop deeper feelings, and if these feelings are unrequited, a fun situationship can quickly become messy and painful.

Why are Situationships Suddenly So Common?

Situationships are becoming more common as cultural dating dynamics begin to shift - which can have positive and negative implications depending on what you want from a partner.

“In today's day and age, people are steering a little further away from convention,” shares Dr. Moffit. “There’s not just one way for a relationship to be anymore.”

The way we date is changing. Historically, dating was done with the intention of getting married as young as possible and having kids as quickly as you could. (If you’ve been watching Bridgerton, you’ll know just how complicated dating used to be.) 

why are situationships so common

Women, especially, have more freedom in dating than ever before - it certainly helps when you can earn your own money and have your own bank account.

“We're seeing the rise of situationships because people are getting to their late 20s, 30s, and 40s, without being in long-term relationships, and I think that's actually a really great thing,” shares Dr. Moffit. “It's more empowering. And it leaves room for a lot of dynamics that fall in between super early dating and marriage.”

It’s important to have the freedom to explore dynamics between early dating and marriage, but these dynamics can be complicated to manage without clear expectations.

How Do Dating Apps Impact Situationship Culture?

When you’re swiping right and left on hundreds of faces a day, it can be hard to see how dating apps could ever lead to a serious relationship.

Still, online dating is becoming one of the most popular ways for couples to meet. One 2019 study from Stanford found that 39% of US couples met on dating apps (and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed even more of our lives online.

“Apps get a really bad reputation, and they get blamed for a lot of the problems that we’re seeing in modern day dating culture,” shares Dr. Moffit, “But whether there are dating apps or not, people always need to have the experience of getting out there and finding out what's right for them.”

A lot of the problems dating apps get blamed for can be seen in all types of dating - whether you meet online or in-person.

Just because you meet someone on a dating app it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to commit to you, and just because you meet someone in-person it doesn’t mean they’ll end up being your future spouse.

Having clear intentions is one of the best ways to avoid a situationship, and using detailed bios and filters on dating apps can be a great way to make your intentions known.

Ultimately, you need to go through the beginning phases of a relationship in order to get to the long-term commitment you’re seeking.

“I do believe that short-term relationships and early dating periods are an essential part of relationship culture,” shares Dr. Moffit. “Apps shouldn't be blamed for it.”

situationship pros and cons

What are the Pros of Being in a Situationship?

“There are a lot of positives to being in a situationship, especially if it's mutual,” explains Dr. Moffit. “They allow you to explore really healthy dynamics without the pressures of a long-term relationship.”

1. Situationships help you learn about relationships

We’re wired for companionship, and if you’re not in a place where you can commit to a long-term relationship, it doesn’t mean you need to be alone.

“If you’re somebody who knows you’re not ready to settle down and have a long-term relationship, like if you’re a university student or a doctor in residency, you can practice these dynamics with someone,” shares Dr. Moffit. “You get to have this experience, but in a way that feels right for you.”

Situationships can teach you a lot about how you feel in relationships, what you value in a partner, and how you want to feel when you’re committed to someone.

When both parties in a situationship are on the same page, situationships can be a great place for self-discovery and companionship.

2. Situationships allow you to explore what you want

Another important thing to remember about situationships is that they’re not committed relationships. While this can be painful if you want to be exclusive, it can be an asset when everyone is on the same page.

“Situationships allow you to date multiple people at a time,” shares Dr. Moffit. “You can enjoy the experience of dating and you can learn what’s right for you as you’re growing.”

Having a “dating roster” can get a bad reputation, but in the early stages of dating, it can be helpful to speak to multiple people at once. You don’t need to feel like you have to commit to someone just because you both swiped right on an app.

If you go on a first date with someone, knowing they’re not your only option can also help you be more objective about whether you’re compatible or not.

3. Situationships help you learn to communicate

When you are speaking to multiple people and going on casual dates, communication is key.

Situationships get messy when there’s a breakdown in communication, and both people are no longer in agreement about what the relationship really is.

Be clear about what you want from the other person and what you’re able to give from them. If you’re feeling like you want to move on from the situationship, have clear and honest discussions as soon as you begin to have these feelings.

“As long as you're communicating what you're ready for and what you're not ready for,” reminds Dr. Moffit, “The other person won’t be surprised when they hear what it is that you want.”

What are the Cons of Being in a Situationship?

Situationships can have a lot of positives, but they get a bad reputation because they often go wrong.

Without clear communication and boundaries, the negatives of situationships can begin to pile up.

1. Situationships can lead to dishonesty

Situationships can breed dishonesty if the other person isn’t actually honest about what they want from you (and vice-versa.)

If you’re clear about wanting a long-term relationship but they don’t, they may be vague about their intentions to stay with you. They might not have bad intentions - they may really enjoy your company but they aren’t ready to commit - but this ultimately wastes your time when the situationship comes to its inevitable end.

“If they’ve led you to believe they want a long-term relationship and really they don’t,” shares Dr. Moffit, “this can have a crushing effect on your self-esteem and really waste your time.”

2. Feelings are fluid - and situationships are no exception

Even if you’re on the same page at the beginning of your situationship, it’s easy for one or both of you to develop feelings (especially if your relationship becomes sexual.)

Your feelings can be unpredictable, and even if you’re okay with something casual in the beginning, it’s normal for you to start wanting more.

If one person wants to turn a situationship into a full-blown relationship but the other person doesn’t, that’s when things can get messy and feelings can start to get hurt.

“Situationships can be emotionally vulnerable,” reminds Dr. Moffit, “And that is a risk that you take when getting into one.”

3. Situationships can stop you from getting the relationship you actually want

If you know you’re ready for a long-term relationship, staying in a situationship can prevent you from getting the commitment you really want.

While exploring a new dynamic with your situationship can be fun for a while, it can become a waste of your time if you know it’s not what you really want.

If you’re trying to wait it out and see if your situationship will change their mind and commit to you, it might be time to call it off.

How to End a Situationship

Ending a situationship doesn’t have to be messy - it’s enough to be kind and honest with the other person about how you’re feeling and what you want moving forward.

It’s better to end a situationship sooner rather than later and clearly communicate your feelings.

When ending a situationship, make sure to:

  • Talk to them right away
  • Be kind, not confrontational
  • Be clear about what you want in a relationship
  • Create some distance between yourself and the other person
  • Remind yourself of what you want moving forward and set clear expectations with yourself

“Ultimately, if this person is not looking for the same things as you are, you will end up disappointed and it can take a toll on your mental health and your self esteem,” says Dr. Moffit. “Your personal health and your wellness are the most important things.”

Next Steps for Developing Healthy Relationships

After reading this article, you know what a situationship is, the positives and negatives of situationships, and how to move on when your situationship has run its course.

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re relationship experts. Since KMA Therapy was founded by Dr. Kimberly Moffit in 2008, our therapy team has helped thousands of clients learn what they want in relationships and find the fulfilling relationships they deserve.

Learn more about our relationship services by visiting our Relationship Issues page.

Register online for more information from our team or take our free Attachment Styles Quiz to learn about how you think, feel, and act in relationships.

If you’d prefer to keep reading, explore these related articles:

Author |
Emily Weatherhead
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