Situationship: How to Cope When Commitment Is Unclear
Dating Relationship Single
7 minute
Dating Relationship Single
Read Time: 7 minute(s)

e paeToday’s dating world witnesses a lot of ‘situationships’. A sexual or romantic relationship without labels or any promise of commitment is basically a situational relationship. While these relationships can offer a sense of thrill and excitement in the beginning, they can also lead to the emotional turmoil of wanting more out of a relationship. When boundaries and expectations are not clear, it can become challenging to cope.

Let’s understand situational relationships with historical context and strategies that will help you cope when commitment is unclear.

What are Situationships?

A situationship is a term combining ‘situation’ and ‘relationship’. When you find yourself in a situation where there is romantic or sexual fulfilment but not relational commitment, that can be a situationship. The term started gaining traction around 2006, with its earliest definitions appearing in the Urban Dictionary. But it wasn’t until 2017 that the term was popularised in mainstream culture, largely thanks to Carina Hseih’s article in Cosmopolitan exploring a romantic-sexual relationship without any clear nature.

As a relationship and intimacy coach, I have guided many individuals through the complexities of modern dating and relationships. It is totally okay if the two of you are on the same page regarding your needs. But if one of you wants more out of the relationship than the other partner is willing to give, it is time to assess the situation and take action to prevent heartbreak.

Let’s understand a relationship without commitment with an example: Arif and Sayesha

It is the story of Sayesha and Arif, two individuals who met through mutual friends. They connected quickly and well, going on dates and spending time with each other. They shared deep intimacy and conversations and had a satisfying physical relationship.

However, despite their closeness, a conversation regarding their long-term intentions remained at bay. Neither Arif nor Sayesha brought up a discussion about their relational needs.

Arif, desiring more clarity and commitment, felt uncertain about where he stood with Sayesha. He questioned whether their connection was simply a casual fling or something more substantial. Whenever Arif attempted to bring up the topic of commitment, Sayesha would deflect or avoid the discussion, leaving Arif confused and unsure about the nature of their relationship.

Throughout their time together, Arif and Sayesha continued to engage in romantic activities and share intimate moments. However, the absence of clear boundaries and defined expectations left Arif anxious and questioning their connection’s future.

In addition, the lack of communication about their intentions created a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty, making their relationship a classic example of a situationship.

Now, many people ask me this question- why don’t they let me go?

I ask them- Would you let go of an unlimited supply of attention and validation without having to return it?

My next question is- You are an adult. Instead of asking, ‘Why don’t they let me go?’ why don’t you ask yourself, ‘Even though I can leave, why am I choosing to stay in this relationship dynamic that is not fulfilling?.’

The Impact of Situational Relationships

Situational relationships can have both positive and negative impacts on the individuals involved. The impact on an individual wanting more than just sex or intimacy can be severe. From reduced self-esteem to stunted personal growth, one feels emotional exhaustion, attachment issues, and scepticism about the possibility of finding a committed partner.

On the one hand, they offer freedom and flexibility, allowing people to explore personal growth, pursue their ambitions, and enjoy companionship without the pressure of commitment. They can provide a space for self-discovery and experimentation, which can appeal to some individuals.

On the other hand, the lack of clear boundaries and defined expectations in situational relationships can lead to confusion, emotional ambiguity, and potential misunderstandings. The absence of commitment may leave one or both individuals feeling insecure, jealous, or dissatisfied.

Navigating Situationships with Communication and Self-Awareness

An open and honest conversation about their needs is paramount to navigating the complex dynamics of a situationship. Both the partners must put across what they seek in a relationship and whether or not they can provide each other the same.

Suggested Reading: 10 Tips For Effective Communication In A New Relationship

Establishing clear boundaries within the situationship is essential. Discussing comfort levels, emotional availability, expectations around exclusivity, communication frequency, and plans can provide both individuals with a sense of security and understanding.

All of it is possible to discuss if the individuals are aware of who they are and what they need in a relationship. Engaging in self-reflection can help them be in tune with their relational expectations, gain clarity on what kind of a partner they seek, and identify the areas they need to work on themselves.

How to cope when commitment is unclear

Here are some examples of situations that might indicate unclear commitment and how one can cope with it:

1. One-Sided Effort:

You find yourself putting in all the effort to maintain the relationship while your partner seems disengaged or uninterested. You initiate most of the conversations, plan the dates, and make compromises, while your partner rarely reciprocates. This unbalanced effort can signal that the situationship is not mutually fulfilling.

2. Limited Availability:

Your partner consistently keeps you at arm’s length, only making time for you sporadically or when it’s convenient for them. They may prioritize other aspects of their life over spending quality time with you or dismiss your requests for more time together. Feeling consistently undervalued or like an afterthought may indicate that the situationship is not meeting your needs for connection and companionship.

3. Mixed Messages:

Your partner sends mixed signals about their intentions or the relationship’s future. They may say they care about you but avoid discussing commitment or long-term plans. This inconsistency can leave you feeling confused and uncertain about where you stand, making it difficult to build a foundation of trust and security.

4. Lack of Growth or Progression:

Despite investing time and emotional energy into the situationship, you notice a lack of growth or progression in the relationship. It feels stagnant, with no signs of moving forward or evolving into a more committed partnership. If you desire a deeper connection and see no potential for growth, it may be time to explore other possibilities.

5. Emotional Unavailability:

Your partner consistently struggles to meet your emotional needs. They may be unwilling or unable to provide the support, understanding, or vulnerability necessary for a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Feeling emotionally disconnected or unsatisfied over an extended period can indicate that the situational relationship is not meeting your emotional requirements.

One thing you must remember is that a situational relationship with non-defined boundaries, expectations, and commitment has no bearing on someone’s emotional availability quotient.

People in situational relationships choose to be in one. Without an open and clear dialogue on the topic of commitment, one cannot know in what direction they want to take this relationship.

Suggested Reading: Understanding Attachment Styles in Relationships: A Guide to Healthy Connections

6. Incompatible Goals:

You realize that your long-term relationship goals and aspirations fundamentally differ from your partner’s. One of the partners may want to build a family, but they may not be on the same page. Your partner may want to move to another country for a career, but you may not be ready for it. If you cannot reconcile these differences or envision a shared path, it may be best to seek a relationship that aligns better with your goals.

Situational relationship exists in the grey area

A situational relationship lies somewhere between casual dating and committed partnerships, marked by the absence of clear boundaries and defined expectations. While they offer freedom and flexibility, situationships can create uncertainty and emotional ambiguity. By facilitating open and honest communication and being attuned to personal needs and aspirations, individuals can find their way through the intricacies of a situational relationship, learning what truly fulfils them in matters of the heart.