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Saying you are in a relationship comes with a range of emotions, obligations, and expectations that may make you feel uncomfortable.
If only you could change your mind about a partner as easily as you change clothes and find someone suitable for the particular pursuit you’re engaged in at that moment.
That’s exactly what a situationship is all about – change and freedom within the relationship realm.
Of course, with any relationship, there are some rules that ensure everyone involved knows exactly what the boundaries are and how to play by the basic guides of a situationship.
With the situationship rules made clear, you and your partner or partners (of the moment or situation) can live life on your terms.
Let’s find out exactly what a situationship is and how to apply the rules so you get the best out of this unique relationship structure.
What Is a Situationship?
Like other forms of relationships, a situationship is an agreement between partners, but this agreement is based on casual and convenient connection. Whether you have sex, hang out together, or just meet up when you feel lonely, the situationship is based on an immediate need fulfillment, not on lasting or deeper attachment.
In a situationship, both partners meet up to satisfy their needs, with no real regard for feelings, intimacy, and building bonds. It’s about having a transient interaction with a human being you feel comfortable with for the sole purpose of not feeling lonely.
Over the holidays, a situationship may emerge between two people, satisfying their need to have a +1 to take to social meetings, to satisfy physical urges with, and to socialize with them on an informal level.
Situationships aren’t even exclusive, unless you both agree to it.
You may start a situationship for any of the following reasons or more:
- To discuss philosophy while you snuggle at night
- For the purpose of sex when you’re feeling lonely
- To watch sport or participate in a hobby together
- To socialize at public events when you don’t have a partner
- To have children with (aka baby-daddy or baby-mommy)
- To make holidays less lonely
- For a holiday romance
Situationship vs Friends with Benefits
You may wonder if a situationship isn’t just a friends with benefits (FWB) scenario. However, in a situationship, you and the other person may not necessarily even be friends and the relationship doesn’t exceed its bounds.
A FWB relationship fosters some reciprocity and connection, while a situationship is transitory and merely aimed at satisfying a current need.
While you may decide you and the other person can hook up in the future, you don’t necessarily plan a future date or keep in touch when you’re beyond the situation that you want them to be around you.
When you and your friend move to a FWB relationship, there’s the background of friendship and an expectation of reciprocity. A situationship is completely without expectation, but there are rules that make it work.
In an evolving society, it’s a unique, obligation-free version of a casual relationship that lets you choose what you want without having to offer justification or compromise your emotions.
A situationship is a beneficial relationship for someone who lives a busy life where they want to focus on themselves and not be burdened with a typical relationship and all its expectations.
Signs of a Situationship Relationship
So how do you know whether the relationship you’re in is a FWB, a fling, or a situationship? Here are the signs that your evening of fun is actually a situationship.
It’s not clear-cut
When you and the other person don’t have a clearly defined relationship plan, it’s a sign of a situationship. Chances are that it’s a casual, opportunity-based relationship that feels transient and not like a relationship.
You probably don’t feel like you have to see the other person again, but you also know that if you want to, you can call them up for a future date.
You don’t put feeling into it
In a situationship, you won’t be worried about the other person’s feelings, and they don’t have an obligation to care for yours, at least not beyond being polite and having basic considerations. You both keep it light and friendly.
There’s no pressure to open up or commit, and you don’t have any expectation of sharing. In fact, sharing is a characteristic of a deeper relationship, which may be the natural progression from a situationship or the end of one.
Time passes unnoticed
Unlike a relationship where you and your partner want to spend as much time together as possible, (and if they are missing in action for even a day, it feels like ghosting) a situationship is so casual that you may spend a day together and not see each other for months (or years, even).
Situationships are exactly as they sound – based on the moment and not necessarily on the person or any attachment.
Only the present exists
Situationships reveal themselves when you and the person you’ve chosen don’t have any desire to share your past or plan for a future together. Instead, you are very focused on what works right now.
Since there’s no future planning or past commiseration, you have much less emotional baggage in a situationship, which is why it can be deliciously liberating.
It’s a gray arrangement
Your agreement with your situationship partner is a gray area where you don’t have any predetermined expectations of meeting each other’s friends or family. Neither of you have any expectation of this relationship going any further than the moment.
When asked what your relationship is like, you just say fun, and it needs no explanation beyond that.
In fact, a situationship doesn’t necessarily mean you and your partner dwell in the same circles or that you’re even considered friends by your other connections. Your agreement exists solely in the situation that you have chosen each other for.
It’s always your choice
Life is complicated, and with online dating making the concept of “swipe relationships” more common, many singles believe that a situationship relationship is their choice, gives them more ways to meet their needs, and lets them focus on themselves without apology.
Now you know the signs you may be in a situationship relationship, it’s time to consider what the rules are of such a situationship and how these help the relationship to work.
9 Situationship Rules for a Healthy Relationship
Your situationship rules need not be fixed, and it doesn’t have to be the same for all your potential partners.
Instead, the only guide is that you discuss the rules with any potential match and ensure you both agree to these as the rules are what defines your particular situationship and sets it apart from other forms of relationships.
1. “Surface-Level” Is the Name of the Game
By definition, a situationship is surface-level. You and your partner – for the moment – agree that you keep things fun, light, and easy. Your situational partner won’t appreciate you offloading your day’s work stress or oversharing about your family’s issues.
Likewise, you may even have a situational partner in addition to your regular relationship partner – in which case, you won’t want to share about one with the other.
Your situationship is about meeting new people in different settings, and these people can all be potential situational partners.
You may meet a situational partner and instantly progress to this unusual form of partnership, or you may exchange a few pleasantries or text messages before agreeing on your situationship.
2. Feelings Aren’t the Point
In a regular relationship, the aim is to share, help to support each other’s feelings, and connect through adversity. However, a situationship isn’t usually about feelings, and to keep things light, you’d have to keep your feelings under control.
In some rare situationships, such as trauma bonding, the purpose of the situationship is to deal with emotions, to offer emotional support without complicating matters with other aspects of a relationship.
In this case, your situationship is about being a sounding board to each other without the added pressure of shared friends, family, and work complications.
3. It’s About You
Most relationships are about sharing power, gain, and status. However, a situationship is about you. It’s a relationship that’s solely focused on your pleasure, satisfaction, and gain.
A situationship isn’t functional if you become too focused on your partner’s needs. Instead, a situationship is meant to be a “selfish” and one-sided beneficial relationship in that you don’t put your partner first. It’s about a relationship that works for you (and it’s a relationship that works for your at-the-moment partner).
While your partner can also gain in the situationship, it’s not the purpose of the arrangement.
4. No More Planning Around Your Partner
If you’ve been in a typical relationship, you probably know how hard it can be to sync up your schedule with your partner’s.
It’s often a case of having to compromise and cancel something, so you can meet your partner. It’s frustrating, and it can be really demotivating.
In a situationship, you don’t have to consider your partner’s schedule, and you work around what is in your best interest.
If you want to go to the movie premier on Saturday and your usual movie buddy is busy, you can call on any of your other situational partners to step in, or you can go alone, without any feelings of guilt.
A situationship is about doing what’s best for you and that may be different, depending on the situation. But nevertheless, the situationship works for you – any situation you find yourself in and that meets your needs – period.
5. It’s a Temporary Arrangement
Relationships that break up can be messy, painful, and traumatizing. However, since you and your situational partner know your arrangement is temporary, you don’t have hard feelings when things end.
You both knew it wasn’t an “I do” kind of relationship, so you both move on when you feel the need to.
While you can decide to make a more formal and exclusive relationship out of a situationship, the basic understanding is that it’s temporary, and you’re both okay with that.
6. Caring About Each Other Becomes Easier
While a situationship is temporary and surface level, you both may develop genuine care for each other. It’s surprisingly easier to care about each other when there are no expectations of real emotional investment and connection.
Since you know your connection is based on mutual satisfaction and either partner is free to leave when it doesn’t work for them (more so than in a typical relationship), you are more aware of not verbal vomiting and avoid being inconsiderate with each other.
Care is easier because you don’t have to worry that “you can’t do this until you die” with someone. You can care in the moment, freeing you from the challenges of reality.
7. Evaluate and Proceed or End It
With a situationship, you and your chosen partner are constantly evaluating the relationship, deciding whether it works for you or not.
If there are more ups than downs, then it’s still working well, and you can proceed to further enjoy the situationship. However, if you find that you are less interested in seeing your partner, then you know your situationship is ready to end.
Your needs may also change, and you don’t have to continue in a situationship when you no longer have that need just because you are fond of the person you shared the situation with.
8. No Publicity Rule
Most situationships aren’t geared at PDAs or being seen together in public, though you and your partner can discuss whether you’re “out in the open” or not. So sharing photos of you hanging out in Hawaii on social media isn’t going to work.
Be very clear with your partner whether you are happy to share in public or not.
Holding hands in public, sweet kisses, or talking about your situationship with friends and family may also be off limits, depending on the boundaries you set with your situationship partner.
It may seem strange, but remember that a situationship isn’t like a regular romantic relationship, and you don’t necessarily want others to start questioning you and your partner – after all, it’s about what’s easy and works for you without public scrutiny.
9. Be Mindful of Jealousy and Emotional Involvement
Jealousy is not a pretty emotion, and it usually indicates you and your partner have moved from the free and fun stage to a deeper emotional connection, which can become toxic.
You want your situational partnership to be based on what’s free and what works for you.
When you or your situational partner start to show signs of deeper involvement such as jealousy, anger, distrust, and toxic sharing, you need to check whether you’re ready to take it to a full relationship or if it’s the end of your situationship.
Final Thoughts on Situationship Rules
A situationship isn’t for everyone, but if you do decide to dip your toes in the water of a convenience-based relationship, you need to follow the rules.
Situationship rules are there to ensure both partners still enjoy the arrangement, know what to expect, and don’t get confused as to why you are together in the first place.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to explain a situationship to your friends or family – it’s something best kept in-house between you and your situational partner. After all, it’s about your happiness and enjoyment, not outside opinions or questions.
Stick to the situationship rules until you are ready to move things to a relationship, or if it no longer works for you, to end it amicably.
However, if you wonder whether you’re with someone who will always be looking for another partner, no matter how many partners they have already had, you can read our guide on serial monogamy to help you navigate this and enjoy a healthy relationship.
And if you're looking for more articles on relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 7 Steps to Overcome Insecurities in a Relationship
- 65 Best Hobbies for Couples to Share Together
- 4 Steps to Validate Someone’s Feelings