BRAVE about situationships

By Anna Verderber, BRAVE Peer Educator

My research advisor was floored when she heard my group use the term “situationship,” As we discussed what descriptors to ask the people taking our study, the subject of relationship status started a heated debate on whether or not a “situationship” was different from being “undefined.” 

When we explained our dilemma to our professor, she was more hung up on the word even existing, asking “Is that a real thing?”  

We all laughed about it together. But to some extent, her awe did make me think a bit deeper, what is a “situationship?”

The most “official” definition of a situationship can be found on Wiktionary: “a romantic or sexual relationship in which parties do not define their relationship as such.” In other words,  a situationship is when two people who are kind of interested in each other decide not to put a label on things but still experience some elements of a more serious relationship. 

Now, you may be wondering, “Isn’t that just casual dating?”

And sure, to some, it might be. Yet, the term “situationship” is currently on the rise.  

Not many people know that the word “situationship” was first recorded in 2010. From there, it bounced from chat rooms to message boards before eventually ending up on Facebook. Finally, in 2014, it became popular enough to enter Urban Dictionary

Even still, the word didn’t gain mainstream traction until July of 2019. Currently, the word “situationship” has an average search rate of about 90 searches per day and can be found in the comment section of almost every social media platform. Looking up the term on TikTok could have you scrolling for hours. 

Rules of a situationship are tricky: some people view it as exclusive while others think you’re still available. Some people view it as the talking stage, some people view it as a stage all by itself. Some people use the term unironically (like a girl from my high school), some people think the phrase is a joke (like one guy from my research class).  

All of this to say, a “situationship” is entirely subjective. It is going vary person to person, like any relationship.  

And although it sounds absurd – researchers do believe there is a purpose behind it. In her 2019 research article, Leah Lebvre explains that “[situationships] aren’t inherently negative; it causes individuals to experience intense emotions, raise personal and relational awareness, and address their feelings in order to begin to think about being relationship ready”.  

A “situationship” also allows people to start showing interest in each other without the pressure of starting a relationship. The big idea is that, unlike the “talking stage” (a time when people are talking before going on dates), a situationship doesn’t have a goal of ending up in a relationship. It just exists as itself.  

If you’re like me, you might be asking yourself,  “Why would practicing a relationship be more appealing to our generation than having one?” What is the appeal?  

Well, as one student from LeFebvre’s research expressed: “I’m not dating until I’m swept off my feet again…So until then, just going through the motions works for me” (LeFebvre 2019).  

I’ll be upfront and say I don’t understand situationships. I’m not sure I ever will. I find myself rolling my eyes when I hear the term used seriously. And my initial goal with writing this article was to slander the word as much as possible. 

But wanting to practice dating? Fear of the future? Lack of interest in dating apps? That I can understand. So maybe the term “situationship” isn’t as silly as I initially thought.  

And besides, so long as there is communication, consent and respect within the relationship – who am I to judge?