What Is a Situationship?

a question mark
Image by Wee Sen Goh / CC BY

As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time is aware, I am a lover of new words. And as a relationship writer, there’s no shortage of new words coming into the public conversation about love, sex, and dating.

Today I present to you situationship, a word that keeps popping up in articles that I’ve been reading.

What Is a Situationship?

So what is a situationship? Well, essentially a situationship is a romantic connection that is fulfilling for one or both partners short term but doesn’t necessarily develop into a long-term relationship.

It’s not a Capital R relationship (at least not yet). But it’s not nothing. It’s something but no one knows what it is. So it’s more of a situation… a situationship.

Alright. I guess that works.

The Forever Asked Question: “Does That Need to Be a Word?”

So now that we know what it means, I’m going to ask something that I’m asked whenever I either make up a new term or popularize one that other people have made up (as I’m doing in this case; “situationship” isn’t my baby).

Fair warning: In general, I’m biased in favor of creating new words whenever this issue comes up. In general, I tend to feel that “that doesn’t need to be a word” is an incredibly boring hill to die on. And saying something like that is usually more emblematic of some other form of gatekeeping or insecurity and less a charge of redundancy that holds some merit (because synonyms exist for a reason).

But in this case, I really do find myself wondering about this term’s utility.

I racked my brain and did find one possible usage where it might ostensibly come in handy:

Someone: Are you and [Name] in a relationship?

Someone Else: No, we’re not in a relationship. Not officially. We’re more in a situationship.

Kind of as a quick joke-y deflection in direct contrast with relationship.

Situationship, the Ambiguous Precursor of a Comet or a Traditional Relationship

Comet relationship (noun) – a romantic and/or sexual connection that passes through one’s life in an intermittent way

Relationship escalator (noun) – a commonly internalized mental template of what romantic relationships are supposed to be which dictates how things are supposed to progress from stage to stage in a discrete and uniform fashion if they are to be considered viable and healthy

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A situationship in which nothing further develops and it’s a satisfying yet brief or limited affair frankly reminds me of a comet.

If something more traditional does develop after the initial period of ambiguity, then that sounds a lot like regular dating to me? Any time I’ve been in a relationship where one or both of us forced things to become “official” more quickly than the relationship organically seemed to want, it’s backfired, and I’ve come to regret it.

It seems to me like labels like these are there because the relationship escalator model doesn’t actually make a lot of sense. Labels like situationship bridge the gap. Create new steps on the escalator rather than acknowledging that the whole model is bunk and unrealistically limited compared to the rich variation possible in real life experience.

That said, I’m open to hearing other ways in which this term could have some utility.

Feel free to comment or write in with other ones if you think of other ways this term could be useful.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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