Urban Dictionary defines a "situationship" as a "relationship that has no label on it … like a friendship, but more than a friendship, but not quite a relationship." (Image via Toronto Caribbean)
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Urban Dictionary defines a "situationship" as a "relationship that has no label on it … like a friendship, but more than a friendship, but not quite a relationship." (Image via Toronto Caribbean)

Situationships — not-quite-casual sexual affairs with no real label — are growing more common among young people.

“What are we?” The question is scary enough to send the person being asked running the opposite way before the asker even gets to “we.” This question has always been difficult to answer, but in 2018, many Millennials have decided to just ignore the question entirely. Instead, millennials get themselves caught up in muddy, confusing, and sticky situationships.

Urban Dictionary defines a “situationship” as “a relationship that has no label on it…like a friendship, but more than a friendship, but not quite a relationship.”

In other words, a situationship is like being friends with benefits; except, this time, there are strings attached — no matter how slight — for both parties involved. Couples engage in normal boyfriend-girlfriend activities such as going on movie and dinner dates and meeting each other’s friends. They might even have a toothbrush at their sort-of-partner’s place.

What couples in situationships do not do, however, is ask that terrifying question: “What are we?” Instead, both individuals just continue teetering and tottering on the see-saw that is their undefined relationship for months, sometimes even years.

Sometimes, the conversation never arises because the people involved are simply scared of the responsibility and pressure that come along with the label “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” In other cases, one or both parties do want a relationship, or at least a better definition for what they’re doing, but they’re afraid that asking “What are we?” will scare their friend away.

Some may claim that casual hook-ups are the problem amongst millennials, but this isn’t always true. In reality, situationships are much more toxic.

With casual hook-ups, it’s clear from the very beginning that it’s going to be strictly business and then both parties can go off on their respective merry ways. In situationships, however, there is a very clear “you like me, and I like you” narrative with the added benefits of sex and dates, but no one steps up and takes it farther than that.

The ambiguity that accompanies a situationship can be taxing on both individuals. One may wish to move forward while the other is perfectly fine with not establishing anything serious, but neither one speaks on the issue. Anxiety builds, and each day feels like you’re either holding your breath underwater or tip-toeing around broken glass.

As if the whole ordeal of simply defining your non-relationship isn’t stressing enough, then comes the issue of exclusivity. How do you know if they’re still seeing other people or if you’re able to keep your options open without causing some kind of rift in the relation — sorry, situationship? That’s the problem!

You don’t know, and if you were to bring up the subject and ask whether you were exclusively “talking,” you would allude to both of you being in a clearly defined relationship with a big fat label of “boyfriend and girlfriend” — which is a huge no-no in the world of situationships.

It’s all so confusing. (Image via Still Jewelry)

And of course, the lack of an official relationship means that your non-partner has plenty of opportunities to see people other than you.

Since you’re not the official bae, there are no Instagram posts of you two in some cheesy setting with an even cheesier caption, no Snapchat videos of you playing dumb pranks on each other or catching one another at their ugliest moments, and — maybe most importantly — no Facebook status declaring that “Ross is in a relationship with Rachel.”

This leaves room for anybody to slip between the cracks, and so initiates the world of side chicks and boyfriend number twos, maybe leading an ambiguous situationship to be even more confusing. Welcome to 2018.

So what happens if someone finally decides to stick their toe into the pool of uncertainty by initiating “the talk?” Things can go one of two ways: the other person can agree that they would like to place a definite label on the situation, or they’ll freeze up, stutter and promptly disappear.

If your scenario goes the way of the former, then congratulations! You successfully made it through the murky situationship waters and can go on to live happily ever after with all your labels. However, if it ends up like the latter, you might end up feeling even more confused than when you were in the damned thing.

If you were never officially together, then how can you have broken up? The pain will still very much be there, but it might get awkward to talk about. You might feel like you’re not entitled to your feelings because “it was never real.”

Do not succumb to these feelings of self-degradation. You shouldn’t have to feel stupid for feeling sad; you were in — for all intents and purposes — a relationship, and you deserve to grieve with your tear-inducing jams and pint of cookie dough ice cream just like anyone else.

There are a few ways in which you can prevent yourself from getting into a situationship in the first place.

First, stay true to your standards. Don’t settle for being someone’s side chick or boyfriend number two if you want a real relationship. Also, avoid the idea that you need some kind of romantic or sexual partner, or that being in a situationship is better than being alone. You deserve better than that.

Second, as hard as it may be, you need to make things clear from the beginning, long before anyone leaves their toothbrush next to anyone’s bathroom sink. Initial clarity from both parties is essential to avoiding situationships.

This doesn’t mean to shout “I’m looking for a relationship!” when you are discussing your favorite ice cream flavors. However, once it’s obvious that things are getting to be a little more than friendly, let them know whether you want a relationship or not. Be sure to hear their side of the story, too, and find out what they want.

Lastly, communicate. If either of you have a change of heart, be sure to let the other know. You may feel guilty for hurting them, but it’s better to make it clear that you need to leave before things get too messy to clean up.

Although 2018 is a difficult time for romantic relationships among millennials, it is still possible to make it work with the right one. And even if it doesn’t work out, being single is always cool too! That’s the easiest way to avoid all of this. Hey, at least your pet still loves you.

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Sarah Marchan

University of Texas at San Antonio

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