A situationship is that space between a committed relationship and something that is more than a friendship. Unlike friends with benefits or relationships, there isn’t consensus on what it is.  On one hand, removing the pressure of putting parameters on what the relationship is or isn’t can be liberating and feel good – as long as both parties are okay with leaving things open. On the flip side, not knowing where you stand can be detrimental, especially if one party wants more of a commitment. This vagueness often leads one person to feel uncertainty, anxiety, frustration, resentment, helpless and sometimes even depressed.  Ultimately, it is a failed social experiment that I have seen time and time again with my clients. It’s important for you to know what you want, and go for it, and not simply go along to get along.  

So given the ambiguity that dating, friends, and relationships often bring, it’s important for you to know what you want, and go for it, and not simply go along to get along.  That said, here’s how you can know what a situationship actually is and if you are on one:

  1. There’s an absence of plans. Your attempts to make plans in advance are usually met with an ambiguous response due to lack of commitment. Connections are often impromptu and based on having sex or “hanging out.” There may be a sense that dates are opportunistic and the result of one or both partners not having anything else to do as opposed to an actual desire to see each other and have a meaningful experience.
  2. Conversations tend to be superficial and often sexual in nature. Partners can exist in situationships for years without really getting to know each other beyond surface level conversations that pertain to their immediate gratification. A true connection is beyond skin deep or wild sex.  It involves getting to know what makes the person tick, what they value, what they believe in, and ultimately the capacity to connect in many aspects of life, including intellectually and emotionally.  
  3. You haven’t met their friends or family members. The relationship never evolves past the two of you spending time together sporadically and as such, you’re not integrated into your partner’s plans with friends or family. Not meeting the person’s friends and family should be a red flag as it shows an unwillingness to bring it to a more comprehensive and dynamic connection.  
  4. There’s no talk about what’s next. Future plans, even if just weeks down the road, are not discussed because you may not be a part of the other person’s life long term. Attempts to gain clarity on where this might be going are met with ambiguity or resistance.

One sure way to prevent a situationship is to really ask yourself: “Is this person someone I actually can see myself having a relationship with?  “Do they share the same goals, values and interests?”  Or, “is he or she simply filling a void?”  If the latter, then it’s time to move on and stop wasting your time. 

For more tips on living a healthy and stress-free life, check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.


  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert