what does this new type of romantic relationship, a bit toxic, consist of?

In a world of love made up of labels and categories, situationship is a relational label used to designate an unlabeled, fuzzy and undefined love relationship. In theory adopted to simplify things, save hassle and arrange partners on both sides; in fact, situationship always turns out to be more toxic than we would like.

In a world where labels multiply to designate one’s love situation and relationship dynamics with others, where labels to describe one’s sexual preferences come in spades, where the boxes for storing the loved one are multiplied, “situationship” is yet another label that embodies all the complexity of current relations. Indeed, it is a label designating a romantic relationship that actually has no label. The situationship is therefore a relation whose contours are not definedan empty space between two boxes (in love), a relational in-between* which is neither solely emotional nor solely carnal.

The two partners spend time together, talk to each other regularly, have sex, weave an emotional bond beyond the carnal; but without necessarily formalizing, committing or considering a long-term relationship. As if they were stuck in a pre-couple phase that dragged on and never materialized. They act as if they were companions, but do not carry the name. More than a one-night stand or a “sex plan”, but less than a “friends with benefits” relationship or a serious romantic relationship; more than friendship, but not quite love… The situationship therefore turns out to be complicated, even though it is supposed to be lighter for both partners. In some cases, the lack of clarity and the ambiguity engendered by the latter can even promote toxicity

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Situationship: why do we choose this type of toxic relationship?

The two consenting lovers choose the situationship above all for its practical and “arranging” aspect : thus, it is often used as transition phase before they make the decision (or not) to engage in a serious romantic relationship. Effectively, the relation having no label, it is as if it had no no definition, no meaning, no implication. It therefore does not feed no expectations, does not set limits, does not involve no engagement binding (which usually comes with a given label).

By opting for situationship, we remove the pressure of not corresponding to the expectations induced by the label, and we eliminate any potential disappointment; because who says “no expectations”, says “no unmet needs”; who says “no limits”, says “no barriers crossed”; who says “no commitment”, says “no unfulfilled responsibilities”. No one can blame the other : this saves arguments and conflicts.

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What leads the partners to be in situationship?

But if it can be consciously chosen, the situationship can also occur in a reckless way, without any real upstream communication between the different parties. Indeed, the two individuals appreciating each other, they naturally come to see each other, to develop a bond at the moment T, without thinking about the next day or thinking about the consequences.

It is moreover in this sense that a psychologist defined situationship as “a lack of consensus on what the relationship really is, the situation defines the relationship, more than the people themselves.”** Indeed, when it is spontaneous and unconscious, the situationship lives according to the desires of the lovers who let themselves be carried away, without analyzing the situation or communicating on the subject. And it is in this lack of communication that lies all the toxicity of the relationship…

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Lack of communication and imbalanced relationship: typical characteristics of toxic relationships

The situationship involves a big lack of communication about the nature of the relationship. However, as we know, any healthy relationship is based on communication and understanding of the other. The absence of dialogue and transparency specific to the situationship can therefore lead to toxic relationship. Very often, this non-definition of the relationship is wanted by the two individuals at the start. But as time passes, as a bond is created, as the emotional bond between the two is strengthened, stronger feelings can arise on one side and give rise to a unbalanced relationship. Thus, in spite of himself, one of the individuals will be more attached and more in love than the other: he will want more things, will have more expectations vis-à-vis the relationship.

The problem is that he won’t be comfortable talking about it openly with his partner because of: 1) relationship dynamics based on ambiguity2) the afraid of losing it for ever. Indeed, if there is no reciprocity, the two will certainly be obliged to stop this love affair without label; the frozen partner having to respect his prerequisites, assume his desires, and leave if the other is unable to bring them to life. Rather than declaring his love, he will therefore prefer wallow in silence to allow the situationship to continue and not draw a line under the loved one.

Since he does not communicate his expectations, his needs, his limits, or his feelings to his partner; the latter does not know what makes him suffer or what gives him pleasure. Thus, he is unable to give her what he wants, to satisfy her relational demands, to respect her limits and can even cross them ad infinitum. The first will undergo and suffer in silence without saying anything: thetoxic love par excellence.

And again, we assume that the other is benevolent and full of good intentions! Imagine the damage if the latter is in fact a malicious person, a narcissistic pervert, or a manipulator: he will have no qualms about taking advantage of his dominant posture, using manipulation and seduction, maintain one’s grip and continually reaping all the benefits of situationship.

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The situationship is detrimental to the well-being of the attached person

Finally, the situationship is detrimental to the well-being of the person who is more involved and who would like go to the next step. Indeed, the ambiguity and lack of clarity inherent in situationship can cause rumination about the level of interest of the other, the frustration as to the non-progression of the relationship, or of theanxiety in the face of the uncertainty of the situation. A thousand and one unanswered questions that leave room for imagination, fabrications and over-interpretation.

In this case, situationship is no longer a positive transition phase, but a “kind of unique purgatory”***. Whether they choose to declare their love or not, the person will suffer either way. So how do you know if you are affected by this label and best protect yourself from damage?

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How do I know if I am in a situationship? The signs

According to psychologists and specialists in romantic relationships, it is easy to recognize a situationship. Here are the signs identified by them.

  • The relationship is not defined.
  • One of the two people does not want to commit.
  • You never talk about joint projects or the future together.
  • There is no consistency in the relationship. Virtual interactions and real dates are irregular. Thus, the other partner can talk to you the day before and ghost you the rest of the week; he may offer to see you the same day or a few hours before; he can chain several dates with you in the same week and allow months to pass without seeing you again.
  • There is no exclusivity. One of the partners (or both) dates other people and even shares sexual relations with them.
  • The relationship stagnates and does not progress.
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*CHIRONI, Sonia, “What is ‘Situationship’, this unclassifiable relationship?”, A new world, France InterJune 13, 2023

**HSIEH, Carina, “Is the ‘Situationship’ ruining modern romance?”, Cosmopolitan USAMay 1, 2017

***KUBURIC, Sara, “What is a Situationship? And how to avoid being in one”, USA TodayDecember 8, 2021

Freelance journalist

Open-minded and in love with life, Emilie likes to decipher the new phenomena that shape society and relationships today. Her passion for the human being motivates her to write…

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