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“Situationships” are the Gen-Z version of friends with benefits. First brought about in 2006, situationships can be defined as: “any problematic relationship characterized by one or more unresolved, interpersonal conflicts, usually confused with dating,” according to 

A situationship is essentially a relationship in limbo. One person is unsure of being in a relationship and another person who wants to be in a relationship is waiting for the person to buck up and commit. 

Situationships are often the continuation of a hook-up with an emphasis on wanting more. It closely mocks a relationship, but one partner is more invested than the other, because if they weren’t invested it would cease to exist. 

But why would anyone want to do that to themselves? Have everything a relationship has, minus the relationship? Because, situationships are sneaky. You don’t really understand you’re in one until it’s nearly too late.

Pulling from personal experience, I found myself waiting around for a person to see how committed I was to them and make me their girlfriend. However, I failed to realize that they stuck around because I was willing to continue without a label;  I was essentially being stringed along. Why would they give me the pleasure of a label when I was putting in the work of a full-blown relationship without the title?

It was basically an unpaid internship.

If you listen to popularized music, you’ll find that many people find themselves in similar situations: Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version), defines an ill-fated short-term relationship that was meant to crash and burn, “are we in the clear yet?” Of course, to mention another Taylor Swift song, august by Taylor Swift defines the situationships perfectly, “August slipped away in a moment in time / ‘cause it was never mine”. This line explains the fleeting romance of an unlabeled relationship and the understanding that it was truly never hers.

For those of you who aren’t Swifties, “Salt in the Wound” by boygenius speaks about the longing for a label with the line “You add insult to injury, you say you believe in me, but you haven’t decided about taking or leaving me.” 

Regardless of music, the situationship is everywhere: “The Great Gatsby” is a great example of unrequited love with Gatsby and Daisy. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” shows us unconventional situationships with Alana and Gary. Arguably the most infamous example of the situationships is the 1989 film, “When Harry Met Sally”. It should be noted that most of the stories receive their happily ever after in reality people primarily get hurt in these situations. 

My situationship went on for a couple months. I got to know him intimately, met their friends and even talked about the future. I thought this was going somewhere; but relationships take two people.

But why wouldn’t the person who didn’t want the relationship just leave?

Personally, I blame the excess of accessibility we have in this day and age: Tinder, Hinge, Instagram, Snapchat, you can legitimately have your cake and eat it too. You no longer have to look longingly at a bar or meet someone through a friend-of-a-friend. Today, the illusion of choice has ruined the dating landscape. If you look up “#situationship” on TikTok you’ll find thousands of videos of women crying about men that won’t commit to them. 

However, for a situationship to really work, someone needs to be putting in the effort. This person is generally more anxiously attached to the partner who won’t commit to the other. In my experience the person that is putting in the work often feels like they’re drained trying to make this work. The person who says they don’t want a relationship, is often the one that is putting in little to no effort. 

This gave a weird patriarchal power dynamic in my situation. All I wanted was for the relationship to go my way, but due to the lack of commitment from my partner I was frequently left in the dark. 

Now this is the part of the situationship where Taylor pulls out her pen and starts writing. The second you feel the shift in the relationship, when they’re pulling away, you have a choice. This is the time to sit down and have a conversation with yourself, or the other party (if they’re even willing).

Remember that every situationship is unique, and the best approach may vary depending on your individual circumstances and feelings. The key is to prioritize your own happiness and well-being while being respectful and considerate of the other person’s feelings as well.

So, my fellow situationship survivors, as we wrap up this rollercoaster ride through the maze of modern love, remember this: life’s too short for ‘unpaid internships,’ especially the kind that don’t even offer college credit. 

Emily Hess can be reached via email at or via Twitter @emilyghess03

Cover photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

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