'What are we?' Here's what you need to know about 'Situationships'

Mar 13, 2019

THE very first thing that Kevin noticed about Alexa was how her cheeks puffed up and transformed her eyes into slits when he cracked his first green joke. They had been talking for months online, even opting for the occasional video calls when their fingers get tired of typing. And when they finally met in person, they swore it was nothing they’d ever felt before.

Soon, Kevin would learn that Alexa had just come from a disheartening breakup. “She made it clear that she was on a rough patch toward recovery,” he recalls. “She was not interested in a boyfriend.” This was somewhat of a good news for Kevin considering he wants to keep their rapport as casual as possible since he was dealing with a breakup of his own as well. “I felt like my life is just dragging me on, and that I didn’t have any control or direction,” he admits. “Our thing was easy and not emotionally draining in any way.”

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They would go out together to have dinner or watch a movie but never call it a date. “We’d meet halfway after work at least twice a week,” Kevin recalls. “Then, it’s just a matter of deciding right then and there what we want to do.” Sometimes, what they want is sex, and that’s what they have. Kevin introduced Alexa to his friends, and you could ask any one of them at that time, and they all knew that two were just “messing around.” There was no sense of exclusivity or responsibility toward each other emotionally or sexually.

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But, as mature and thinking-straight adults, they talk about their feelings, particularly to check if one of them is falling for anyone else. Neither of them did.

The unthinkable (or in some people’s eyes, the inevitable) happened after eight months when Kevin realized that he had feelings for Alexa. He told her as best he could, in the most respectful way he could, that he properly wanted to court her and one day be her boyfriend. “It was one of the most nerve-racking things I ever had to say to her,” he says. “Thank God she calmly addressed our situation. We even laughed about it after.” Alexa, apparently, liked Kevin, too, but was not yet sure if she’d want to go to the next level that soon.

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Long story short, it didn’t pan out the way Kevin had hoped it would, or any guy would in that situation. “I could best describe it as this loss of something that wasn’t even mine in the first place,” he admits. “For someone who I never got the chance to call my girlfriend, it was one of the healthiest relationships I’ve ever been in.”

What’s a Situationship?

Facebook users a decade ago might call this “It’s Complicated.” It’s a pairing of two people that involve feelings and expectations beneath the level of a traditional romantic relationship. It’s basically a relationship without a label, a friendship that’s more than a friendship but not quite a relationship. They are more than fuckbuddies who are mostly about sex with little emotional investment if there are at all. They are less than boyfriends/girlfriends in terms of demands and accountability. In situationships, there is some emotional connection and responsibility established, but its nature and where it’s headed is unclear.

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Obviously, these label-less setups are confusing AF, and is just a way to not put pressure on a relationship. But it’s human nature to want something more defined, specific, and sure. People can do it for weeks or maybe even months. For the long haul, though, it only spells trouble. This is where people experience that awkward moment where one of them begins a sentence with “so:” So, what are we doing? So, what is this? So, where is this going?

How do Situationships start?

If we look at the bigger picture, the hookup culture of the last decade or so is a big part of how situationships happen. It’s the birth child of a social media-hooked generation and their obsession of maintaining an image.

When two people establish a relationship publicly by becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, they create a set of expectations they can fail at through a breakup. If (or when) they part ways, it’s seen as a loss of social status for the one who was dumped, and/or a personal failure for both. So they try to find a way of being together where there is no image at risk that people on social media will harass them about.

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For months, people will try hooking up with someone where their physical needs are met ranging from intense kissing to possible sexual intercourse. A one-night stand is a kind of hookup where a person takes a complete stranger to bed without any desire or plans to intentionally see him or her again. Then there’s the term that people popularized in the ‘90s called a booty call. This is where acquaintances contact each other intermittently for sex without being sure if there will be a next time. This brings stage two: friends with benefits or FWB. It’s frequently misunderstood as just being sex partners who don’t share any kind of intimacy or connection beyond that, when in actuality, the “friend” part of it is what makes it dangerous for people who don’t want to get into a relationship. It means there’s some level of emotional risk.

This is when the ambiguous nature of the pairing becomes harmful. A telltale sign that a situationship is unsustainable is when someone in the situationship gets jealous when the other interacts with someone else who could be a romantic interest.

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How the new generation is handling it

Today’s generations, mainly Gen X and Y, spend more time on social media, they have more of a fear of intimacy, and there is greater availability of porn and sex toys to pleasure oneself alone. They also created the hookup culture, which might mean detachment of commitment from sex to some.

Society if shifting a little bit—less and less people want to marry, they’re no longer interested in status, and they don’t need a label. Some may argue that it’s a more progressive form of coupling while others, the older generations, believe it’s to be frowned upon just because it wasn’t the tradition or culture they had experienced back in the day.

Fact is, this new generation is taking on a new paradigm, a new way of thinking, feeling, and living. If you observe around you, millennials have multiple friends of the opposite genders now. Back then, once you started interacting and hanging out with someone from the opposite sex, you’re already flirting. The expected goal of that interaction was to be together. Now, it’s not always the case as the young people of today don’t think that way as often anymore.

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But the greatest concern over this is young people’s obsession over maintaining appearances and image. Whether we want to admit it or not, this generation is afraid of harming their face, afraid of being rejected. Most people today avoid asking for what they want (which includes a definitive relationship) due to an unhealthy fear of rejection.

How does one turn a situationship into a relationship

The whole purpose of a situationship is to actually avoid being in a relationship. But, of course, being marupok like us, there comes a time when we want to go to the next level of what we have despite running through a perfectly fine situationship without any disappointment. We imagine it would still be like this. And boy, are we wrong.

The ideal way, if you’re really sure about wanting to take it up a notch, is to make sure that both of you can be honest with each other. You also need to prepare yourself for what he or she might say back—whether it’s good or bad. In any case, this is where you guys can talk about what you really are.

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Our advice: it’s better to keep it straightforward. Say “I like you,” even if there’s some difficult explaining to do afterward. But aside from making sure they understand how you feel, you also have to give them the chance to voice out what’s going on in their head. And you need to listen, too.

BUT, if you sense like the other person isn’t quite ready for anything like that, or they’ve continually dismissed talking about such a thing, then it’s safe to say that your situationship isn’t ready for an upgrade—until when, we don’t know. This is the part you question if this arrangement is still for you. If not, go back to square one. There’s an opportunity out there waiting for a lucky someone.

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