Times of change and upheaval like the COVID-19 pandemic can change our understanding of things we previously used to see as fixed and definite. Friendships change, family members look at each other differently, and suddenly, you may find yourself in a relationship with someone you didn’t really decide to be in a couple with.
It just kind of happened, and you went with it, and then, you weren’t even sure how to define it. As if lockdown wasn’t confusing enough, you may have found yourself in a situationship. Yes, you heard that right.
Under quarantine, our emotions can fluctuate drastically, which can influence our decisions. Many found themselves rushing into relationships, not always for the right reasons. If this is you, it may be worth re-evaluating where you stand.
What is a situationship?
“Situationships are undefined relationships that are usually seen as more than friends with benefits but often lack the emotional attachment and commitment level of a ‘real’ relationship,” said psychologist, relationship expert and author Antonia Hall.
A situationship may be seen as a lovership with a basis of friendship, believes Hall, but without conversations about a future together. It’s basically a relationship but without all the established boundaries. You function like a relationship, but there isn’t a commitment to each other. “While you may have agreed upon not seeing other people, there really is no defined boundaries on what exactly you are,” said Jessica Jefferson, M.A & M.S., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Perinatal Mental Health Certified Professional, Owner and Director of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services, LLC.
In these challenging and rapidly changing times, it makes sense that people may not want to add any commitments to their lives, Hall says, which could keep your situationship from standing a chance of becoming a committed relationship.
Now, if you guys established that you are both exclusive and refer to each other as partners, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc… then you are probably on a different playing field. “I should also note that you should still have a conversation about boundaries that are acceptable in your relationship, because it is important to be on the same page, but for the most part the universal rules of a relationship are in place,” said Jefferson.
The role of the pandemic
With the pandemic, there has been an increase of situationships, understandably, especially since most conversations are occurring at a distance. “Conversations build up a lot of emotional intimacy which can often feel stronger than other situationships that may be just physical,” said Jefferson.
“It can feel great to be connected with another person on this level and to be vulnerable with them at that capacity, but remember, you are opening yourself up to expectations that may not be that of a full blown relationship. If you are ok with that, then move forward… if you aren’t then proceed with caution to protect your heart,” said Jefferson.
Situationship or Turbo Relationship?
However, the conditions of quarantine can also give situationships more viable chances for a lasting relationship.
The lack of external distractions and desire for deeper real connections has been propelling people into turbo relationships.Antonia Hall
Couples are meeting and moving in together at accelerated rates. “How will that pan out for the future of relationships? People could find themselves overly entwined with someone before they are ready for that level of commitment, and others may find the love of their lives,” said Hall.
Under quarantine, there has been a rise in turbo relationships, which are not quite the same as a situationship. Turbo relationships go through all the stages of a strong, developing relationship–only faster.
“Turbo relationship is a primal human biological reaction to fear and uncertainty,” said Cassady Cayne, a bestselling spiritual author of The Universe Speaks, Are You Listening?, soulpreneur and lightworker, relationship coach, creator of Twin Flames 11:11.
There’s a lot of fear around with the virus outbreak and uncertainty about the future, so it’s a natural reaction to want to bond quickly now. “The primal reaction doesn’t care so much about the partner’s appearance or a number of social media followers,” said Cayne. “The primal self cuts through and so in an intuitive sense, it can serve us better in finding a mate.”
If we look back, many people who coupled up in the middle of the crisis of WW2 are the longest-lasting couples we have in the world. Bonding during such an extreme shared experience can be a strong indicator of loyalty, security for the long run. To elaborate: “I think it’s interesting that we’re getting a counter-effect to the relationship tendencies we’ve had since social media became prevalent,” said Cayne.
A lot of people have found it hard to meet a lasting partner through the modern modes of dating (like dating apps), and so it’s an interesting and likely positive thing that we’re now being pulled in a different direction. Facing a crisis together can be a deeply bonding experience.
It can be a positive push, that we’re approaching relationships on a more emotional, less surface level – as the deeper facets of our psyche crave connection in a troubled time. As humans we all crave connection and emotional bonding, it’s in us as mammals since birth.
How do you know where you stand?
“It can be scary to figure out what constitutes a relationship versus a situationship, but there are key differences between that may help you figure out where you stand with your pseudo-partner,” said Jefferson.
A situationship is more of a relationship that is stuck in limbo without a label. “Situationships can be caused by factors out of your control; due to the other person who just won’t or can’t change circumstances to make the relationship work smoothly and meet all of your needs,” said Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking.
It usually has potential, but it won’t actually become more for any number of reasons having anything to do with bad timing or lack of commitment.
Signs you are in a situationship:
1) There is no commitment
“You both know and you can even be okay with that for now. One person might even be stuck moving on from a previous relationship,” said Trombetti.
2) You don’t know when you will see each other next
“Once again, this is something you both play loosely,” said Trombetti. When one of you feels like hanging out, if the other is free, perfect. If not, next time.
3) They do not promise you anything
“You both just enjoy each other’s company when you see each other,” said Trombetti. You aren’t taking them to your best friend’s wedding.
4) You know there is no future to this
“You both might be a bad match for each other, but you are good for each other for here and now,” said Trombetti.
A vicious trap you can escape
If you find yourself in a situationship wanting to be in a full relationship… news flash … it is going to require a bit of vulnerability because you have to let the other person know.
It sucks to be open to someone else, especially if they may not feel the same way, but at least then you would have the clarity that it may not go further than just a situationship.Jessica Jefferson
You can decide to continue with it or let it go. It is hard to be open to a relationship with someone new if you are still tied to someone who doesn’t want a relationship. Keep that in mind.
“The two people involved can reach a point where it seems awkward to discuss what they are together because they already act like a couple,” said Lee Wilson is a relationship coach with twenty years of experience.
Here’s the problem: Sooner or later, one person will develop strong feelings and will long for more than what is in the current relationship.
“They will reach out for more, only to be rejected. Inevitably, hurt feelings will be the result of this unrequited love. If you get stuck in a situationship, you are settling for the little that it offers, rather than being in something so much more fulfilling that has future goals,” sDr. Carissa Coulston, relationship expert at The Eternity Rose.
If you want to make it work, here are some things you could do to make things clear and transition into a real relationship:
1) Call it a relationship
Perhaps one of the best approaches to making a relationship work when things aren’t totally clear is to label it as such.
“The terms ‘fling’, ‘rebound’ and ‘friends with benefits’ bring with them a host of connotations that could easily get in the way of your new partnership becoming a long-term success. They imply that you aren’t taking your partnership seriously and that you’re only viewing it as a short-term affair,” said Coulston.
Leaving behind these labels when speaking to those around you and especially in your own mind is the first step towards aiding this new relationship in the long-term.
2) Make plans and build memories together
If you’re both keen to make this new relationship work, you need to have the right attitude towards it.
“You both need to feel as if you’re in it for the long haul and be committed to turning this into a serious commitment,” said Coulston. “One of the most constructive steps towards making a commitment is to start making plans for the future and laying down memories together.”
Can you see yourselves being together next year? In a few years? “If you can talk about a shared future and make some plans for a year or even a few months down the line, you are on the right track to making the relationship work,” said Coulston.
3) Don’t fear the past – learn from it
It’s important to learn from the past, but not to dwell on it. “Learning from previous mistakes is a key element in being able to move on and to make your new relationship work,” said Coulston.
If you’re always thinking about previous times where you have been hurt, this isn’t a healthy way to live your life or pursue your new partnership.
Fear of things going wrong again may be the reason why you don’t want to define this situationship. However,if you draw upon those memories to figure out how you can improve things this time around, that can be beneficial.Dr. Carissa Coulston
If you’re still revisiting a past relationship, don’t waste time on regrets. “Instead of ruminating over what went wrong, examine the reasons why, and then decide how you can avoid the same thing happening with your new partner,” said Coulston.
Whether there is something you need to stop, or something you need to start doing, build on this knowledge and put it into practice with your newfound love.
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