“We’re seeing each other but we’re not ‘together’.”

“We don’t like labels, but we’re definitely more than friends with benefits.”

“There’s an emotional connection but I don’t know where I stand or how to introduce them to my friends.”

If you’ve ever said or heard any of these phrases uttered before, you’ve likely either been in a situationship or watched one unfold.

It’s 2024, and relationships and their various distinctions are more confusing than ever before. In addition to committed engagements, people can ‘vibe’, be ‘friends with benefits’, be in ‘situationships’, ‘open relationships’, and more.

According to 2023 research by Shreya Pushkar and Pankaj Singh, situationships often need clarification, with the rules of engagement differing from coupling to coupling. These relationships are about more than just physical interactions but less than a full-on commitment.

After a recent conversation with a friend, let’s call her *Shandre Eckles, I was interested in learning more about the earmarks of these types of engagements. *Shandre told me that she had been seeing one guy for the last six years, but they had no labels or plans for committing and didn’t have any traditional obligations to one another. She was happy with the situation and explained that she didn’t need societal approval of her lifestyle.

Never having been in a ‘situationship’ myself, I asked her what the relationship was like and how she navigated the dynamics of it for over six years. Boldly sharing her feelings, *Shandre said:
“While myself and the person I am seeing are happy, we don’t feel the need to make our relationship official. I am just happy for the companionship.”

If you’re in a situationship or looking to be in this type of relationship setting, here are some facets to be aware of:

Confusion and the communication conundrum
Without clear communication, it can be confusing about what is ‘allowed’ and what isn’t. There are no labels in the relationship, so traditional forms of engagement might not be applicable. Clear boundaries and open communication are therefore necessary.
Titles are not a thing, and this may be awkward
The person you’re seeing is technically not your partner, and it might be awkward when introducing them to friends and family members. Sadly, in many situationships, this awkwardness is often unavoidable unless discussed prior.
There is generally no progress
One of the earmarks of a classic situationship is that there is no guarantee of advancement in the form of an eventual commitment or marriage. If you want to settle down, consider these factors.
No expectations, no obligations, no drama
Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries – there is no obligation for the person you’re seeing to observe any of these occasions. The arrangement may eventually become tiresome and lonely if you’re a romantic.
Ghosting, posting, and taking cute pictures
There is no need for your partner to text you regularly, check in with you, or take post cute snaps together to commemorate any special moments shared. While any relationship (including marriage) is at risk of ending at any time, there is increased volatility with engagements centred around casual dating.

Young South Africans weigh in
I contacted three young South Africans who expressed their feelings regarding situationships.

Leshme De Bruyne, a Cape Town businesswoman, equated situationships to open relationships: “Situationships occur when you’re in a relationship with someone, but you both still have the freedom to see other people.”

Yolanda Klaas, a young married man in the Western Cape, says that when he was much younger, he too engaged in situationships: “You get to be with someone, and there is nothing expected from you as a guy in terms of checking up on your person, buying them gifts, or anything. However, now that I am married, I enjoy having someone whom I can do nice things for and someone whom I love dearly. I love the warmth of commitment.”

Nondumiso Manana, a KZN baker, reflected on the benefits and drawbacks of these non-committal engagements: “Situationship relationships can give you a chance to enjoy the benefits of a relationship without expending too much emotional energy. There are no strings attached.

“On the other hand, a situationship can be a difficult place to be if you’re looking for a committed relationship. The lack of stability and consistency can be stressful.”

Many pros and cons are associated with being in a situationship. But before jumping into an engagement of this sort, understand the nature of these relationships to avoid disappointment in the future.

What has your experience been like in a situationship, if you’ve ever found yourself in one?