It’s a question you’re guaranteed to be asked at any given family function: “You have yourself a boyfriend/girlfriend yet darling?”
[Turned-head eye roll] “No, no, grandma… still single”. But the truth is you are in fact in some type of relationship. You just don’t know exactly what it is.
Hookup Buddies? Friends with Benefits? Dating? Exclusive? WTH. Help.
You don’t know what to call the relationship situation you are in and you’re afraid to ask your partner the awkward question “…soooo what exactly are we?” You and your partner have yet to define the relationship and this causes anxiety and stress. Comm scholars Berger & Calabrese explain how people naturally desire to have uncertainty reduced. Uncertainty occurs when we are unsure or insecure of our ability to predict or explain someone/something (someone fn tell me already the color of #thedress). But seriously think about it. Your friend sets you up on a blind date. What is the first thing you do? Stalk the shit out of them on every social media site. Why? Because we fear the unknown. Same goes for relationships. We want clarity on the state of our relationships because uncertainty causes stress and anxiety. This is why situationships are so frustrating.
If you have more questions than answers with your partner- then face it, you’re in a Situationship.
#TRR is here to help you identify the 8 Types of Situationships and give you tips on what to do next.
- The Repeat Offender
When a one night stand turns into the repeat booty call. You met out one night when the shots were strong and your standards were weak. You likely don’t know their last name and have them saved in your phone as “Jake Tinder”, “Blonde Tin Roof”, “John Sigma Chi”, or the beloved “Tits McGee”. What makes this a situationship? You have repeated interactions and have entered a pattern (sending the ‘you up?’ text at 1 AM on a Wednesday). Jealously may even occur if you see them with another potential hookup; however, you and your partner interact almost exclusively for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
- The Last Call
You both hang out in similar social circles and consider each other friends… but if one or both of you strikes out with everyone else at the bar, you end up in bed with each other. Communication professor Dr. Paul Mongeau and colleagues call this type of friends with benefits relationship (FWBR) “network opportunism”. If neither of you finds another sexual partner for the night, you are a sexual ‘sure thing’ for one another. You feel safe hooking up with this partner because they are your friend, but you’re confused at the potential for this to turn into something more.
- The So-Last-Season
At one point you two were a couple… now you are just in it for the sex. This type of FWBR at one point was a romantic relationship that ended in a breakup. You decided to not continue the romantic part of the relationship, but continue to have sex. This type of situationship is especially complicated where you may have to decipher between sexual feelings and past emotional history.
- The Houdini
(Also commonly known as the Disappearing Act.) You have weeks where he/she is really into you: good morning texts, Netflix dates, grabbing dinner. But then they disappear for days on end. (I know you didn’t die on me, I SEE YOU READ MY SNAPSTORY!) And just like that, they reappear as if nothing happened. This situationship creates anxiety where you are unsure if their silence is because you did something wrong, they found someone else, or if they skipped town after a bank heist.
- The Hang Out
You and your partner go on frequent dates and enjoy each other’s company. You introduced them to a few of your friends and have met some in their friend group as well. You may have even begun to develop a pattern of sexual interaction… but you don’t know if the relationship is exclusive. Are they dating other people? Am I their boyfriend/girlfriend? How do they describe me to others? Partners in this situationship are likely to tell others they are just “hanging out” or “talking” and report stress occurs due to a lack of communication on the status of their relationship.
- The Wedding Date
You introduce them as your friend, but drag them along to social events as your date. Sister’s wedding? New Will Ferrell movie out? Routine Game-Day date? They’ve probably met your family and friends and you have their wifi password and maybe even a hoodie or two. You may or may not be sleeping together, but regardless one of you does not intend on a romantic future with the other. This situationship is especially stressful because you do in fact care for this person. However, emotional closeness is not the same as romantic closeness. You enjoy socializing with them and have similar personalities, but do not see this working out in the long run. You feel guilty but out of options. WARNING: If you are the one friendzoning in this situationship, you are likely to be given the title of either the Asshole or the Lead On.
- The Copyright
You go on dates and sleep together… but one of you is also seeing other people. This situationship is likely to end with a slowmo face slap or drink-to-the-face, especially if there has been a lack of communication clarifying whether you two are openly seeing others or not. More than likely, this situationship occurs when a partner is cheating on someone outside the partnership. You may even be aware of the deception, but convinced they will choose you in the end. The Copyright often involves lying to yourself as much as you do to your partner.
- The Restriction
The Restriction is sometimes close friends with The Copyright. You are dating, but for one reason or another, you are forced to keep your relationship secret. Maybe your parents do not like your partner? Or your friends wouldn’t approve (especially if you are seeing one of your friend’s ex’s). Or your relationship would break work policies (dating your boss/teacher)? Or you are afraid to reveal to others your relationship is same-sex? Or they are in fact seeing (or worse, married to) someone else, forcing you to conceal the relationship. You likely have a code name for talking about this partner with friends (That Guy, You-Know-Who, Voldermort, etc.) This situationship creates high levels of uncertainty where you are limited to whom you can discuss your relationship with.
SO WHAT DO I DO?
In a simple word- COMMUNICATE. Talk about the status of your relationship with your partner. As awkward as it might feel, you are guaranteed to have a more satisfying relationship (emotionally and sexually) after the conversation. At very least, gaining clarity on the status of your relationship will reduce your uncertainty. Conversations need to include not only the status of your relationship, but what rules that status includes.
Are you simply just friends and don’t sleep together? Are you hookup buddies but want to make sure you both aren’t sleeping with anyone else? Is this just about sex or is there the potential for romance? Do you still romantically care for each other or are you just letting history repeat itself? Are you in an open relationship where seeing others is OK? Are you exclusive? Are they ever going to leave him/her for you? Are you both telling others that you are a couple? How are you going to introduce them to your friend/family circles? Should you terminate the situationship and end contact with one another?
Weight the pros and cons of this situationship turning into something more. This includes how the relationship status change would effect you and those around you. If sex interferes with these important conversations, hang out in a public setting where the potential for sexual interaction is low (no alcohol or drugs present; not on a couch or in a bedroom).
Be honest about your feelings towards your partner and your intentions for the relationship. Gaining answers to these questions and more will reduce your uncertainty and eliminate the stress and anxiety common to all situationships. Now go out there and get to talking!
 Berger, C. R. (1986). Uncertain outcome values in predicted relationships uncertainty reduction theory then and now. Human Communication Research,13(1), 34-38.
 Mongeau, P. A., Knight, K., Williams, J., Eden, J., & Shaw, C. (2013). Identifying and explicating variation among friends with benefits relationships.Journal of Sex Research, 50(1), 37-47.