Stuck in a Situationship? Here Are 3 Red Flags to Watch Out For as Early as Date One

“What ever happened to guy meets girl—girl likes guy—and boom! Three months later, they’re married? It’s all so complicated nowadays,” my grandmother pontificated at family dinner one night. I tried not to roll my eyes, but then she continued: “Why are you all so afraid of commitment?” Hmmm, Gram did have a point. In fact, her line of questioning was circling the same black hole that’s consumed so much of mine and my friends’ dating lives: the situationship

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What Is a Situationship?

Aptly defined by Urban Dictionary as “less than a relationship, but more than a booty call,” a situationship can best be compared to a cold war. One person wants change, the other wants things to stay the same, and both parties are too comfortable to actually do anything about it. The push-pull dynamic breeds an unspoken code of silence—it’s only broken if Person A decides to commit/end it (or torture someone else). Meanwhile, Person B withers away in a state of purgatory, hypnotized by the hope that it might just work out (along with an unwillingness to give up the mind-blowing sex). 

If you’re reading this article, chances are you fall in the latter camp. And the harsh truth is that most often, the other person *knows* you can’t go 30 seconds on the elliptical without thinking about them—it doesn’t matter how cool you’ve been playing it. So, in turn, your time together becomes rationed. They’re free to pick and choose when you see each other, because let’s face it, you’re not going anywhere, right? And what’s even worse: when you finally get that dopamine rush of a “where are you?” text, you’ll do (and drop) just about anything to be with them. 

We’ll use my friend Hailey (not her real name) as an example. A couple of months ago, we were at a bar downtown when Hailey mysteriously disappeared with an investment banker. The next morning, she texted me: “I found my husband.” In the following weeks, she started seeing the banker regularly. He asked her to casual drinks; they’d hang out with his roommates on football Sundays, and he even introduced her to his brother (a major feat for singles in NYC). In no uncertain terms, Hailey was convinced this was her boyfriend. And then one day, she posed the inevitable “what are we?” conversation—and the banker retreated faster than Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow. He began spit-firing a range of excuses from, “I’m just not ready for anything serious” to “work is really crazy” and the conversation ended with “let’s just see how things go.” So now, three months later, Hailey’s stuck wondering whether he’ll ever commit—and secretly hoping he’ll profess his love when he asks her to grab a last-minute drink at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Is It Possible for a Situationship to Become a Relationship? 

Because of the implicit power imbalance (aka: one person dictating the terms of the relationship), situationships tend to have only two outcomes: 1. Hoovering, where you become imprisoned in the relationship as the object of your affection gaslights you. Or, 2. The cold-turkey cutoff; they’re dead to you, and you hope they get eczema. 

That said, there’s an upside: Situationships aren’t necessarily doomed to fail. There’s a reason why you were attracted to each other in the first place, and why you continue to see each other. Yet, while every situationship is different, they all share one thing in common: poor timing. For whatever reason, one person’s not ready to compromise. And as a result, the other person ends up compromising everything. So, in order to avoid a toxic dynamic, it’s best to cut things off and treat the cancer before it metastasizes. That way, you won’t drive yourself insane for months on end, and you can give the connection a fighting chance if you decide to start things up again down the road (but please, consult your therapist before sending an “I miss you” text). 

Below, find three phrases to lookout for early on (aka one to three dates in) that are big red flags signaling you’re headed toward situationship territory. 

3 Situationship Red Flags

1. "I'm horrible with the phone"

Translation: “I don't think about you when we're apart”

You’ve heard that actions speak louder than words, yes? Same goes for texting/calling/FaceTiming etc. It doesn’t mean that you should be texting 24/7 (read: love bombing). But if they’re checking in a few times a week, it means you’re on their mind (and vice versa). Plus, on a personal note, I’ve found that communication when you’re apart is far more telling than when you’re together. If they’re only hitting you up to schedule drinks (but say all the right things when you’re together) their silence is speaking louder than their words.

2. “I want something drama-free”

Translation: “I want easy and casual”

When you’re in a serious relationship, there’s one unavoidable: Fighting. It comes with the territory of sharing your life (and your heart) with someone. Hence, why if someone says, “I don’t want drama” early on, they’re actually warning you: “I’m not willing to stick around if things get messy.” They probably have little interest in opening up or working things out down the line. And while this statement might be subject to change, it’s more likely that they’ll be back on the dating apps after the first passive-aggressive dig.

3. "I'm not a big planner"

Translation: “I'll ask you out when I feel like it”

Sure, spontaneity is the key to keeping the spark alive. But consistent inconsistency is a different story. If you’re seeing each other at two-to-three-week intervals, it probably means they’re prioritizing convenience over commitment. (Or, it means that they’re also seeing someone else.) Don’t get me wrong; sporadic invitations are certainly a fun way to spice things up (especially if you’ve fallen into a rut). But in the early stages, you want to make sure they’re interested in factoring you into their routine before they start breaking it.

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...