Graphic by Valen Lambert

Weathering situationships, the right way


by Valen Lambert

Gen Z has been turning tradition on its head. Gender? That is so last season. Sexual preferences? All of it. Partners? Four and we’re all best friends. We’re holding the reins of a cultural revolution that’s redefining intimacy, sex, and identity. It’s beautiful, empowering, expansive – and oh-so confusing when we enter uncharted lands. 

With polyamory and open relationships becoming the new norm in our alternative communities, we’re finding another gray area of intimacy that some may call the new epidemic: situationships. Love them or hate them, they’re here to fuck up your emotional algorithm if you don’t have the proper interpersonal toolkit. They are not for the faint of heart. 

Urban Dictionary defines a situationship as, “more than friendship but less than a booty call…it is a romantic relationship that is, and will remain, undefined.” I dunno bout ya’ll but when I was in high school we called this having a “thing” with someone.

I’ve been in a few myself. They were lovely, occasionally regrettable, fleeting experiences that teetered between friendship and romance. If you’re like me and are afraid of commitment, they’re the perfect dose of attention. Most ended diplomatically on great terms or, quite rarely, through a complete ghosting by me or the other.   

There’s some finessing to be done if you don’t want you or your cutie’s heart to be pulverized like a butcher’s steak. First, you have to check in with your own emotional capacity. Where is your heart at, how much can you show up right now, and how much do you need the other person to show up? I’ve broken a few hearts in my day because I lacked the emotional maturity to confront my own boundaries, and to communicate that clearly with my partners.    

Maybe you enter a situationship because neither of you are ready for commitment, but also can’t help having crushes on eachother. That’s fine!! Relationships can be whatever the heck you want them to be. 

I might be preaching to the choir here, but communication is the most important tool in your belt for these dirty jobs. Upon initial canoodling, discuss your preferences and needs with your cutie. I know it goes against the sacred rule of situationships, to stay “undefined,” but there is no harm in laying down how casual or serious you both need it to be so everybody knows how to move forward. 

If you want sex with occasional cuddles, cute dates and intermittent cheek kisses, make that clear! If you just want to hook up but study together sometimes, let ‘em know! If they’re down, then fuck yeah! If they’re not, don’t waste your time with anything more or less than what you want, no matter how hot you think they are. You’ll really have to practice some self control (trust me), but you’ll be so happy you did. 

You deserve to be in a relationship where your partner is on the same page as you, clear about where you stand, and good to your nervous system; even if it’s just a romantic puddle and not the great oceans of love. Communicating where you’re at and what you need is sexy, and helps you feel more autonomous in a situation that would normally leave you feeling powerless.

If you’re chronically in a situationship and hate it, or are forced into a situationship with someone you’re head over heels for, there’s some boundaries to be made. So pull up your sleeves, listen to some Erykah Badu, and get to feeling your bad self.

 There is an important distinction between intention and attention. Some cutie may be giving you a lot of attention, but lacking in the sort of intention that’s actually worth your time. Intention can exist in a casual dynamic; it’s a presence and attentiveness that makes you feel seen. No matter how loose the situationship, you know the person genuinely enjoys your company and doesn’t take it as something that merely entertains them or distracts them from their homework. Again, there ain’t nothing wrong if both parties are on the same page about just seeking “entertainment,” but if you feel that there is an asymmetry in feelings or intentions, it’s time to jump (situation)ship. 

Lots of folks love to hate situationships. For some people, they can’t handle that in-between space; either needing just friendship or just a relationship. It’s stressful for folks. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But if this sounds like you, listen to your gut and tread lightly around the experimental zone that is situationships. 

They’re jam packed with emotional turmoil, but only if you don’t know what you need or how to communicate it. You can create your ideal dynamic with someone who aligns with your needs. The beauty of situationships is that they aren’t going anywhere! They can be a pleasant ephemeral exploration of pleasure and humanity that teach you what you really need when it comes to more serious relationships. They can help you explore your romantic and sexual identity. They can teach you so much about interpersonal communication. We’re young and everything is an experiment! So get out there baddies.

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