Life Advice



Yikes! You're stuck in a situationship. When to stick around or get out

Kailyn Brown, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Dating Advice

LOS ANGELES — Meagan Culberson, 32, was on a third date with a guy she met on Hinge when she decided it was time to ask him a make-or-break question: What are you looking for?

They'd gone on fun dates and she was interested in getting to know him better, but only if they were on the same page. She wanted a long-term relationship.

When she broached the conversation with him, he told her that he wanted to "go with the flow" — in other words, he wasn't dating with intention like she was.

"It was kind of like an epiphany," says Culberson, the founder of Single Girls Club, a Los Angeles-based lifestyle brand that advocates for the empowerment of single women. Now knowing that they each had different goals, she was left with two options: 1) continue dating him and see where things went, or 2) end it before she got hurt.

In her 20s, Culberson had been through situationships — a term for a romantic or intimate connection that mirrors a relationship but lacks commitment — and they caused her a lot of confusion and pain. She had done a lot of self-reflection since then and knew she didn't want to end up in another one, so she decided to cut things off with the guy.

"It was really hard," she says, adding that she was starting to like him. "But if I had stepped back into those old patterns, all of that healing that I'd done would've just been a waste."


Although situationships have probably been around since the beginning of time, these undefined entanglements — ones that fall in the murky, gray area between a defined relationship and casual dating — seem to have become more common with the rise of dating apps, hookup culture and the broadening of traditional relationship dynamics (i.e. non-monogamy, polyamory, etc.), relationships experts say.

A recent YouGov survey, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults, found that 39% of people had been in a situationship before, and of people between the ages of 18 to 34, that number increases to 50%.

In a 2022 report, Tinder declared "situationships" a top trend and reported a 49% increase in members adding the phrase to their bios with young singles saying they "prefer situationships as a way to develop a relationship with less pressure." Also, after 34% of Hinge users reported falling into a situationship in 2022, the app added a feature called "Dating Intentions" so daters could indicate upfront what they were looking for (i.e. life partner, short-term relationship, figuring out my relationship goals, etc.). Tinder and Bumble offer a similar feature.

So why does it seem like more people are getting into situationships? One answer is exhaustion, says Denise Brady, a marriage and family therapist based in Long Beach. "[Some people] just feel like 'Man, I've been through this so many times, I really don't want to put myself out there, so at least I have my sexual needs met, maybe not my emotional needs, but this situationship is working for me,'" she says.


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