In this modern day and age, unofficial dating has often become the norm.
Also known as a situationship, it’s a type of romantic relationship that is not formal or established.
If you’re wondering whether or not you’re in an unofficial dating situation, these 19 signs point out the fact that, indeed, you are.
Likewise, I also have tips on what you need to do to define (or possibly end) your situationship.
1) They’re vocal about NOT getting serious
Someone who’s dating you unofficially will tell (and show) you that they’re not serious.
They’re very straightforward about this.
They’ll tell you on the get-go.
They believe that speaking up will give them the upper hand. They’re telling you what they want, so you won’t have to expect otherwise.
They’ll even show you, in case you still don’t get the drift. In fact, don’t be surprised if they exhibit most (if not all) of the signs below.
2) There are other people involved
This is another clear sign. If your date is still seeing other people, you have a situationship on your hands.
Sadly, this is something your partner might tell you firsthand. You may know about these other people – well, through other people – or social media.
While this sounds bad, it could only get worse. If you’re in a situationship, your unofficial partner will continue flirting with other people – even if they’re out with you!
Here are some other signs that they are (or may be thinking of) seeing other people:
- They constantly ask you if you find someone else attractive – and if you’re interested in them. If you answer this, they’ll find it easier to bring up the topic of dating around.
- They care about their appearance much more than usual. People tend to look and dress up nicer whenever they see new people.
- They go out a lot more. They’re often in bars and restaurants, but they never seem to invite you to tag along with them.
- They’re asking for some space to figure things out. For casual daters, this space can give them the freedom to shack up with other people.
- They’re throwing off ideas of polyamory. From threesomes to swinging, discussions of polyamorous activities may be your date’s way of bringing up the possibility of seeing other people.
3) You have yet to define your relationship
If you haven’t delineated what you are to each other yet, it’s clear that you’re unofficially dating – and nothing more.
After all, therapist Saba Harounie Lurie defines a situationship as:
“A romantic arrangement that exists before/without a DTR [‘defining the relationship’] conversation.”
Simply put, a DTR is all about characterizing the needs, desires, and boundaries of the relationship.
Without this, you and your fling won’t be on the same page, especially regarding commitment and exclusivity.
That said, having the ‘DTR’ talk doesn’t always mean a need to establish a relationship. It can be an agreement on whether or not you’ll date casually – or if you’re just limited to having a purely physical relationship.
4) There’s no talk about the future
Apart from the lack of DTR, another hallmark sign of unofficial dating is the lack of future plans.
And by plans, I don’t mean ‘marriage and having kids.’
Situationship couples can’t even make plans for the next week.
“Making future plans is a healthy ingredient for a growing relationship,” says sex coach Amy Levine.
Obviously, a situationship is a phase where feelings and connections barely grow.
Instead, what they have are limited to impromptu hang-outs and bedroom sessions.
For one, some parties find it hard to ‘schedule’ for fear of getting rejected.
As for some, there’s the looming thought that their date has plans with someone else.
When they start planning, the other person’s response might be filled with uncertainty. “Let’s see” is the number one go-to response.
As to why they lack future planning, one thing is clear: they don’t see being with each other in the near, foreseeable future.
5) Everything is last minute
Say your date does make a plan, is it always at the last minute?
News flash: it’s a sign that you’re unofficially dating.
Sadly, this means that going out with you isn’t their priority.
You are their backup plan. In case their first option isn’t available, their efforts of dressing up for a date won’t go to waste.
Sadly, having a backup partner is common across the board.
Dr. Glenn Geher calls this phenomenon ‘partner insurance.’ It’s where you have someone waiting in the wings – in case your current relationship burns down to the ground.
As to why people do this – there are various reasons:
- They’re no longer happy or satisfied with their current relationship.
- They have an unrestricted sexual orientation – they have a lot of sexual flings outside established relationships (one-night stands, affairs, etc.)
- They’re often younger.
- They’re narcissistic – they don’t care about the people around them.
6) Conversations are superficial – and usually sexual
People in successful relationships talk openly about everything – even the not-so-pleasant stuff.
After all, “Connecting with others in meaningful ways tends to make people happier,” explains Professor Nicholas Epley, Ph.D.
Unfortunately, those in situationships find it hard to breach the superficial barrier.
For one, they believe that deeper conversations are less enjoyable – if not awkward.
“People seemed to imagine that revealing something meaningful or important about themselves in conversation would be met with blank stares and silence,” adds Epley.
As such, situationship conversations remain shallow – and are often sexual. Talking about your fears and insecurities sure feels awkward – if not appropriate.
As to why your talks don’t get deeper, relationship expert Abby Medcalf, Ph.D., blames another thing: a lack of trust.
“Without trust, there’s no vulnerability, and without vulnerability, there’s no emotional closeness.”
7) You don’t date ‘date’
In situationships, you go out – but you don’t consider it an official date.
There are no flowers, fancy dinners, weekend getaways, basically anything romantic.
There’s no effort to talk about the more profound things.
A “How’s work/life?” question may be asked from time to time, but once the other responds “It’s fine” or “It sucks,” one feels no need to explore further.
The usual date is more or less ‘Netflix and Chill’ type, with some takeaway or food delivery on the side.
8) They’re inconsistent
It’s no secret that there are stark differences between having a lover or a girl (or boy) friend. The latter is more dependable and reliable.
The opposite can be said for a situationship lover.
If there’s something consistent about them, it’s their inconsistency.
There’s no knowing when you’ll meet each other again – should you do meet each other again. There’s no talk about the future, after all.
As mentioned, you can only expect last-minute invites. Will you meet them this week or not? Well, they’re the only ones who know. All you can do is wait.
Unfortunately, this inconsistency can leave you in a loop of disappointment.
“It’s like getting someone hooked on a drug and then depriving them of that drug. In this context, one of the withdrawal symptoms is frustration,” explains author Ayoola Adetayo.
9) It’s always the same excuse
A person in a situationship will have the same reason every time their unofficial partner asks them why they haven’t seen them lately.
They’re just like a partner who wants to break up – but don’t know how. You’re a mere afterthought, so he’ll think of ways to excuse himself of his inconsistency.
“I’m busy with work.”
“I spend a lot of time in the gym.”
Needless to say, someone who likes you will always want to be around you.
In this case, they don’t.
If they’re serious about dating you, they’ll make time for you – no matter how busy they may be.
Even if you make an effort about this, you will still be met with the same lame excuses – even if they don’t fit the current situation.
Newsflash: you guys are in a situationship, and nothing more. They’ll make the same excuses, and they won’t bend over backward for you.
10) You haven’t met their friends – or family
Meeting family – and friends – is a scary time for every couple.
There’s no set time to do it – as timelines vary for every relationship.
“Some people will want to wait until they’re exclusive before they introduce their partner to their parents. Others may want to meet the parents to see how their significant other is around them. How they interact, whether they are respectful toward their parents, how they handle conflict or something unexpected, or even the kind of stories the parents share about them,” explains therapist Anita Chipala.
That said, if you haven’t met these people after dating for several years, then it’s a clear sign that you’re unofficially dating.
Of course, it’s important to consider logistics and finances before you make an inference. Maybe their folks live far away and are unable to travel at the moment.
But if they live nearby, and you have the means to visit, then you should be wary.
“Chances are pretty good that you’re dating someone who isn’t comfortable with intimacy and/or commitment,” adds Chipala.
11) You like them – that’s it
If you like the person – and not love them – you may be in an unofficial dating capacity.
You have positive thoughts about them, and you like being in their company. You feel some warmth and closeness whenever you’re with them.
It’s widely different from love, where you have profound care and commitment towards the person.
In a committed relationship, you feel passionate love – an intense longing to be with them again.
Likewise, you may feel compassionate love – where you’re committed and deeply attached to your partner.
In a situationship, you do enjoy their company – but that’s about it. They’re not someone that you long to be with at the end of the day, every day.
12) You’re not a part of their daily life
Say you’ve been dating an avid runner for months now. You’ve heard them talk about running with friends and family, but that’s pretty much it.
They haven’t invited you to run with them, even if they know you like working out as well.
If they’re not making an effort to incorporate you into their life, then what you have going is a mere situationship.
As you see, a committed relationship works the other way. Your partner will do everything to integrate you into their life.
The same situation, of course, applies to you. If you’re not willing to assimilate your date into your life, then you’re still keeping everything at the unofficial stage.
13) Status: Single
Whenever people ask you about your status, do you always answer ‘Single!’ – without batting an eyelash?
When they ask you about the guy (or girl) they’ve seen you with, do you always shrug it off?
If you do answer, you always tell them that “Yeah, we’re not together. We’re just enjoying each other’s company.”
Well, you’re not wrong.
Wikipedia defines a single person as “someone who is not involved in any type of romantic relationship, including long-term dating.”
Taking this at face value, you are indeed, in a situationship.
After all, there’s no commitment, no clear delineation with what you are to each other.
As long as you’re concerned, you’re single and ready to mingle with others – your current unofficial partner excluded.
14) They’re not your go-to person
If you’ve been dating someone for some time now, then they should be your first choice to bring to a birthday, wedding, or any other occasion.
In fact, they should be the first person with whom you share your problems at the end of the day.
But if they’re not your go-to person – it’s an indication that you’re dating them unofficially.
For one, you may be unwilling to ask them out. They’ll make the same lame excuse, anyway.
Then again, you may be hesitant about confiding in them. Your conversations are always very shallow, so there’s no use wasting your time.
That said, they may not be your go-to person because you view yourself as ‘single and ready to mingle.’
You don’t want to bring them to a party because – who knows – you might meet someone with whom you share a spiritual connection there.
15) There are no apparent signs that you’re dating
People in situationships quickly call themselves ‘single’ because there’s no evidence that they’re dating someone unofficially.
Unlike other couples who flood their social media feeds with lovey-dovey pictures, situationship partners will keep their feed as spotless as possible.
You won’t even find a picture of their date on their phone!
According to experts, it may signify an avoidant attachment style.
In other words, you “typically withdraw and disengage from your partner regularly, as opposed to giving them the attention that they might want.”
You may find a text thread or call logs, but that’s pretty much it. You won’t even know they’re going out because their date’s name is written as if they’re a mere co-worker.
16) You feel stuck
Change is the only constant thing in the world. But if both of you remain stuck with the same old thing for months (hopefully, not years,) then what you have is a situationship.
Instead of being exclusive and committed – even moving in with each other – you both remain at square one.
You’re still approaching dates casually, and your conversations are still very shallow. You haven’t met his friends and family, even if you feel you should’ve now.
You don’t feel yourself in the relationship, and you’ve run out of good reasons why you should stay in this situationship.
As Medcalf puts it:
“It’s just shared activities—hanging out here and there. It feels directionless.”
Unless you decide to do something, you’re bound to be stuck in the same unofficial dating scenario.
17) You’re bored
A situationship can make you feel stuck – and bored too.
As mentioned, there’s no progress. It’s the same old thing over and over again.
“Boredom can be linked to bad habits when it comes to communication and maintaining your connection as a couple,” according to the Relate relationship support website.
Add to that, you may feel bored due to excess energy – but there’s nowhere for you to direct that.
Yes, “Netflix and chill” can be pretty fun, but it can be tiring – physically and emotionally – especially if it’s the only thing you guys are doing.
You may find yourself daydreaming about other dates – or hating the fact that you’re with them at the moment.
As with most things, people yearn for progress in relationships. Sadly, it’s something you CAN’T expect in situationships.
Unofficial daters are fine with the way things are, and they don’t have any desire to take things to the next level.
18) Your anxiety is off the roof
Relationship anxiety is normal, at least in a committed partnership.
But if you’re in a mere situationship, anxiety can take another form.
You worry about your partner – and your current situation – so much that it leads to debilitating stress.
The anxiety you feel can be brought by a lot of things:
• Lack of trust
Trust is “the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Indeed, trust is vital for successful relationships.
That said, people in situationships often have trust issues – for they perpetually question their date’s words, actions, and activities. These issues can lead to anxiety, as well as depression and attachment issues.
• Fear of abandonment
This cause is pretty much self-explanatory. You feel an overwhelming worry that a particular person will leave you and never come back.
Fear of abandonment, more often than not, can lead to anxiety – as well as avoidance.
According to therapist Jo Coker:
“These people tend to fear losing a relationship and may develop dependent relationships. They may constantly seek reassurance [that] they are loved and that everything is okay which can exhaust the partner.”
• Unreciprocated feelings
Situationships, obviously, are one-sided relationships.
One party puts in a lot more effort. They’re often left disappointed, and anxious about the entire scenario.
19) Their hero instinct is yet to show
Does your partner fail to play hero every single time?
Sadly, it’s a clear sign that you’re unofficially dating – and nothing more.
Men, after all, are biologically hardwired to play the hero in every scenario.
They are meant to protect and provide for the women they love.
This is what James Bauer, author of the book ‘His Secret Obsession,’ calls the hero instinct.
Men in situationships often fail to rise to the occasion – even if their partner has done everything to trigger the hero instinct in them.
If you’ve asked for his help, showed your appreciation, and supported his hobbies – to no avail – then it’s a wake-up call.
You’re in a situationship – which is why his hero instinct doesn’t show.
What you need to do
If you’ve encountered the signs above, maybe you’re looking for a way to settle things. Worry not, for here are some tips that can help you define your current situationship:
Have the DTR talk
One of the stark characteristics of situationships is the lack of relationship definition. So if you want to formalize everything once and for all, then it’s time to initiate the DTR talk.
So when’s the best time to do this?
According to relationship experts, there’s no set or established time for a DTR talk. Instead, it should be based on feelings.
“Everyone opens up at different points in time, and we have to realize we can’t expect somebody to be exactly where we’re at, at the exact moment that we are,” explains sex therapist Constance DelGiudice.
That said, you can always follow the 2-3 month rule. By that time, you should have a better understanding of your date – and their feelings.
When you do decide to have ‘the talk,’ always keep these things in mind:
1) Assess your current situationship status.
Are you happy with your present situation, or is it only making you anxious? More often than not, those who wish to have the DTR talk feel ‘stuck.’ They need to do something and move things forward.
2) Ask yourself: What do you want?
What do you want to get out of your situationship? Do you want a committed relationship or an open one?
3) Prepare yourself for their response
Say you want to be in an exclusive relationship. Your partner may not be ready for it, so you need to prepare yourself for this kind of answer.
4) Start gently.
The statement ‘We need to talk’ can make some people run to the hills. It’s best to let the conversation flow naturally instead of trying to ‘confront’ your partner.
5) Keep your questions open-ended.
According to academic experts, “Open-ended questions allow respondents to include more information, including feelings, attitudes, and understanding.”
Open-ended questions do not only apply to research, though. When it comes to relationships, asking open-ended questions shows that you’re flexible.
Likewise, it shows your partner that you won’t judge them for their answers – no matter how brutal they may be.
6) Use the word ‘I.’
Using ‘I’ in your statements will help emphasize your feelings. It will also give the other person some space to answer your questions.
7) Be specific.
It goes back to saying what you want – what you think must be done moving forward.
According to author Bob Burg, being specific is all about:
- Keeping everything nice and easy. “Don’t make it any more difficult for the other person to understand what you are saying than is absolutely necessary.”
- Avoiding the use of big words for “small ones will do.”
- Limiting the use of terms and phrases that could mean different things to different people.
8) Prepare for more DTR talks along the way.
Having a DTR talk one time doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it for the remainder of the way. As your relationship matures, you may need to have recurring DTR conversations along the way.
Do everything in person
Nothing sucks more than being ghosted by your date (albeit unofficial.) You don’t know if they’re being inconsistent or just severely busy.
That said, you owe it to them to do everything in person – whether it’s a DTR talk or ending the situationship.
It’s just like ending an open relationship – doing it in-person proves to be more considerate and respectful.
Sure, your unofficial date may be upset – or distraught. On the other hand, they may be okay with it.
Even if there’s no connection between you two, you both deserve a dignified, ‘official’ closure.
Tap onto his hero instinct
As mentioned, your unofficial date will hardly feel the need to play the hero.
The good news is you can trigger this deep-seated instinct within him.
All you need to do is:
- Be appreciative of things he does
- Tell him how much he makes you happy
- Make him feel more confident
- Support his interests, hobbies, and passions
- Challenge him from time to time
For starters, you can try uttering these hero instinct phrases:
- “Something made me want to talk to you. Do you know what it is?”
- “Oh! I just remembered the first thought I had about you.”
- “Thanks for giving me a ride. I really appreciate it.”
Play hard to get
Do you often say yes to their last-minute plans?
Are you okay with them being inconsistent – and repeating the same lame excuse?
This complacency may be one of the reasons why your date thinks you’re okay with the current situationship.
Here are some tips to make them clamor for more:
- Take some time before you respond to their messages or calls
- Answer with just a single word (say, yes or no)
- Feign to be busy (just like them)
- Don’t commit to anything
- Don’t make the first move
- Refuse their help
- Casually mention other dates
- Make them wait before you get intimate
If it’s not working for you, don’t hesitate to leave
Situationships are not always that bad.
For one, it’s an opportunity for personal or self-growth.
It’s a liberating yet challenging way to mold yourself – and formulate your life goals.
According to sociologist Jess Carbino, Ph.D.:
“Individuals may be trying to explore dating and relationships generally and want to learn about how to interact romantically.”
Likewise, it allows you to explore your passions outside of another person.
As Lurie puts it:
“You’re not making a decision to build a life with your situationship partner. The choices you make are yours alone, with a few exceptions regarding choices that could jeopardize someone else’s health.”
For many, it paves the way for intimacy – minus the commitment.
According to Lurie, “In some instances, it is much healthier for both parties to satisfy that need without feeling like they have to make commitments that aren’t aligned with their needs or wants.”
As a bonus, situationships can be convenient for a specific chapter in your life.
If you’re looking to survive a breakup – or if you’re planning to move to another state soon – then unofficial dating can work for you.
That said, situationships have a long list of cons too:
- There’s no consistency
- There’s a lot of potential conflicts
- You stand to become emotionally vulnerable
If the cons of unofficial dating are heavily weighing you down, know that you can always leave your pseudo-relationship.
You’re not committed, anyway.
Again, it all boils down to being honest and having a DTR talk. If they’re unwilling to establish boundaries or move towards a real relationship, then it’s a sign for you to leave – once and for all.
A situationship is a precarious condition where your romantic status is not defined or established.
There’s a lack of consistency and plans for the future.
Everything is last minute, and conversations barely go beyond pillow talk.
If you’re tired of being in a situationship, know that there are many things you could do.
For one, you can have an honest DTR talk. If you want, you can try to trigger his hero instinct – or even play hard to get.
That said, not a lot of unofficial daters will be willing to scale to the next level.
In case you don’t meet eye-to-eye with them, you’re always free to leave.
Don’t ever feel like you won’t find love, for you will – soon!
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.