DEAR DR. JENN,
I have been hanging out with this guy I really like for about six months. We see each other fairly regularly, but it's mostly a Netflix and chill kind of thing — rarely do we go on real dates or hang out with other people, but it isn't just about sex. We have fun together and I can see myself seriously settling down with him, but it just doesn't seem to be moving forward. I don't want to force the DTR talk, but I'm not sure what else to do. —Neither Here Nor There
DEAR NEITHER HERE NOR THERE,
It sounds like you are in the modern-day relationship purgatory known as a 'situationship.' This kind of definition-free relationship is becoming more common as people marry older or totally opt out of long-term commitment. This is different than 'friends with benefits' where two people hook up usually at one of their homes, for the sole purpose of sex, usually with minimal conversation. With a situationship, there is more connection and conversation which can make things murky.
Sometimes a situationship it's just a transitional phase as people get to know each other, before they take a step into a deeper commitment. Other times, it never moves forward and stays stuck in a situationship. Many situationships start out with the potential to become a relationship but stagnate. I've seen a lot of this happening in quarantine, which has left many people elongating relationships they might not have otherwise — or dating someone simply out of convenience because they were on the same page about COVID.
How can you know if you are stuck? There are some tell tale signs.
10 Signs You Are Stuck In a Situationship
Things don’t progress. There are certain relationship milestones you should expect when relationships move forward. You have dinners together, share a Saturday night, meet the friends and family, share a holiday, become exclusive, and say your first “I love you.” When these do not occur, that is a red flag.
You are not integrated into his life. As you become a couple with someone, you go to their favorite coffee shop together and learn the name of their favorite barista. You visit them at work and meet their colleagues. You go to their favorite restaurant. You spend time with people they care about. You are shown and mentioned on their social media. When these integrations do not take place, it’s a sign that things are not moving towards a deeper more meaningful relationship.
You don’t go on actual dates. Part of the dating process involves courting one another. Also, taking someone out shows an investment in the relationship and the person. Granted, COVID has made this more difficult. But if the person you’re with goes out and does outdoor dining with their friend, but chooses not to take you out, you’ve got a problem.
The convention is superficial. When things stay at a surface level, that shows that the person is not taking the time to get to know you or share parts of themselves with you. Without connection, vulnerability, and emotional intimacy things cannot progress. These are the foundations for connection and meaningful romantic relationships.
Plans are inconsistent and not planned in advance. This shows a lack of investing energy and time in the process of getting to know you. This is a concrete indicator that this person is not very invested in you or the relationship. Granted, there are some people who are more fly by the seat of their pants types but even those people will make a date in advance when they are looking to impress someone they're interested in.
There is no future talk. A normal part of a relationship involves planning for the future, whether that is trying a new restaurant, planning a trip, or introducing you to a friend who will be in town. If they aren't talking to you about events coming up they want you to be a part of, it is a sign that this person is not counting on you being around in the future.
You have not had the DTR (define the relationship) talk. At some point, every relationship hits a moment where it needs to be defined. Are you dating other people? Do you have romantic feelings towards me? Do you believe in monogamy? Do you want to be exclusive? Most people put off this conversation for as long as possible. When you are three to six months into the relationship and nobody has brought this up, that is unusual. It is not a great sign and you may need to be the one to initiate that conversation if you are hoping to turn your situationship into a real relationship.
You don’t have a special event date partner. You find yourself at family dinners, holidays, weddings, and other events where you would hope to have a date, all by yourself. Not being able to bring a person that you are romantically involved with is a sign of where you stand in each other's lives.
There is no concrete proof you are a couple. His friends have never heard of you. His family does not know you exist. There’s no sign of you on his social media. It’s understandable in the beginning of a relationship and especially during COVID, but at a certain point it becomes a meaningful indicator of where you stand.
You are anxious or bored a lot of the time. When you don’t have regular dates, phone calls, or text messages, that inconsistency can ultimately get to you and leave you feeling anxious. Also, when you just hang out at each other's places and there is no romance that can lead to boredom. If you are feeling these things, that can be a sign that you are in a situationship that isn't on the right track towards becoming something more meaningful.
Sometimes a situationship can work, especially if you're looking for something light. It is important to both people are on the same page. If you are starting to feel frustrated, it may be time to initiate a DTR conversation. You won't know until you ask.
In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.