As your feelings continue to grow for someone you’ve been hanging out with, it may feel like it’s time to set sound boundaries. And even if you know that you’re looking for a capital-P Partner, you may be at a loss when it comes to telling your situationship you’re looking for a relationship.
According to Damona Hoffman, certified dating coach and host of The Dates & Mates Podcast, a “situationship” is somewhere in between friends with benefits (FWB) and a committed relationship. But unlike a strict FWB situation or an official relationship, the marking of a situationship is a lack of commitment, labels, and any sort of DTR. You may know how you feel, but you have no idea what you are — hookups? Lovers? Seeing each other?
As Susan Winter bestselling author and relationship expert, tells Bustle, sometimes you don’t know what an initial connection will turn into. “Relationships always hold the ability to evolve beyond the point from which they began,” Winter tells Bustle. “Whether that happens or not depends upon the mentality, disposition, and desire of the individuals involved.”
While leaving space for your connection to grow can feel good, Winter and Hoffman agree that too much ambiguity can lead to heartache. If you’ve been spending a lot of time with someone and started to have deeper feelings for them, it’s natural to crave some type of clarity commitment.
“The issue with many daters today which causes them to feel stuck and dissatisfied is that not enough people are willing to express what they truly want due to fear of rejection,” Hoffman says. “If you’re seeing someone casually and want it to be something more, you owe it to yourself and to them to express how you’re feeling.”
How To Ask “What Are We?” In A Situationship
If you hate confrontation or get nervous asking for things, the “What are we?” talk can feel intimidating. Yet, Hoffman shares that starting this conversation is the only way to turn a situationship into a real relationship. Hoffman suggests starting the conversations with a “personal share,” or a statement of your own feelings like, “I really like spending time with you, and I’m starting to have more serious feelings,” or “I’m decided I’m going to delete my Tinder, I’m not going to see anyone else right now.”
Using “I statements” avoids putting them directly on the spot. After opening the conversation, Hoffman and Winter suggest taking a moment to let your date process. While you may be eager to hear their thoughts, giving them some time to formulate their response can help them feel more comfortable.
Though you may be waiting for the right moment and perfect phrasing to ask your partner to define your relationship, dating and relationships coach Clara Artschwager urges you to be as honest and direct as possible.
“In dating we often think, ‘if I hold back, massage the truth, or say things in a certain way it will make the outcome I want more likely,’” Artschwager tells Bustle. “Consider if you were applying for a job — being really clear on the salary you want or the type of company you want to work for is an important part of the process.”
Winter says that editing yourself or softening your desires will only lead to further miscommunication and potential resentment. In other words, if you want a committed serious partnership, you don’t need to pretend to be “chill” about it.
What To Do If They Want To Stay Casual
While articulating your desire for a serious relationship is a big deal, the experts agree that navigating your relationship after the conversation is equally important. Namely, figuring out what to do if you want a relationship and your crush doesn't.
“Often we don't walk away because we think we can change the other person's mind,” Artschwager says. “We think, maybe if they get to know me, or have more sex with me their feelings will change.”
Though people do change their minds about what they’re looking for in love, Artschwager explains that staying casual when you have serious feelings isn’t always feasible.
“You get yourself into far more trouble and pain, because you’re constantly sitting on feelings that you can’t express,” Artschwager says. “It's taxing, it takes away from your energy, and more often than not, it’s ultimately not sustainable.”
Of course, if you’re genuinely willing to stay casual, Winter shares that staying in situationship may be right.
“Every relationship decision we make depends upon how we feel about ourselves in a specific space and time,” Winter says. There are times when situationships may be appealing. Choosing a situationship in this context is an active choice. Therefore, we are still in command ourselves and our desired outcome.”
It’s possible for you to change your mind as well, Winter says. Maybe you thought you wanted a more serious relationship, but truly are OK with something more casual.
But if you are looking for commitment and longevity, you deserve someone that’s on your wavelength. In fact, Hoffman says she coaches her clients using Maya Angelou’s famous words: “‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’”
Susan Winter, bestselling author and relationship expert
Clara Artschwager, dating and relationships coach