The relationship status: a fickle line in the sand for some, a stark border for others. At times, many fall into temporary commitments based on their emotional needs or lifestyle changes—aka “situationships.” Now, younger generations are intentionally entering temporary partnerships, embracing a relationship that may ebb and flow between “friends” and “more than friends.”
In a September feature, the BBC highlighted gen Z’s tendency to embrace grey-area relationships. Existing somewhere between friendships and relationships, gen Z are defining casual partners and embracing the semi-commitment that goes with them. Elizabeth Armstrong, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, researches sexuality and situationships. “Right now, this solves some kind of need for sex, intimacy, companionship—whatever it is—but this does not have necessarily a long-term time horizon,” she told the BBC.
Rather than focusing on what’s next, or concern over wasting time, gen Z is focusing on enjoying their lives at whatever stage feels most comfortable to them. Gen Z isn’t hiding this tendency, but speaking out about it. On TikTok, #situationship-tagged videos had over 900 million views as of late September. The term was mentioned on the popular reality TV show “Love Island UK,” and in Swedish singer Snoh Aalegra’s song, “Situationship.”
A recent article by VICE highlighted that relationship coaches and counselors are now offering advice on navigating these niche but increasingly popular partnerships. Ben Goresky, a relationship coach based in Vancouver, told VICE that “there are many cases where two or more people would get together to get one or more relational needs met, without jumping into a full-fledged romantic relationship.” In conversation with his wife Sheleana Aiyana, a relationship counselor as well as an author on the subject, VICE unpacked what makes these relationships work. “It’s about being really clear about what each of you want, and setting the guidelines and rules of engagement,” Goresky said. “Committed or not, it’s important to communicate,” said Aiyana.
Romance and exclusive relationships have given way to more flexible partnerships and hookup trends in recent months. For couples who want to explore their sexuality, there’s Feeld: an app that connects interested parties with like-minded intentions for a monthly membership fee. A feature story by i-D unpacked a looming consumer dislike for conventional dating apps, expressing how swiping blindly, ghosting and love-bombing online can ultimately feel unromantic and dehumanizing at times.
Situationships have become a legitimate relationship status that people are open to joining for company and comfort. Hovering somewhere between friendship and relationships, gen Z is embracing this middle ground in a healthy way, approaching ever-changing boundaries with communication and acceptance.