Situationships: Your Guide to Sex in the Grey Area

Written by Cailin, Lovehoney Editorial Team

Situationships: Your Guide to Sex in the Grey Area

In the 19th century, simply dancing with someone at a ball more than twice would be enough for people to see wedding bells chiming. Now, with a more liberal view on dating and sex (thank goodness), relationships are far less linear and much more varied. This certainly hasn’t stopped us from labelling every relationship status we’ve come up with though.

Friends with benefits, life partners, married, lovers, open relationship, throuples... modern society (namely the internet) has a name for it all. Which is why it’s surprising that it took us this long to come up with the term “situationship”. Don’t roll your eyes or write it off as a gen Z fad, this name has legs to stand on – it's even recognised by the Oxford dictionary.

It defines a situationship as “a romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established”. Basically, it’s a label given to a relationship which by nature, has no labels (ironic, we know).

Even if you’ve never heard of it before, some of you will probably be very familiar with this grey area of being more than friends but not quite “together” together. Some of you may look upon these relationships fondly while others may not.

Regardless of what you think of them, they can be a beast to navigate and even trickier to know whether they’re right for you. We’ve gathered all the best tips we could find on what to do if you’re in a situationship – from the internet and from a 20-something-year-old's sizeable amount of personal experience in the area – and whacked them into this guide.

We also pulled together some pros and cons because while a situationship can be last thing some of you may want, for others, they could be exactly what you need right now. Read on to find out why.

How To Tell If You’re in a Situationship

“Wait a minute, am I in a situationship?!”

Firstly, take a long, hard look at your dating situation (if you’re calling it that, there’s your first clue). Here are a few things to look out for:

  • You both or at least one of you tends to avoid talking about feelings or emotions

  • You generally do the same activities together each time you hang out – Netflix and chill sound familiar?

  • The “what are we?” conversation gets avoided like the plague

  • One or both of you are not integrating each other into your own lives or social circles

  • You’re not talking about or making plans for the future

  • You’re not exclusive. One or both of you might be sleeping with other people

  • There’s a general lack of effort to see each other

While the lack of commitment can be confusing and sometimes anxiety-inducing, being able to label it yourself so you know what you’re dealing with can be beneficial. From there you can you start to make some decisions on whether it’s right for you.

The Pros and Cons of a Situationship


A perk of not living in the Victorian era is that you’re free to do a lot more than dance with someone without having to marry them.

If you’re not interested in commitment for whatever reason – could be because work is too busy or you’re newly single – you can still explore sex, connection and intimacy in a situationship.

You can make plans and life decisions entirely for yourself because you don’t have a partner to account for. Rather spend the weekend hanging out with your friends? Go right ahead. Offered a job in a new city? The decision is all yours to make.

You can get to know what you want (and don’t want) from a relationship. Learning about yourself and how you relate to romantic partners is a valuable lesson in communication and self-worth. Don’t like how your situationship is treating you? Take note and learn from this for next time.

Emmy Rossum Tinder GIF by Showtime


All sex requires a certain level of trust and vulnerability between the parties involved. This can be difficult when you are trying to keep your cards close to your chest in a situationship. Things can get confusing and feelings can get hurt if you’re not careful and clear about what you want.

If you’re expecting more, it can be hard on your self-esteem. When a relationship is not progressing, even though the reason why may have nothing to do with you, it’s easy to feel like you’re the problem or you’re not worthy.

A lack of commitment also means a lack of consistency. In a situationship, you can’t really rely on each other like you would in a normal relationship which can be stressful for everyone involved.

friends with benefits GIF

What To Do If You’re in a Situationship

As you can probably tell, a situationship can be completely one-sided or you could both be just as responsible for these nonchalant behaviours as each other. If you’re on the same page and this system works for you both, this unofficial affair can carry on without worry. Things can get tricky when the feel-good hormones released during sex get involved though.

Screenshot 2023-03-13 162405

The natural release of oxytocin and dopamine which occurs when we kiss, cuddle and particularly when we orgasm helps us bond with our lover, often resulting in an emotional connection or “catching feelings”. In a situationship, you can be emotionally connected but not necessarily emotionally invested and it’s when one person begins to want more from the relationship that things can get a bit messy.

If you think you might be in a situationship, check in and ask yourself whether you are truly happy and satisfied with what’s happening. If the answer is yes then go forth and conquer, my friend.

If the answer is "no" or “maybe if I stick around for long enough, they’ll change their mind”, you might want to reconsider whether this relationship-ish sitch is one you want to be in. Be honest, be brave and ask if it is going anywhere – you'll usually get your answer and from there, you can make a decision on how you want to move forward.

Navigating Sex in a Situationship

Check In

Just because you’re not together-together, doesn’t mean you can’t respect each other’s feelings and boundaries. Simply asking what your partner likes and dislikes or if there is anything they’d like to try in the bedroom is an easy, mutually beneficial conversation to have which focusses on the physical relationship you do have.

Use Protection

Make sure you’re being safe with your sex. If one or both of you are sleeping with other people (or even if you’re not), it’s important to use protection to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies.

Explore More

If you’re lucky enough to feel ultra-comfortable in your situationship, use this opportunity to try different things when you’re getting it on outside the confines of a traditional relationship. It could open your mind to other areas of your sexuality and desires you’ve never considered before.