A situation-ship is a modern-day phenomenon in which two people are romantically or sexually involved without defining the relationship. Usually, one or more parties have commitment issues yet still want the benefits of having a pseudo-relationship. A situation-ship can be a gut-wrenching experience for the person who hopes for a commitment from the person who doesn't want it. But why would someone stay in a situation-ship if they aren't getting what they want from it? As someone who spent decades getting stuck in these situation-ships, I will tell you why. I have shared many life-shaping experiences here on my blog, and those experiences laid the painful groundwork for my pattern of situation-ships. Before I had a chance to learn my worth in life, I was raped, which flung me into a trauma response and an abusive relationship all before 19. Unfortunately, I think many young women have a similar story to mine. It sets us up for a painful process of figuring out our worth, boundaries, and needs while untangling these experiences. Also, the naivety of youth contributes to the messiness of romance and sex. When you have never been treated well by the opposite sex, you don't know to expect better. Therefore, hurt women continue the pattern that brought them the hurt in the first place, they don't know there is better out there, and they have been conditioned to accept this shit. Unfortunately, I was one of those women.
"A situation-ship can be a gut-wrenching experience for the person who hopes for a commitment from the person who doesn't want it."
Let me start by saying relationship and/or sexual trauma aren't a requirement for getting stuck in situation-ships; however, I think it’s a significant indicator. I used to see other girls find loving and committed boyfriends so quickly, and I assumed there was something fundamentally wrong with me because I couldn't. I thought I was damaged goods, but in reality, my self-worth was just on the floor after being treated like garbage by almost all of my romantic interests in high school. What I didn't recognize was those experiences amplified my avoidant attachment style, and from then on, I was terrified to let anyone close to me. Any romantic interest who actually had intent and interest in building a relationship gave me the major ICK, and I pushed them away with whatever reason I could find. It's easy to see physical flaws in just about anyone if you are looking, so I usually used one of those as an excuse to push him away. I wasn't paying attention to critical things like values, morals, or intent. If he liked me and was confident in that, I was not interested. That's what kept me safe from vulnerability and the pain I had experienced before, so I thought. This avoidance pushed me back into the arms of other emotionally unavailable people, which perpetuated my fundamental belief that I was unlovable. In reality, these people I was engaging with were as broken as I was, and they were not capable of giving me the love and support I sincerely wanted. See the problem here?
A few well-intended suitors broke through my pattern through the years, and I let them in only a degree. I still ran at the first signs of difficulty because I was so uncomfortable with intimacy. When I say intimacy, I don't mean sex. Often, trauma survivors like myself are hypersexual but what we are terrified of is communicating our needs. When you have been repeatedly beat down, you believe your needs don't matter. You start to worry that if you say what you want, people will leave you, so you accept crumbs from people hoping they will stay. You also believe you are unlovable, so why ask for more when you know you won't get it. These beliefs are the broken conditioning that leads women into a pattern of situation-ships, and it can be so hard to recognize and even harder to break. I convinced myself that I was ok with these relationships; I played the field, had a "roster," and acted so tough on the outside like what I was doing was fun and all by design. But deep down, none of it was true, and I would cry myself to sleep at night wondering what was so unlovable about me.
"I had continually pushed well-intended men away and allowed toxic ones to stay because I was terrified of a relationship deep down."
Let me jump to the conclusion here; the answer was nothing. There was nothing unlovable about me because we are created for love as humans. We are all imperfect and lovable, but I was not ready or willing to accept healthy love. I finally recognized my pattern at 34 years old, I was the reason I kept getting stuck in these situation-ships because I was allowing them to happen. Sure would it be easier to blame all the assholes who should have treated me better and loved me? But I couldn't control what other people did; all I could do was manage was my behavior. I had continually pushed well-intended men away and allowed toxic ones to stay because I was terrified of a relationship deep down. When I realized that I had to change to get the relationship I wanted, it was like the universe slapping me in the face. WAKE UP! And that's precisely what I did. I cut out any casual relationships, got clear on the type of partner I wanted, and dated with intent. I would not settle until I found someone who treated me like a freaking queen. Finally, I found my self-worth and realized that no one else would see it if I didn't. I knew I had to be willing to walk away from anyone who didn't meet my standards, and within months I met my future husband. Breaking my pattern took a long time, and for some people, it's not as easy to recognize, so I'm going to share some reasons why you may be stuck in this pattern if you didn't figure it out yet.
1. You do not know your worth. You may have been mistreated by men in the past, been abused, or have low self-esteem. You could have an absent father or a father wound. If this sounds like you, this may contribute to your relationship patterns. When you don't see your worth or know there is better, you're more likely to accept less than you deserve.
2. You are emotionally unavailable or have an avoidant attachment style. Your attachment style is developed from various factors, from how you were raised to the trauma you've experienced. Either way, you must understand how this affects your relationships. It can look like hyper independence, which can easily go unrecognized through the last boss bitch era. On the other hand, it can look like extreme pickiness, always looking for a reason to create distance with a healthy romantic interest, controlling your relationships, keeping men in your life who won't commit for XYZ reason, etc. Read the book "Attached" and "How to do the Work" both give you a great understanding of attachment theory.
3. You aren't comfortable communicating your needs. Maybe you're even afraid to admit you want a relationship. Playing it cool doesn't get you anywhere, and men respond to a woman's emotions; that's why we are such emotional beings. Get in touch with how you really feel, and then you need to TELL HIM. Vulnerability is a crucial aspect of the feminine energy which draws in a masculine man. If he isn't willing to meet your needs, you have to be ready to walk away, no matter what. There is someone who will, and you must trust that truth.
4. You aren't listening to him. He may say any of the following statements: I don't want anything serious, let's see where things go, I'm not the boyfriend type, I want something casual, let's just have fun, I'm too busy to commit right now, etc. If he says these things to you, you need to LISTEN. No matter how much you like him, if he tells you he will not commit to you. That means you're not aligned with what you're working towards, and you must completely walk away from him. A caveat to this, I don't expect a man to be ready to commit to you right away, but he should know what he wants for his life. If a partner isn't a priority for him, he's not ready.
5. You think you need "butterflies," a "spark," or a "fiery passion" for someone right away to be interested. All those feelings are your body telling you something isn't right. It's adrenaline or anxiety, and the right person will bring you calm. We've been taught that those feelings are good, and they aren't. A little nervousness or excitement is expected but listen to your body to guide you to comfort. Intense passion fizzles fast, and you want to go after a slow burn. Those fires build and last.
6. You get emotionally invested in someone too soon. Before you deem anyone a candidate for romance, make sure you have gotten to know them first. Get rid of any expectations when you’re dating. Don't let yourself get excited about the "idea" of someone. Instead, approach dating like you're meeting friends. Once you understand their values and are on the same page, you can begin to consider them for more. Have a relationship with the person in front of you, not the version in your head.
7. You're getting intimate too soon. Unfortunately, sex messes with our emotions, and it can be sexy and romantic to let go in the moment, but until you know you're on the same page about what sex means to the relationship, you're opening more of yourself up to someone. You're also deepening the emotional and spiritual connection you feel to that person. The one piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to not get intimate with anyone without commitment. The slower you go, the more fuckboys you will weed out. They won't have the patience to wait, but a man who truly wants a future with you will.
8. You're not dating enough! For some of us, finding our person is a HUSTLE. I can't even tell you how many apps and dates I went on in the last decade, but I was committed. Don't get stuck with one situation-ship bc you don't know what else is out there. Go on as many dates as you can and put yourself out there. It takes WORK these days but don’t give up.
If I can break 20 years of situation-ships and find my person, so can you. Get the Attract Commitment workbook and join my free community if you want to dive deeper. You deserve to have whatever relationship you desire. So go out there and get it.