Plus, what to do if you want something more serious.
If you’ve been talking to someone consistently for several months, you’ve hooked up, you've gone on dates, but you haven’t had “the talk,” you’re probably in a situationship. Think of it as a casual relationship in which you do all the traditional stuff... except the part where you actually call each other boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner. There are definitely some red flags your relationship is casual that are important to keep in mind if you want to establish something more serious, but don’t really know how.
If you do find yourself in a situationship, don’t feel bad. These types of relationships are incredibly common, especially among millennials and Gen Z. In fact, according to Tinder’s 2021 Future of Dating report, the number of daters looking for “no particular type of relationship” was up nearly 50%, meaning this generation of daters is seeking more open-ended relationships. The app also found that Tinder bio mentions of the phrase “see where things go” rose 19% and “open to” rose 17%, which are all time highs. Given that young adults show a greater openness to possibility in dating these days — be it a hookup, casual relationship, friend with benefits, and so on — it can also be easy to fall into a situationship.
You may have no interest in defining the relationship, and if commitment isn't important to you, that's totally cool. But if you want to have a serious relationship, you might need to have a straightforward conversation. It's normal to be nervous! But try not to put it off if being casual is really bothering you, and don’t leave yourself the impossible task of trying to guess what the other person is thinking. Remember, the best way to find out someone's intentions is by communicating with them about it. Think about the benefits that being on the same page can offer you.
If you’ve been in a situationship for a while, and you don’t know what your partner wants or even how to know if you're casually dating, here are some things to look out for that signal they are likely not looking for something serious.
1. They Don’t Integrate You Into Their Life
When it comes to casual dating versus serious dating, the biggest difference has to do with emotional intimacy and connection outside of a physical relationship. According to matchmaker and dating coach Karenna Alexander, someone who doesn’t try to make you a part of their life probably doesn’t want anything serious. “He takes pains to avoid having you meet his family and friends, and even his pets,” Alexander tells Elite Daily. "When a guy likes you, he wants you to meet the people he’s close to. He’s thinking of a future and moving things along. When a guy avoids these things, it’s crystal clear that ‘a future’ is not on his mind."
Keep an eye out for signs that whoever you’re dating — regardless of gender identity — is making an effort to weave you into their day-to-day life. If you haven’t met their friends, they haven’t mentioned anything about their family, or they never talk about the future, you may want to tread lightly.
2. They Only Want To Hook Up
If you’re hooking up several times a week, and they’ve told you they aren’t sleeping with anyone else, it’s easy to think that it’s serious and you’re the only person they’re dating. This might not be true, especially if they never spend the night at your place or you always leave their place when the encounter is over. They may also be picky if you start leaving personal items (like a toothbrush) behind. These are signs that your sexual partner is primarily interested in the physical aspect of your relationship and isn’t interested in any kind of intimacy outside of it.
And if the only thing you two do together is hook up, that’s a sign on its own. "If someone dates you — and even sleeps with you — but they don’t try to see you regularly, it could be because they’re not really interested in a relationship with you," relationship and etiquette expert April Masini previously told Elite Daily. If you're into casually hooking up, then by all means, do what you want! But if you enjoy having sex with them but want more, then it's time to have a conversation about what you’re actually doing.
3. They Don’t Go Out Of Their Way For You
Someone who is seriously into you will want to treat you. They want to make you feel good about the relationship and prove it to you through their actions. This could be something like taking you out to lunch, writing you a cute note, or bringing you to a spot they know you’ll love — anything that is thoughtful and shows they care about you and your happiness. “When someone cares, they want to take you places, spend quality time making new memories, surprise you from time to time, [and] plan vacations,” Trina Leckie, a breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast, previously told Elite Daily.
It’s definitely old-school to expect someone to pay for you on a date, but it’s still a nice gesture if someone does offer. When someone really likes you, they will want to pull out small acts of kindness and treat you to something nice. It doesn’t have to be a four-course steakhouse dinner. Even if it’s a cup of coffee or a ticket to see a movie, the nice gestures are often in the little things.
4. They Don’t Want To Just Hang Out
According to dating coach Monica Parikh from School of Love NYC, someone who has serious feelings for you will initiate plans ahead of time. "He’ll show you through his efforts what he’s really looking for," Parikh tells Elite Daily, "and if he’s just like, 'Hey, do you want to come over and watch some Netflix?' and he texts you at 10 p.m. on a Friday, you can be pretty well assured that he’s not looking at you as a future romantic partner."
Alexander also says that if a partner is always skipping out on you during the weekend, they might not be serious about you. If they don’t ever try to include you in their plans, consider taking a step back. "When a guy is in love, he wants to spend Saturdays and much of the weekend with you," says Alexander. "Weekends are downtime and fun, and if you aren’t going to spend it with your girlfriend, it’s clear that this guy is not super into you and probably has no intentions of settling down."
This is not to say that someone who doesn’t want to spend every waking moment with you isn’t into you. Taking space is perfectly normal, and spending quality time with friends is also a really important part of general life balance. Don’t feel hurt if someone you’re dating isn’t making plans with you 24/7, but do make sure they are including you and making an effort some of the time. Still, if you "find that he doesn't save weekends for you, but only schedules a once-a-week date on a Tuesday night, he's likely not that committed to the relationship," Lori Salkin, matchmaker and dating coach, previously told Elite Daily.
5. They Don’t Take Interest In Your Life
Someone who cares about you wants you to be well, and they will probably pay attention to the little things that make a big difference. According to Alexander, little questions like asking if you’ve eaten are a good indication that someone wants to be serious. They want you to be comfortable, happy, and safe. If they aren’t texting you to make sure you got home OK, or to say, “good luck!” on a big test, then maybe they don’t really care.
As Connell Barrett, the founder of Dating Transformation and a dating coach with The League, previously explained to Elite Daily, someone who is really into you will ask you a lot of questions. “Showing interest itself is a big sign of romantic interest,” he said. Asking questions about your life, even just about how your day went or what your favorite movie is at the moment, is a good indication they are actually interested in you and there’s potential for something serious. However, the opposite is true, too. Among the biggest signs he or she wants a casual relationship is if they seem don’t seem all that interested or invested in your life outside of hooking up.
What To Do If You’re In A Situationship & Don’t Want To Be
If the red flags are there, and they’ve been there consistently, it might be time to take action. “Verbalize it immediately,” Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup coach at Steps to Happyness, previously told Elite Daily. “Sit down and ask the other person where they see this going. Tell them about your feelings, needs, and expectations. If it’s a fit, great! Make it official.”
If you find yourself in a situationship that you’re trying to pin down into a serious and committed relationship, just be upfront and honest about what you want. "Once you hear [their response], you have to heed that," Parikh says. "You cannot think that you’re going to change someone’s mind, because what you’ll do is waste a lot of time.”
Alexander explains that once a pattern has already been established, it can sometimes be hard to turn a situationship around. “It might work in the moment, or for a few weeks or months, but it doesn't come from his heart and it's not lasting,” Alexander says. “You have forced him to do something, and he likely — on some level — resents you for telling him what to do.”
Both experts agree that three months is enough time to know whether or not you want a relationship to be serious. People usually know pretty quickly whether or not a relationship has long-term potential, and if they’re not defining the relationship, you may have to be the one to bring it up. If your feelings are strong, it’s totally normal to be scared or nervous. Just remember that you are doing what’s best for you.
Parikh suggests having a very honest conversation and telling the other person exactly what you want. She doesn’t suggest setting an ultimatum, but if you want something serious and you think that they don’t, you simply have to let them know what you’re thinking. If they’re not on the same page, you may have to pull the plug and end it. Additionally, Parikh says that if they really do care about you, they may realize it later and reach out when they’re ready.
“If he’s interested in you, he’ll chase you,” says Parikh. “This is reverse psychology. It’s very effective. He will come and find you. It takes a man typically six weeks to cognitively process a decision, but during that six weeks you’ve got to cut off contact. You can’t be sporadically texting, you can’t be checking in, you can’t make up an excuse, [and] you can’t find tickets to invite him to. You’ve got to cut it off. If he cares about you he will come and find you. But you’ve got to be the initiator of the breakup.”
That being said, you also can’t expect someone to change their mind. If you and the other person want different things, that’s OK. You just both have to respect the other’s decision and move on. “The number one thing I wish people would do is really listen to what's happening and what [their partner] is saying, not hearing what they want to hear," licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson previously told Elite Daily. "A lot of times, we hear what we want to hear and we see what we want to see, and that's when we get hurt."
Ultimately, every relationship and every person is different. People all move differently, so if three months is too soon for you to have “the talk,” don’t be afraid to move at your own pace. And if you do have a conversation about exclusivity, and they don’t want to settle down, you can’t force or push anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. It may not result in the healthiest relationship. Honestly is the best policy here, so just keep it real, and don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.
Karenna Alexander, matchmaker and dating coach
April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert
Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast
Monica Parikh, dating coach at School of Love NYC
Lori Salkin, matchmaker and dating coach
Connell Barrett, founder of Dating Transformation and dating coach with The League
Cherlyn Chong, dating and breakup coach at Steps to Happyness
Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist
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