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Why Situationship Breakups Hurt The Most

How to navigate the emotional aftermath of situationship endings with personal stories and expert guidance.

  • Ebube Okereke
  • 15th June 2024

Have you ever found yourself in a relationship that defies easy labeling? The term “situationship” perfectly captures this gray area. Let’s explore what it means and why it’s gaining so much attention.

A situationship refers to an unofficial dating arrangement where one or both parties behave somewhat like a couple: going on dates, giving romantic gifts, and even meeting each other’s friends and family. However, there’s no explicit commitment, leaving one or both individuals uncertain about where they stand.



Many people share their experiences and explain the concept of ‘situationships‘ on social media. A recurring theme in this content is the uniquely painful nature of ending a situationship. Many express that they felt more hurt by the end of their unofficial dating scenario than by the breakup of longer-term relationships.

I asked a couple of people and here’s what they had to say:

Ese, 26: “Sometimes it’s because you’re mourning what you thought was possible, not necessarily what actually existed. The pain comes from losing the potential you saw.”

Zibs, 25: “I tend to catch feelings quite easily, so when I like someone, I need that person in my life, around all the time, and I can’t imagine myself without them. But most often, neither of us is interested or ready to be in a committed relationship; most often, it’s the guy who has a reason why not. So since I can’t be without this person and I know I like them a lot, I tend to settle and get content with just having them ‘around.’ The texting daily, the calls once in a while, and generally thinking this person is mine, at least for the moment.”

Chinomso, 24: “For me, the hardest part was the lack of closure. We never had a clear breakup, so I was left wondering what went wrong.”

Daisy, 23: “I think about this a lot, and I think it’s a mix of ‘what ifs’ with bruised pride and shame. ‘Cause let’s be real, how much did you really know and love that person that you’re crying and rethinking your whole life over? When things like that happen, it highlights your insecurities and the silly decisions that put you in that situation a lot of times.”

Jason, 24: “It depends on the situation and the person. If it’s someone I’ve gotten to know and become infatuated with, the end feels as bad as a breakup, to be honest. But if it’s someone I’ve gotten to know and the scales have fallen off my eyes, then I’ll probably be sad but not too pained, accepting it was for the best. Might spin the block once or twice, though, because I have my own issues.”

Emeka, 29: “It’s like you invest in a dream, and when it ends, you feel like you’ve lost something significant, even if it was never fully real.”

Tomiwa, 21: “The ambiguity of it all made it hard to move on. Without clear boundaries, I didn’t know how to process the end of what we had.”

Deda, 24:  “I did feel hurt when my situationship ended because I loved and understood him, but he was on a different frequency in life. He wasn’t even trying to see me for who I was; he preferred the sweet situation and nothing more. I ended it myself because I looked at the situation for what it was and realized nothing was going to change, and I was unhappy. But I’d constantly miss him and the happy situation we had. With relationships, it’s like you already know all there is to know, so it doesn’t hurt as much. I think situationships hurt more because our ego gets bruised, thinking, ‘Why am I not enough?'”

Situationships often lack clear boundaries, commitment, and labels, making it hard to determine where each person stands. Losing a situationship is a feeling that lingers for a long time. Imagine being extremely hungry and passing by a place where the aroma of the food smells so delicious you can almost taste it, but you can’t afford to buy it. That’s a fitting analogy for what it feels like to lose someone who is more than a friend but not quite a partner.


The Psychological Impact

Psychologists and relationship experts have delved into why situationship breakups can be so devastating. Dr. Melissa Weinberg, a psychologist specializing in relationship dynamics, explains that the ambiguity inherent in situationships can lead to increased anxiety and emotional distress. “When there are no clear boundaries or commitments, individuals are left to constantly wonder about their partner’s feelings and intentions,” says Dr. Weinberg. “This uncertainty can create a heightened state of emotional vigilance, which is exhausting and emotionally draining.



Why is it so difficult to get over something you never truly had? Getting over a situationship can be brutal. In a situationship, you’re essentially dating potential. When it ends, it feels like being on a swing, going really high, losing balance, and crashing onto the concrete. You’re constantly mourning the death of what could have been, stuck in an obsessive cycle.

Some people are of the opinion that the sentiment doesn’t apply to them:

Tomi, 26: “Relationships are deeper than situationships. I personally would put all my eggs in one basket while I’m in a committed relationship, but my eggs are definitely spread in several baskets in situationships. For me, it’s easier to detach myself from something I was never wholly committed to.”

Amarachi, 24: “This isn’t true for me, though. Actual relationship breakups hurt me more. It’s easier for me to walk away from situationships or talking stages because my heart is still guarded, but, omo, in a long-term relationship where I’ve dropped my defenses… lol.”

You meet someone, let your guard down, and start making space for them in your life. Then, you begin to develop feelings, interpreting their actions as signs that everything is going well. You make plans, then make more plans. Your heart feels like it’s found its purpose, and you think your search is over.

Then, suddenly: nothing.





They leave without any explanation, and you’re left stranded in the wilderness of your expectations, fantasies, and imaginations of what could have been. This lack of clarity often results in no closure or an official breakup, making it harder to move on. In more defined relationships, breakups have a clear beginning, middle, and end, helping both parties understand their standing and making the breakup more straightforward. You might find yourself wondering as much about why your situationship ended as you did about the meaning of your time together. Unfortunately, you may receive just as little information after the breakup as you did during the relationship.



The Role of Ambiguity

Dr. Samantha Joel, a relationship researcher, highlights the role of ambiguity in the pain of situationship breakups. Her research indicates that the uncertainty and lack of clear definitions can exacerbate feelings of loss and confusion. “Ambiguity can create a cognitive dissonance where one part of you feels like you lost something significant, while another part struggles to define what that ‘something’ really was,” says Dr. Joel. This dissonance can make the healing process more complicated and prolonged.


Why Do People Get into Situationships?

According to public opinion, relationship experts and psychologists, the rise of situationships can be attributed to several factors:

Plausible Deniability: Chuka, 25, “I avoid traditional relationships because I feel societal standards don’t provide enough benefits for men.This doesn’t involve marriage.”

Fear of Commitment: Many individuals fear the vulnerability and potential heartbreak associated with committed relationships. Situationships offer intimacy and companionship without the perceived risks of full commitment.

Modern Dating Culture: As noted by sociologist Dr. Helen Fisher, the current dating culture, influenced by dating apps and social media, promotes casual interactions over serious commitments. The emphasis on keeping options open can lead to more undefined relationships.

Emotional Safety: Situationships can provide emotional safety by allowing individuals to enjoy the perks of a relationship without the pressure of labels and future expectations. This can be appealing to those who have experienced painful breakups in the past.

Unclear Intentions: Sometimes, people enter situationships due to unclear intentions from the start. They may enjoy someone’s company and develop feelings without explicitly discussing their relationship goals.

If you’re in this place right now, hope you heal. 

Dr. Jennice Vilhauer is a psychologist and the author of Think Forward to Thrive. She suggests that people often enter situationships due to a lack of self-awareness and clear relationship goals. “Many people don’t take the time to understand what they truly want from a relationship, which can lead them to accept less than they deserve,” says Dr. Vilhauer. She recommends that individuals spend time reflecting on their needs and boundaries to avoid falling into the trap of situationships.

In conclusion, situationship breakups hurt the most because they lack the structure and clarity of a defined relationship. The emotional investment in potential rather than a concrete relationship leads to a unique and lingering pain. Understanding why situationships hurt can help in processing the pain and moving forward.

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