Situationships are different from friends with benefits

In the fluid spectrum of modern relationships, terms such as ‘situationships’ and ‘friends with benefits’ (fwb) are becoming increasingly common. While both refer to non-traditional romantic arrangements, they are fundamentally different in nature. Understanding the nuances is vital for those navigating today’s complex dating landscape.

1. Defining the terms:

Situationship: a situationship is a romantic relationship that hasn’t been defined. The two individuals involved are more than friends but haven’t labeled themselves as a couple. There’s emotional closeness, time spent together, and often, physical intimacy. However, the relationship doesn’t have clear expectations or a title.

Friends with benefits: this arrangement is where two friends decide to become sexually involved but don’t pursue a romantic relationship. There’s a mutual understanding that the primary foundation remains platonic, with the added component of sexual intimacy.

2. Emotional involvement:

One of the most distinguishing factors between situationships and fwb is the emotional component.

In a situationship, emotions run deep. The individuals often engage in relationship-type activities like going on dates, meeting each other’s friends, or spending weekends together. These activities are coupled with feelings, making the boundaries blurred. The emotional investment might be similar to a romantic relationship, but without the commitment or label.

In contrast, fwb arrangements try to restrict emotional involvement. The primary objective is to keep things casual and maintain the friendship. However, it’s not uncommon for feelings to develop over time, which can complicate the dynamic.

3. Expectations and boundaries:

Situationships often exist in a grey area. Since there’s no label, expectations can vary widely. One person might be waiting for the relationship to evolve into something more committed, while the other might be content with the status quo. The lack of clear boundaries can lead to confusion and potential heartache.

Fwb relationships, ideally, have clearer boundaries. The foundation is friendship, and both parties typically agree that they won’t pursue a romantic relationship. There’s an underlying assumption that they’ll continue to see other people romantically, and the sexual aspect of their relationship is just an added bonus.

4. Longevity and future outlook:

The future trajectory of situationships is uncertain. Some evolve into committed relationships, while others dissipate when one or both parties realize they want different things. The ambiguous nature means there’s no predetermined expiration date.

Fwb setups, on the other hand, are generally not seen as long-term arrangements. As people find romantic partners or circumstances change, the benefits part of the relationship often ends. The hope is that the friendship remains intact, but that’s not always the case.

5. Societal perception:

While both types of relationships defy traditional romantic norms, they are perceived differently by society.

Situationships often invite sympathy or concern, with friends and family sometimes viewing them as a phase before a ‘real’ relationship. The involved individuals might face questions like, “where is this going?” or comments like “you deserve clarity.”

Fwb is viewed more as a choice, a deliberate decision to keep things casual. While there might be some societal eyebrows raised, especially from more conservative circles, the judgment is often less than in situationships, as the boundaries (at least initially) seem clearer.

6. Vulnerability and risk:

Both arrangements come with their own set of vulnerabilities.

In situationships, there’s the risk of heartbreak. With emotions deeply involved and no commitment in place, one party might end up feeling short-changed. If one person secretly hopes for more, they might end up hurt if the other person doesn’t feel the same.

In fwb, there’s the risk of ruining the friendship. If boundaries blur or if one person develops unreciprocated feelings, it can lead to awkwardness and potential estrangement.


Situationships and friends with benefits are emblematic of modern dating’s complexity. While they share similarities in defying traditional relationship conventions, they differ fundamentally in their emotional depth, expectations, and trajectories.

Navigating these arrangements requires communication, self-awareness, and a clear understanding of one’s desires and boundaries. As with any relationship, it’s vital to ensure mutual respect and understanding to minimize hurt and maximize happiness.