Situationship: the phrase rocking the dating world and confusing older generations. For those who are still in the dark, the term is being used to define the in-between phase of dating and not-dating for Gen Z and Millennials. But what happened to good old dating? Are they just hooking up? Are they exclusive but just afraid of labels? Don’t worry—YPulse has asked young people themselves all about these kinds of relationships in our new trend report What’s The Situationship?, digging into all these questions and more.
Tinder (obviously) named situationships as their top trend of the year, finding that the term appeared on 49% more accounts from January to October. Situationships, according to the app, can be defined as “when you’re not quite dating someone, but you’re not just sleeping with them either,” meaning it’s a bit more serious than friends with benefits, but maybe not as serious as casual dating. It’s intentionally vague, and Tinder’s survey of 18-25-year-olds shows 1 in 10 prefer situationships as “a way to develop a relationship with less pressure.”
To gauge just how many young people are using this label for their own, well, situations, and having this kind of relationship, YPulse asked 13-39-year-olds what kinds of relationships they’ve been in—and this is how situationships are measuring up:
More Gen Z than Millennials have been in a situationship
Only 34% of Gen Z have been in a committed relationship, and 29% have never been in one—but the rest have fallen somewhere in the in-between, including situationships. When telling us if they’ve had a relationship that they’d consider “casual dating,” “friends with benefits,” or a “situationship,” Gen Z is more likely to have been involved in the two you already know, but 20% say they’ve been in a situationship—meaning one in five have experienced this amorphous not-quite-dating stage. In fact, when we ask the 76% of Gen Z who are single to describe their current relationship status in more detail, 5% say they’re “not sure,” 5% say they’re “not single but not ‘dating’,” and 1% say they’re “dating but not in a relationship.”
But by all accounts, it seems they’re doing this intentionally; commitment is just not what some of the young gen are looking for at the moment. When asked to choose whether they would rather have a defined relationship with a label or an undefined one without a label, 35% of Gen Z chose the latter. And 32% say they’d rather have a casual relationship than a serious one. So, for roughly a third of this gen a capital-R Relationship doesn’t fit the bill right now, but a situationship does—because it doesn’t mean they don’t want romantic connections at all, just that they want it to be chill, no definite expectations, just fun. And, okay, maybe an incredible amount of stress from the lack of communication, as is revealed in their TikToks.
This is not the first time Gen Z has coined a new phrase to skirt around commitment, either; before situationship, it was the “talking” phase. It’s what it sounds like, they’re just talking, not dating or maybe even hooking up or hanging out for that matter (in the really lacking commitment examples)—just talking. Other generations may have called this “seeing each other,” or think it’s akin to casual dating, but Gen Z has very clearly found their way around getting to even something as serious as these beginning phases of a committed relationship. One 20-year-old even goes so far as to tell Vogue that talking is the test-run to a situationship—meaning, yes, it can get less serious than not serious.
Millennials have been casual daters, though they’re aiming for commitment in the end
Just because Gen Z coined the term situationship, it doesn’t mean Millennials weren’t in these types of relationships already. In fact, Millennials have been in their “it’s complicated” era more than Gen Z— 37% each say they’ve been casually dating or friends with benefits, compared to 27% and 20% of Gen Z. And another 18% say they’ve been in the “not a relationship, but dating somebody” phase compared to 14% of Gen Z—so while only 16% choose situationship to describe their situations, it’s just a matter of terminology.
But, in general, Millennials are significantly more likely to be on the hunt for a real relationship; 46% of single Millennials say they are looking to date, compared to 30% of single Gen Z. And while 38% of Gen Z describe their status as “single and not looking to date, but open to it,” only 26% of Millennials say the same—meaning they’re hoping for a slightly less go-with-the-flow experience. Where 32% of Gen Z say they’d prefer a casual relationship to a serious one, only 23% of Millennials say so, showing their definitive preference for something labeled and heading toward a committed future.
But that isn’t to say all Millennials are heading down the same path of commitment as their parents, and certainly not on the same timeline. Millennials, being in a different stage of life than Gen Z, are looking for commitment, but many are not looking for it to end in a marriage. YPulse data shows the number of Millennials who agree that “Marriage is the end goal to any serious relationship,” has gone down in the last couple of years, and the number who say they never want to get married has gone up. And their changing view on the institution considered necessary by previous gens has driven marriage rates amongst those in their 20s and 30s down significantly. But what’s more, 20% of Millennials say their goal in life is to be single without kids—so don’t rule Millennials out of the no-commitment, dating-but-not-dating game anytime soon.