Feb 2, 2024 - Health

Be mine! (Sort of): Situationships are on the rise

A box of candy hearts with the word "Sweethearts Situationships" on it.

A new type of Valentine's candy pays homage to the nebulous relationship status. Photo courtesy of Spangler Candy Company

Seven years since the term "situationships" was coined in Cosmopolitan, the concept has not only gone mainstream, but turned into a desired outcome among some dating app users — and spawned new merch.

Why it matters: Situationships are a reflection of modern dating culture, in which romance and commitment have been supplanted by convenience, variety and disposability — which suits some people just fine.

Catch up quick: A situationship is a variation on "friends-with-benefits," in which you've gotten physical but haven't defined where things stand.

Driving the news: With Valentine's Day approaching, the maker of Sweethearts Candies issued boxes of "Situationships" conversation hearts with blurry messages on them — the better to reflect the lack of commitment in many of today's couplings.

  • This version of the familiar, chalky-tasting seasonal candies was available online only — but sold out quickly.
  • A limited first-run sold out in four minutes; a new batch went on sale Thursday and also got snapped up.
  • "Sweethearts won't be restocking Situationship Boxes this year," the company said by email. "Much like the mixed messages on these particular conversation hearts, the future is still blurry on their availability for next year."

What they're saying: "Situationships are a popular new relationship status with Gen Z," Evan Brock, vice president of marketing for Spangler Candy Company (parent company of Sweethearts Candies), tells Axios by email.

  • "It's a type of no-strings-attached relationship that is not defined by traditional labels."
  • "Sweethearts have always stayed abreast of culturally relevant relationship terms as we add special phrases to our candies each year," says Brock.

Meanwhile, other products paying homage to situationships include cosmetics (such as a "brow duo" from J'Amie Lee Cosmetics), lingerie sets and a scented candle from Oomu with "a [fragrance] blend as elusive as the fleeting moments of a situationships."

  • There's also a growing list of romance novels, rom-coms and self-help books centered on situationships.

Zoom out: Many writers and experts have debated whether situationships are good or bad — with the answer being, "it depends."

  • "While they can be cast in a negative light, situationships aren't inherently bad," Women's Health advises.
  • "Whether you're looking to play the field or just aren't ready to put all your eggs in one basket, having undefined relationships can be fun, sexually satisfying, and even liberating."
  • And yet: "Many daters still view situationships as deterrents from their dating goals and are uncomfortable not knowing where a relationship is going," TIME informs us.

The other side: "A situationship is a particular kind of hell for most people," says Nancy Jo Sales, a journalist who writes dating columns for The Guardian — and wrote a book about her personal experiences with dating apps.

  • "Generally, people who date, and women in particular, hate situationships, also known as 'no labels,'" Sales tells Axios.
  • Situationships are a form of "dating limbo" that's "mostly driven by men," adds Sales, who has researched the topic extensively and explored it in an HBO documentary called "Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age."

Zoom in: Relationship "experts" quoted in the media engage in linguistic parsing to differentiate "situationships" from "booty calls," "friends with benefits," polyamory and "parasocial" relationships (which are one-sided — like when you're in love with Harry Styles or Taylor Swift).

  • It all seems to boil down to the old Facebook "relationship status" option: "It's complicated."
  • Still confused? Here's Bumble's guide to "What Is a Situationship, and How to Tell if You're in One."

Fun fact: "Situationship" was a finalist for the Oxford University Press' 2023 "Word of the Year," but lost out to "rizz."

  • The other semifinalists were "prompt" (as in, what you tell AI to do for you), "de-influencing" (steering people away from buying products) and "Swiftie."

The bottom line: Maybe the term is just vaguely synonymous with the old line, "He's just not that into you."

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