The Real Differences Between Situationships And Friends With Benefits

As much as dating apps have made meeting people easier, they've also complicated things in some ways. Having given people the opportunity to meet so many other singles, dating apps have really pushed the hook-up culture mentality — to the point that those looking for a long-term, committed relationship may end up struggling to find like-minded individuals. With sex and casual relationships being so easy to obtain thanks to apps, settling down and falling in love seem to have taken a bit of a back seat for many.

Because of the effect that apps have had on dating, a lot of non-committal types of relationships have come about. One of those types of relationships is the situationship. With a situationship, you meet someone, spend time with them, sleep with them, even go on dates with them, but there's no commitment — or at least, no commitment has been discussed. Another non-committal relationship is friends with benefits. From the outside, these two things can look almost identical, but the reality is that they're actually quite different.

While one isn't necessarily better than the other, if you're wondering what type of relationship you're in or what type of non-committal arrangement might be best for you — a situationship or friends with benefits — here are the key differences between the two.

A situationship is an undefined relationship

Because a situationship is an undefined relationship, it can be hard to know where you stand. Are you dating? Are you just sexual partners? Does this have the potential to evolve? It can be great in the early stages of seeing someone as you feel out whether you're interested in pursuing something more serious, but it can still be a confusing relationship to be in — especially if you're ultimately looking for love.

"Although we generally have at least one other person in our lives we can confide in or turn to in times of hardship, many of us instinctively feel the need to get that type of support out of our romantic relationships," licensed marriage and family therapist Saba Harouni Lurie told Women's Health. "In a situationship that is already very undefined and lacking clear expectations, it can be hard to feel as though there is space to share those more challenging parts of your life or ask for the type of support you need."

With situationships, one or both people may be too afraid to address the complicated relationship out of fear that they'll either lose the arrangement or be pressured into becoming something more. It can be a sticky situation to be in with someone. 

Friends with benefits is a defined relationship

On the flip side of a situationship, friends with benefits (FWB) is very much a defined relationship, because the two people involved have a friendship. These relationships come about when two people have been friends for a long time or short amount of time, are both single, and want to fulfill their sexual needs and desires. With FWBs, as long as you don't catch any feelings, it can be an ideal set-up, because both people know where they stand; there is no gray area or confusion.

Although not all FWBs sit down and come up with rules to avoid overstepping boundaries or prevent either person from getting hurt, there's still a clear understanding that you're friends, but sometimes you sleep with each other. The friendship and the no-strings-attached (NSA) sex are separate from each other and never overlap. There's also an understanding that should one of the people in the FWB start dating someone, the sexual part of the relationship comes to an end, but the friendship remains — once again, as long as no one caught any lovey-dovey feelings. Which, as any movie about friends with benefits has shown us, happens. A lot. 

A situationship is romantically valuable

Since a situationship usually comes about after meeting someone for a couple dates, it has a romantic value to it that's full of possibilities. Unlike friends with benefits, an emotional bond develops because, while it may not be a relationship, it's still more than just casual sex — there's something else there holding you together, an intimacy that doesn't exist with FWBs. With situationships, there's space for feelings and romantic intentions.

Although the relationship may be undefined, it doesn't mean it will always be that way. Situationships tend to be the bridge between NSA sex and actual committed relationships. It's just a matter of crossing that bridge to get there. Granted, not all situationships will evolve, nor do all people in situationships want to evolve, but there's still the chance that it will result in something beyond what it is. Meanwhile, friends with benefits aren't on track to evolve and become something more — the two people involved are friends, and that's it. 

Friends with benefits may have more to lose

As much as we might be into someone we're dating or are in a situationship with, there is still the knowledge that people we date come and go. You can date someone for three weeks, three months, or three years fulling knowing that there is no guarantee that it will last. That's why friends are so essential. When a relationship comes to an end, we know we have our friends to turn to, who will support us through our heartache. But when two friends have decided to become friends with benefits, they're taking a risk. 

While having NSA sex may seem like a great idea, it doesn't mean that it will always be free from issues. Even if neither person ends up having romantic feelings or falling in love, FWBs can sometimes stand in the way of people's willingness to date others with whom they have relationship potential. Jealousy issues can also arise, and although the understanding of the relationship and its boundaries isn't complicated, the arrangement can become complicated — sex tends to do that. If this happens, you may risk losing your friend — and losing them forever. Losing someone you've dated for months or even years is definitely not easy, but losing a friend can be even harder. 

Although there are unique differences between friends with benefits and situationships while they're happening, how they end is where you find the similarities. Both scenarios can end at any time, or they might evolve into more. It really all depends on how the cookie crumbles, as they say.