As the lines between casual hookups and long-term commitment become increasingly blurry, new data shows that more hearts are being broken as the result of situationships — romantic relationships that lack a clear definition or commitment — than committed relationships.
Last week, eharmony released their annual Dating Diaries report which revealed that more than three-quarters of singles (77%) have had their heart broken from a situationship. In fact, 50% of singles found their situationship heartbreak equally or more painful as a longer “real” and committed relationship.
So, what makes the implosion of a situationship so emotionally fraught? According to experts, the answer is complicated.
“Situationships can be confusing and emotionally complex because they don’t have the clear boundaries and expectations that come with a committed relationship,” says eharmony relationship expert Minaa B.
Part of the problem is that a situationship is still a relationship, even if it’s not formally designated as such.
Minaa B. says, “In a situationship, two people may be spending a significant amount of time together, sharing intimate moments and feelings, and even engaging in physical intimacy, but without any clear commitment or path towards a future together it can leave both parties feeling uncertain, anxious and vulnerable.
“Additionally, because there may not have been a formal commitment, it can be harder to find support from friends and family who may not understand the emotional investment and vulnerability that comes with a situationship.”
As a result, these kinds of breakups can feel especially lonely.
Situationships are also notoriously unbalanced. As eharmony relationship expert Laurel House explains, “It’s not unusual for people in situationships to deeply invest in their partner, despite not getting the reciprocation they want to receive.” Therefore, in addition to mourning the loss of the relationship, a person may also need to grieve the unreciprocated effort and lost time they invested in the romance.
The steamy nature of situationships also makes for a painful aftermath. “Situationships are usually charged by chemistry which fades when you start to settle into the calm of daily life but there’s often still an emotional charge in these relationships that can lead to a bigger letdown when it’s over. Heightened chemistry can make the emotions feel deeper, creating a heightened reaction to rejection,” says House.
If you’re currently experiencing the fall-out of a situationship — or any breakup — here’s what you can do to feel better and move forward.
Disengage from your ex on social media.
While social media is a great tool for keeping up with friends and loved ones, it can also be our downfall when it comes to getting over our ex.
For this reason, House encourages people to block their ex on all social media platforms — at least for the time being.
“As much as you might ‘think’ you want to know what they are doing and who they’ve moved on with, it won’t help you heal. You will only be hurting yourself and prolonging the unhealthy one-sided relationship that won’t allow you to fully let your heart heal and move on!”
To end situationships write your ex a goodbye letter.
Often the best closure is the closure you create yourself. To gain the necessary clarity to move on, House suggests writing a letter to your ex that’s intended for your eyes only. House says, you can format it as such, “Dear Ex, I’m saying goodbye because _______ (or this is over because … or I’m letting you go because …). I forgive you for _______ and I forgive myself for _____. I learned from you _____. Thank you for_______.”
Once it’s complete, consider shredding or setting the letter on fire to symbolically let go and move on.
Seek the help of a therapist to finalize situationships
The end of a relationship can bring up a lot of old wounds. “Situationship” or not, experiencing loss can trigger a lot of different emotions. Some of these emotions are feelings of abandonment, isolation or rejection. Many of the narratives that are formed within these emotions include “not being good enough,” says Cheryl Groskopf, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
For this reason, it can be beneficial to seek the help of a professional. Natalie Jambazian, MA, LMFT, encourages people to “work through any childhood issues that may manifest in adult relationships that are causing you to accept a situationship. Practice setting boundaries and not tolerating breadcrumbs (when someone sends mixed signals to keep another person interested enough to stick around).”
Allow yourself to grieve.
Whether it was a committed relationship or something more casual, a loss is a loss. “Both types of relationships experience grieving the loss of someone and the emotional detachment it takes to heal through it,” says Jambazian.
It’s normal to feel upset. Be gentle with yourself and create space to feel whatever you need to feel.