The term situationship may be new to many people. However, it is an apt description of a non-committed relationship. A few years ago, this type of relationship was often called “friends with benefits,” where a couple had a casual dating relationship, no formal commitment, and also enjoyed a sexual relationship.
All couples go through a period of time when they are in a situationship. This is the time between dating and making the relationship official. At this point, there is no stated label or definition of the relationship, and it is often seen as fluid or free from commitment. However, in these relationships with two caring adults, the goal is to either define the relationship at some point or move out of the relationship if it is not working.
For a narcissist, on the other hand, a situationship is a perfect solution to a relationship. There is no commitment and no definition of what the expectations are for either person. The narcissist is able to make the rules, change the rules, or manipulate the rules and blame the other person for everything that is wrong or problematic.
The natural behavior of the narcissist makes them an attractive individual at the initial stages of dating. They are the perfect partner, enjoying everything you like, spending time contacting you throughout the day, and lavishing gifts, compliments, and attention in a way that is often overwhelming.
The narcissist can maintain their positive and engaging personality when they are not consistently in your life. At the same time, they convince you that you want a less structured relationship, gaslighting and manipulating the situation and your words to reflect their desire for undefined relationship status.
One of the issues that often rises to the surface in a situationship with a narcissist is the reality of multiple partners. It is not uncommon for a narcissist to be in situationships with multiple partners at the same time. Typically, the narcissist hides this behavior, but they can also use it as a way to create a demand for their time.
The relationship’s lack of expectations or defined boundaries is ideal for the narcissist. He or she can also turn any criticism from the partners about monogamy into their fault for assuming those definitions or relationship expectations were in place.
No Willingness to Provide Emotional Support or Commitment
A key sign of being in a situationship with a narcissist is the lack of emotional support at any level, even in the situationship has been ongoing for months or much longer. The narcissist wants to keep it at the friends with benefits level as they have no interest in long-term commitments other than in a controlling and abusive fashion.
When the partner tries to move the relationship to a new level, the narcissist reacts by ghosting the person or accusing them of being clingy, needy, or requiring control over the relationship. Of course, these are often the traits that the narcissist is projecting onto the partner.
Last Minute Plans are the Norm
Narcissists rarely make long-term plans and follow through. Instead, they thrive on last-minute planning to take advantage of the best offer at the moment. Caring partners, on the other hand, routinely plan dates and activities in advance and follow through with those plans.
The narcissist may talk in general and vague terms about the future. This is intentional to keep the other person hoping for more of a relationship. The vague promises and lack of depth to conversations about your short and long-term future together is a way to avoid emotional closeness and the potential of commitment.
You are Anxious about the Future
Staying in a situationship once you recognize the partner is not willing or able to commit to a defined relationship will create anxiety about the future. A situationship is naturally ambivalent and uncertain, but the narcissist capitalizes on that anxiety by spending time showering you with attention and then leaving or refusing to make contact.
Situationships can be a stage in a relationship that either advance to a partnership or end. However, with the narcissist, the situationship stays stuck and static, locking you into a constant state of dating confusion and ambiguity about your future. It can be difficult to decide to leave, and this is what the narcissist is counting on.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love
And Wake Up Recovery for Toxic Relationships, Codependency and Love Addiction