Situationship vs. Friends With Benefits: What’s the Difference?

Found yourself in the limbo between friends and lovers? Not sure where you stand? We’ll compare a situationship versus friends with benefits.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
October 17, 2023
February 27, 2024
6
min. read
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Casual dating is a lot like ordering tapas on an empty stomach: You get a mix of tantalizing bites that’s less like a full meal and more like an assortment of appetizers.

Today’s dating menu offers various flavors of love, but not all of them leave a sweet taste in your mouth. And don’t even get us started on the ambiguity of it all — like when you’re trying to decipher a situationship versus a friends-with-benefits scenario.

We’ve all been there before. You slide into the DMs of a real dinner and a show, get your world rocked between the sheets, and wake up wondering: Are we exclusive? In a relationship? Or stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of romance known as a situationship?

Don't feel bad; steering through the foggy tide of casual intimacy requires a GPS and a master’s degree in communication. Before you sail into uncharted waters at full mast, let Captain Grindr offer some guidance.

We’ll unpack everything from the rules of engagement to the risk of going overboard. So throw on your swimsuit and get ready to dive into the deep end. The water’s warm, and the lifeguards are hot — but it always pays to learn how to swim.

What is an FWB relationship? Spicing up your friendships

We've all heard of a "friends with benefits" (FWB) relationship. But what does it actually mean, and why do so many hotties swipe right on it?

In a nutshell, it’s friends who fuck. You and your buds might share everything from Netflix passwords to inside jokes, but unlike your brunch squad, an FWB bond comes with bootylicious benefits — no strings attached.

It's like having your mimosa and drinking it, too. Unlike a random hookup, your repeated rendezvous let you get to know each other’s bodies and maximize the pleasure. Unlike a full-blown relationship, you can enjoy that physical intimacy without meeting the parents or remembering anniversaries.

It isn’t all fun and games, though. An FWB relationship needs more maintenance than a series of late-night "u up?" texts. Keeping it mutually beneficial requires some ground rules and open communication.

Friends with benefits rules: Your guide to no-strings sex

Let's establish some ground rules for the various types of friends-with-benefits boinking before you enter FWB territory. Consider them commandments — setting these boundaries will bless you with clarity and prevent messy misunderstandings from raining on your parade.

The Commandments of FWB

  1. Physical intimacy is encouraged; in fact, it’s the whole point. This is not a platonic hangout or long study session.
  2. You're not exclusive, so there’s no possessive behavior or jealousy. Your FWB is free to see other people.
  3. Don't catch feelings. The “friends” part offers companionship; the “benefits” part offers physical intimacy. Romantic attachment is not part of the deal.
  4. Either party can walk away anytime — no strings attached. You don’t owe them a severance package or visitation rights for your cat.
  5. Communication is key. Harping on open communication may sound clichéd, but it’s universal advice for a reason. Talk openly and honestly about your wants, needs, and boundaries.

Defining the blurry boundaries of situationships

Situationships inhabit a vague romantic limbo, organically forming and dissolving faster than TikTok trends. There are countless types of situationships, but all occupy the space between a fling and a relationship.

Here’s how to know you’re in a situationship: You're intimate, maybe even exclusive, but you avoid defining the relationship. This ambiguity lets you experience romance without expectations — affection without labels, timelines, or hard conversations.

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But ambiguity is a fickle friend. Without a cornerstone of communication, your relationship’s foundation might be built on a misunderstanding. You aren’t sparing yourself any heartache by refusing to acknowledge you’re invested.

A situationship is a delicate dance along a blurry line. Say too much, and you could spook a commitment-averse partner. Next thing you know, your breezy connection has vanished like a saucy Snapchat. But say too little, and someone is guaranteed to get their feelings hurt.

So, tread cautiously in this gray area. Keep communication open, gently matching your partner's pace. With care, a situationship can satisfy desires that a "full-meal deal" relationship may not.

The dangers of an asymmetric relationship

Situationships often arise when the participants have differing levels of emotional investment. One person may fall for the other, while their partner wants to keep things casual.

This asymmetrical attachment is a common relationship hazard. The more-interested party can end up drained and unsatisfied, craving reciprocation. The less-attached person may feel pressured, wanting to maintain distance.

Mismatched intentions can sink a situationship fast. Talk things out to avoid heartbreak, frustration, and resentment.

Situationship rules: The dos and don'ts of romantic limbo 

If you’re determined to engage in a situationship, at least do so safely. These guidelines will minimize the likelihood of any headaches or heartaches down the road.

Do:

  • Communicate openly and honestly about needs and expectations. Don’t rely on assumptions.
  • Value each other’s time and intimacy. Even if it’s casual, you both deserve respect.
  • Take measures to prioritize emotional and physical safety, including safe sex practices.

Don’t:

  • Attempt to lock each other down or control the relationship if you haven’t agreed to be exclusive.
  • Surprise your boo with over-the-top romantic gestures. You’re more likely to spook him than woo him.
  • Engage with him about your relationship status unless you’re ready to leave limbo behind.

FWB vs. situationships: How to distinguish between them

All right, lovebirds and lust-bunnies, let's compare situationships and friends with benefits — the modern dating world's most nebulous terms. Hold on to your emotional seatbelts; this might get bumpy.

Similarities

  • Satisfaction à la carte: Both let you pick and choose the parts of a relationship you want. Get your fill of physical delight without a side of commitment.
  • Heartbreak roulette: Both can be risky bets for your heart. FWBs lack depth, while situationships can whip up a whirlwind of messy feels.
  • No labels: Neither of these is your textbook boyfriend or partner scenario. They're like the gray sweaters of romance — comfy but ambiguous.

Differences

  • Emotional entanglement: In a situationship, there's often an emotional connection, just without the title. It's a relationship in everything but name. FWB, on the other hand? It's typically more about fun and less about feelings.
  • High-def versus low-res: Situationships are often undefined, teetering on the edge of relationship territory — a "will they or won't they" kind of drama. With FWB, both parties usually understand this is more for the now than the forever.
  • Freedom with a catch: FWBs encourage playing the field, but situationships often come with implied exclusivity. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know what’s out of bounds.

Whatever you’re looking for, find it on Grindr

Ultimately, you are the master of your love life. Define the terms, set the pace, and sail forth on your journey to satisfaction.

Ready to dive into the dating pool? Find your next connection among the millions of users on Grindr. Download the Grindr app, or browse hands-free with Grindr Web — the same Grindr you know and love, now available on your laptop or PC with no download required.

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