Are Relationships Even a Thing Anymore? Welcome to the Era of Situationships.
Generation Z are redefining traditional relationships with a more laissez-faire approach.
Modern relationships aren’t what they used to be. Enter the ‘situationship.’ The model endorsed by Gen Z (anyone born between 1997 and 2012).
A situationship isn’t just a hookup; they tend to be more casual and less serious than the traditional relationship model focused on commitment and marriage. Situationships focus more on the present moment, not so much the future.
Younger generations are less willing to rush into committed relationships like previous generations, and that's because so much has changed over the years. Updates to modern technology, such as app dating, the introduction of remote work, and digital nomad fever affect everything from how we travel to how we consume and process information, and how we date.
When you look at how many Gen Zers are single compared to just two generations ago, an obvious trend emerges – Gen Zers prefer an alternative to the conventional ‘til death do us part.
Gen Zers may prefer short-term casual dating due to how fast-paced life has become. The younger generations are strapped for time between working multiple jobs to afford the high housing costs and skyrocketing inflation rates. Anxiety about basic necessities and the ability to pay bills leaves little room for sweeping romantic commitments.
Stress, depression, and anxiety could play a role in the desire to keep it casual. Research indicates that Gen Z is the most stressed-out generation to date. And there’s no shortage of reasons between an unprecedented pandemic, global and civil unrest, climate change, unemployment, and the state of the economy they’ve inherited. Long-term or more serious relationships require time and energy that younger generations don’t seem to have.
Cultural changes in attitudes around sexuality and gender may contribute just as much as the economic crises. Gen Zers are taking the time to understand more about their identity and how they align instead of accepting the gender assigned at birth. Many are curious about or align with alternative relationship styles such as ethical non-monogamy (ENM).
RECOMMENDED READ: Interest in Non-monogamy Grows Worldwide, but the Reason Why Is Not So Clear
For those pursuing non-monogamous relationships, the relationship escalator might be restrictive. The relationship escalator is the assumption that there is a natural progression once getting into a relationship, such as dating exclusively, cohabitating, marriage, and starting a family. These expectations and assumptions carry much weight and pressure for younger generations struggling with so many moving pieces.
Whether or not relational pressures and expectations are the main drivers, there seems to be less of a priority on the white picket fence ideal and more emphasis on personal happiness and fulfillment that moves away from commonly established ideals.
Situationships get a bad reputation as promoting hook-up culture and impermanence, but they are more than a want for sexual diversity and freedom. Situationships can be a time for people to get to know each other and figure out if they want things to progress, and in what capacity. It’s common for Gen Z couples to want to date for several months before deciding whether or not to pursue something more serious together; this allows both parties the space and freedom not to be rushed into big, important decisions about their future.
That being said, there can be a darker side to situationships. These dynamics can become unhealthy when there is a lack of clear communication, unmet expectations, or people who treat these interactions as transactional rather than personal. However, these same paradigms exist in traditional, monogamous relationships too. It all boils down to personal responsibility, accountability, and emotional maturity.
Younger generations are questioning societal norms and embracing a more fluid style of relationship dynamics. Every new generation builds upon previous ideals – one could argue it’s the natural evolution of things. In the case of Gen Z, they want the right to define what commitment looks like to them. And why shouldn’t they? After all, it’s their life.