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May 29, 2024

How to break free from a situationship

Prioritising your emotional wellbeing is hard. This week, our sexologist gives us a step by step guide to breaking out of situationships, and putting yourself first.

  • Words: Jamie Bucirde
  • Graphic: Jayde Vandborg
  • This article was produced in collaboration with Adult Bliss Erotica.

Hey Jamie!

I’m writing to you because I’m a 26-year-old woman and I’ve been in a situationship with this guy on and off for years. It’s the best sex I’ve ever had, however, all my friends hate him and we share none of the same values.
I know I deserve to be treated a lot better than he does, but I somehow keep going back to him.

How do I navigate a situationship that I know isn’t good for me?


Read the entire back catalogue of On the Cusp here.

Hey reader.

Firstly, (audible sigh) “AGH”, this is so relatable. I want to start this off by saying I have been through a very similar circumstance recently. Navigating situationships can be challenging and can often have a more negative impact on you due to the ambiguity and lack of clear boundaries.

 In my opinion, a situationship is a relationship that lacks commitment, emotional safety, and deep trust. Typically, one person desires more commitment while the other does not. When we stay connected to someone who can’t meet our needs, we not only harm our wellbeing but also compromise our future. It’s time to consider your energy and attention as value over all else and to stop seeking love from someone unwilling to give it. Choose yourself. You cannot build a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to build with you.

Sometimes, when the sex is great, it can cloud your judgment on all of the other important things to look out for in a relationship – whether that’s casual, short term or long term. A Sexologist I admire, Stacey O, once said that she had been ‘dick-notised’ by a guy she was dating, and I’ll use it for this example because I personally love it.

Great sex is amazing! However, you should never prioritise great sex over your wellbeing. I can guarantee you that there are other men out there that you can cultivate amazing sex with that also share your values and respect you. If you’re leaving an encounter, sexually or just hanging out, and feeling worse than when you entered, it’s time to reevaluate. 

I always stand by the fact that you should make your own decision for your life and relationships, however I do think the fact that all of your closest friends hate him isn’t a great sign – I’d assume that could mean he isn’t making the effort and they want better for you.

Situationships can be incredibly confusing and emotionally taxing, especially when the physical connection is strong but the emotional and value alignment is lacking.


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Here are some steps to help you navigate this challenging dynamic:

Time to self reflect

  • What are your core values and how important is it that your partner shares them?
  • How do you feel after spending time with them? 
  • Do you feel energised & happy or drained and conflicted?
  • What do you envision for your future, and do they (realistically) fit into that?

Set clear boundaries

Establishing and maintaining boundaries is crucial for your emotional well-being. Decide what behaviours and treatment you will and will not accept. Communicate these boundaries clearly to your partner or situational lover. This could look like:

  • Limiting the time you spend together
  • Defining the nature of the relationship
  • Setting expectations for communication and respect

Evaluate the relationship dynamics 

Consider why you keep returning to this situationship despite knowing it’s not good for you. The ones I commonly come across are fear of being alone, the physical chemistry/lack of intimacy or emotional dependency. Understanding what’s driving you can help you tackle it head on.

Lean on your support system 

Your friends’ opinions matter because they care about your wellbeing. While it’s important to make your own decisions, talking to trusted friends and family can provide valuable perspective and support. They can help reinforce your worth and remind you of the love and respect you deserve.

Prioritise self-care

Focus on activities and practices that nurture your mental, emotional, and physical health. This could be:

  • Engaging in hobbies and interests that make you happy (and distracted)
  • Practising mindfulness, meditation or exercise
  • Seeking therapy or counselling to work through your emotions and build your self esteem

Plan an exit strategy

If you decide that this situationship is not serving your best interests, create a plan to move on. Ask your friends to support you through this too, it absolutely helps. This might involve:

  • Gradually reducing contact
  • Finding closure through an honest conversation about not getting your needs met and picking yourself
  • Distracting yourself with friends, hobbies and social situations (Try not to sit alone and mope!)

Navigating a situationship can be incredibly challenging, especially when it involves strong physical attraction but lacks emotional fulfilment and shared values. Remember, you deserve to be in a relationship that brings you joy, respect, and aligns with your core values. By reflecting on your needs, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can take steps toward a healthier and more fulfilling relationship future.

Never forget that healthy relationships, whether that’s causal or more committed, should leave you feeling safe, seen and nourished. Respect is the bare minimum, and sometimes you need to pick yourself to remind yourself of the love you deserve.

Stay safe and stay sexy.

Jamie Bucirde has a postgraduate degree in sexology from Curtin University. Her advice is of a general nature and should be taken in the spirit of the column.

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