You’ve probably read and watched videos that say avoidants (and specifically dismissive avoidants) prefer situationships to relationships, but do avoidants really prefer situationships to relationships? And do avoidants behave or act differently when in a situationship and when in a relationship?
For anyone reading this and not familiar with what a situationship is, it’s kind of like a casual relationship but it remains “undefined” as dating or officially a relationship. In other words, a situationship is two people who like each other and enjoy each other’s company, communicate regularly and meet occasionally for a date and/or casual sex. Some situationships are for a specified period of time (until one or both people’s situations change), others are based on the understanding that at some point you’ll revaluate if you want to continue with things as they are, officially make it a relationship or end the situationship. Most avoidants have conversations about what they’re looking for early on in the situationship to manage expectations, or discourage one person from developing an attachment.
Do avoidants prefer situationships to relationships?
On the surface it’d seem that avoidants prefer situationships to relationships. Situationships don’t pose a “threat” to an avoidant attachment style because they don’t require the type of vulnerability, closeness or even commitment a relationship requires. There is some vulnerability and opening up here and there, but they’re in full control of how vulnerable, close or committed they want to be. For dismissive avoidants and fearful avoidants leaning dismissive, the fact that situationships don’t require labels and can go on for years without it being defined feels safe and comfortable. They can experience genuine affection and caring and show genuine affection and caring but without the expectation of things going any further or fear of them getting attached.
When you look at a situationship as meeting most of an avoidant’s needs while avoiding vulnerability, closeness or even commitment it’d seem like situationships are better situated for an avoidant attachment style than relationships. But a deeper look, beyond surface level analysis and from my conversations with many avoidants – situationships is like “settling” for most avoidants. It’s not something they prefer, for most it’s “what works for now” and others they’re in situationships because they are “easier” than relationships.
How do avoidants feel when in a situationship?
In my conversations, younger avoidants see situationships as “what works for now”. Some see situationships as meeting their needs until they’re ready to commit, get married and have kids. They list “not found the right one” as the number one reason for being in a situationship. It’s more fun and spontaneous and so much less stressful is the number two reason for choosing a situationship over a relationship . Number three reason is “I’m not ready to commit” yet.
Avoidants who are happy in their situationships hope that the situationship will turn into a relationship and more. Those in unhappy situationships are more disillusioned and less optimistic about the whole idea of a relationship. They tell me that if they can’t even be happy in a situationship, they don’t think they’ll be happy in a relationship.
Much older avoidants see situationships as “easier” than relationships. Most have been in several relationships and others have been married (some more than once) and say that situationships have less drama, arguing, fighting, stress etc., than the relationships they’ve been in. But given a choice, they’d rather be in a relationship where there is love, genuine caring, safety, trust, respect (including boundaries) and consistency and all the good stuff, than in casual sexual relationships (or “situationships”).
My conclusion from many of my conversations with both fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants is that what drives avoidants into situationships is not that they prefer to be in a situationship but rather what they’re trying to avoid what they fear about being in a relationship.
Attachment style reasons avoidants prefer a situationship to a relationship
Dismissive avoidants are threatened by loss of freedom and ability to do the things they can do and want to do when they’re not in a relationship (e.g. their own space, how they use their time, who they choose to see/talk to, explore other relationships etc). They understand that being in a relationship requires them to sacrifice, compromise and give up some of those “freedoms” and it feels threatening. Situationships offers the “freedom” that a relationship doesn’t and are more attractive to a dismissive avoidant who recently got divorced, who was in an abusive and toxic relationship for many years, or married at a very early age and wants to be “free” to do the things they never got to do while married.
Fearful avoidants are threatened by fear of not being enough, disappointment (by them or the other person), rejection, loss and even feeling like a burden because they have their own “problems” to deal with (busy, career or financial stress, family drama, depression etc.,), or because they feel that they can’t give someone what they need/want/deserve in a relationship. because of their fear of rejection or abandonment, they struggle with separation anxiety (they feel anxious, confused, worried, afraid, angry, resentful, regret, guilt, and/or depressed). Situationships are not a dating or officially a relationship, the end of a situationship is technically not “a break-up”, therefore less separation anxiety.
How do fearful avoidants act or behave in situationships?
Avoidants behave differently in a situationship vs. in a relationship that requires a more vulnerability, closeness or serious commitment. But before I go into how fearful avoidants or act in a relationship, it’s important to point out (especially those new to attachment styles) that most fearful avoidants due to an inconsistent (hot and cold) love and caring, chaotic and/or abusive childhood and subsequent disorganized attachment style, don’t know what to expect from people they’re in a relationship with or what is expected of them. It’s so easy for them to confuse a situationship and a relationship.
And because fearful avoidants often have unclear boundaries, don’t communicate their feelings and needs directly and clearly, and send mixed signals it causes confusion for themselves and the person they’re with. Initially they’re only looking for casual sex with some emotional connection but the anxious part of them often develops an attachment. Logically they understand and accept that it’s a situationship but emotionally they’re attached. This causes them to want more and push for more from the situationship (even acting needy and clingy) resulting in hot and cold behaviour, and in push and pull dynamics and the end to the situationship.
Dismissive leaning fearful avoidants will initially want to see you all the time, put in real effort in making you feel loved and wanted, and really be into you. They’re only looking for casual sex with some emotional connection, but if the situationship provides the safety and consistency fearful avoidants need, it can feel like a relationship to them. Some fearful avoidants even develop real strong feelings for the person they’re in a situationship with. But the more dismissive a fearful avoidant leans, the less likely they’re to develop an attachment in a situationship and the more likely that they’ll act and behave just like a dismissive avoidant. But unlike dismissive avoidants who have clear boundaries in their situationships, dismissive leaning fearful avoidants once in a while show anxiety and confusion and may send mixed signals if you seem like you want more from the situationship.
For better or worse most fearful avoidants’ situationship don’t last very long. The intense hot and cold, pull and push becomes too much for the other person and they end the situationship. For fearful avoidants, the lack of stability, consistency and certainty makes them end the situationship.
How do dismissive avoidants act or behave in situationships?
Dismissive avoidants act or behave in situationships very much like they behave in relationships. They can be loving, caring, responsible and respectful but without allowing emotional vulnerability, closeness and commitment. The only difference is that situationship right from the beginning (if it’s discussed and agree that it’s a situationship) feel safer for a dismissive avoidant. You meet for casual sex when its convenient for a dismissive avoidant, and after sex they leave or you go your separate ways. Once in a while you have “emotional connection” moments but these moments are rare and few because to a dismissive avoidant they’re not in the situationship to act like they’re in a relationship. Their incredible ability to compartmentalize makes separating sex from emotions easy – and they make it a point to make it clear it’s a situationship not a relationship or situationship that might turn into a relationship.
Some dismissive avoidants even have multiple situationships because as far as they’re concerned, it’s not “cheating” if you’re not in “a relationship”. They were upfront and honest about it being situationship from the beginning and if you got attached, that’s on you.
As long as both people understand that it’s a situationship – just a good time between two people who really like each other and enjoy each other – dismissive avoidant situationships can last years even decades. Some dismissive avoidant long term situationships can even feel like a relationship – but without attachment.
Besides a dismissive avoidant’s ability to compartmentalize, the other reason dismissive avoidant situationships last years even decades is because most people in situationships with dismissive avoidants convince themselves that if they only hang in there, if they only show a dismissive avoidant how much thy love and care about them or make them feel safe, if they only they can control their neediness, don’t express how they feel, don’t ask for their needs to be met, don’t push for commitment etc., a dismissive avoidant will want a relationship. They lie to themselves even when a dismissive avoidant has made it very clear that they’re not attached and there is going to be no relationship.
Fearful avoidants in a situationship is different from dismissive avoidants
Avoidants in general behave or act differently when in a situationship and when in a relationship, but fearful avoidants act differently from dismissive avoidants in that the lines between a situationship and relationship can be blurred for fearful avoidants.
A fearful avoidant because of their disorganized attachment will send many mixed signals most of the time not intentionally, but because they themselves are not sure whether it’s a situationship or a relationship or how they feel about someone. They say it’s a situationship, but they sometimes act like it’s a relationship.
Dismissive avoidants make it clear a situationship is a situationship, not a relationship. Having clear lines and boundaries is something very important to dismissive avoidants, its how they keep their life organized, and relationships compartmentalized. They pull away and even get angry if you start acting like you’re a relationship.
The other difference between fearful avoidants in situationships and dismissive avoidants in situationships is that a fearful avoidant will initiate an end to the situationship if they’re not happy with how things are – too many arguments, fights, needy behaviours, drama etc. Their anxious side can’t tolerate too much stress, anxiety and fear and they end the situationship even if some aspects of it were working for them.
Fearful avoidants who lean dismissive sometimes may initiate an end to the situationship and sometimes, they just pull away and become more distant. And because fearful avoidants are conflict avoidant, people pleasers who are afraid to express how they truly feel (or what they need), if you ask them if everything is okay, they’ll say everything is okay but continue to distance and push you to end the situationship.
Dismissive avoidants on most part will not initiate the end of a situationship. If a dismissive avoidant is not happy, they’ll simply distance from you, stop responding altogether and maybe even start exploring other situationships. As far as dismissive avoidants are concerned, you are two people who really liked each other and enjoyed each other, it’s not a relationship and they’re free do do whatever they like. They’re not attached or confused about the difference between a situationship and a relationship, and neither should you. If weeks or even months you reach out or they reach out and you’re up for a “good time” they’re in as long as you understand that it’s just a good time between two people who really like each other and enjoy each other.
Can a situationship with a dismissive avoidant become a relationship?
Is there a possibility that a situationship with a dismissive avoidant can become a relationship? Yes, but it’ll be because the positives of being in a relationship outweigh the negatives of a situationship, and that’s a hard sell for someone who wants and needs their independence more than they want or need a relationship.
Should you leave the situationship with a dismissive avoidants? It depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it. I’ve worked with people who for their own reasons also prefer a situationship over a relationship and just want to make the situationship work better. I’ve also worked with people who aren’t happy with the situationship arrangement but are lying to themselves that this is what they want because they don’t want to lose the connection they have with a dismissive avoidant. They want a relationship but are not ready, willing or able to accept to themselves that the situationship is not working for them. They know too well that asking for more will push a dismissive avoidant further away or end the situationship. So they hang in there hoping, miserable, frustrated, anxious and fearful, especially when a dismissive avoidant looks like they’re pulling away.
Some go no contact hoping that a dismissive avoidant will miss them, and wait, and wait, and wait but the dismissive avoidant never reaches out, and they’re forced to reach out making themselves even more needy and desperate than they did before they cut off contact. Some dismissive avoidants reach out hoping that the distance and no contact has helped the anxious person “calm down” or “be less emotional about things” and now ready to continue from there they left off the situationship.
What most anxious people cutting off contact to get a dismissive avoidant to react don’t realize that is cutting off doesn’t affect dismissive avoidants as it does anxious attachment or fearful avoidants. This is why a dismissive avoidant you haven’t heard from can hit you up months or years later, and its like no time passed at all.