Situationships and the Paradox of Choice

Graphics by Amy Hoang
February 20, 2024

The rise of the ‘situationship’ and the modern culture of dating all signify a trend in our modern society: to have an abundance of choices. In today's world, a mere swipe on dating apps lets us explore a myriad of attractive individuals in our vicinity. Even after you meet someone, there are so many ways that that relationship can go; despite doing things a couple would do, they might drop the I’m-not-looking-for-a-relationship bomb and you’d squeeze out a nonchalant response to avoid seeming needy.

Many find the culture of non-committed relationships liberating and empowering. When I google why situationships are good, people say it’s “less responsibility”, “an opportunity for self-growth”, and an “emotional connection without commitment or future planning.” But if more people are seeking this kind of freedom, perhaps the opposite is true: we are suffering in this society. I argue that this need for commitments hasn’t changed since the start of civilization– but it’s that we are presented with so many moments of individual decision-making. In the face of so many life paths and choices, we are lost, overwhelmed, and unsure of what we make of our lives. The world no longer has any structured meanings on how to live life anymore– long gone are the days when religion and moral absolutism made up all sense of our metaphysics and ethics. So we are left on our own to make meanings out of our lives. It’s scary to navigate this world alone, and many prefer to abdicate the responsibility, to go with the flow. 

But in reality, these non-commitment dating styles don’t exactly help us become free, fully-individuated people. In fact, it justifies a habit to delay that decision-making moment. Situationships and hook-up culture enable us to ignore the burden of choices that lay ahead, and succumb to our imminent desire for human connection and intimacy.

We are experiencing a free-floating anxiety never seen in pre-modern times. Perhaps, we just want human connection, intimacy, a companion, without the future dilemma that comes with a relationship. Non-commitment relationships satisfy this crave for a human connection, all the while allowing us to exercise a kind of self-determining freedom– that your life is none of other’s business. 


I have grappled with making choices with intention, often saying yes blindly and allowing circumstances, especially in dating, to dictate my path. It was easy to justify my spontaneity as part of embracing a liberated self, but I led on people and hurt their feelings on the way. All the while, I felt miserable for the way things always ‘turned out’ in the end. But the truth is, life doesn’t just “turn out” to be what you didn’t expect. At each step, we are making choices that shape our life. Our choices matter deeply, extending beyond ourselves. 

Love made me realize that we never achieve self-fulfilment alone. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to one another to work to realize our full measure. 

We are in an Age of Whatever. Many people align with relativism and think “whatever” to the choices other people make. But love is a reminder that we can all care for one another, push each other to live authentically, and choose consciously. 

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