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EXPLAINER: What's a 'situationship' and is it the same as MU? Here's what you need to know about it

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Aug 09, 2023 8:29 pm

As Filipinos, we're all familiar with the term "mutual understanding" (MU) when it comes to dating, yet none of us seem to have explored what it truly means and whether it is a part of the dating culture in the Philippines.

That was the dilemma of a certain user on X (formerly Twitter) as they questioned whether relationships based on plain mutual understanding is exclusive to the Philippines or if it exists in other countries as well.

This was after they tried to enter into this kind of relationship with their American ex, but they didn't seem to know what it was.

Replying to the post, a Canadian user admitted that they haven't heard the term before, writing, "I think most people don't know about that as a possibility so it'd have to be discussed, because I don't think most people would know that's a thing. This is my first time hearing of it myself."

The user who asked the question, meanwhile, compared MU to a so-called "situationship" stage. Here's what you should know about these kinds of relationships.

What is a situationship?

Psychologist Wenna Brigaste explained to PhilSTAR L!fe that a situationship is a romantic relationship between two people who have no clear commitment to each other.

This may develop when the two of you have never discussed with each other your long-term plans regarding where your relationship goes from here on out, as well as the desire to still be together in the future.

According to Brigaste, a situationship is also defined as the "space between being in a committed relationship and having something that is more than just plain friendship."

Is it different from an MU?

Much like a situationship, an MU is also characterized as a "vague area" between being friends and being lovers, according to Urban Dictionary. It holds similarities to an open relationship where the people involved obviously like each other, but they are still free to date others as they haven't truly committed themselves to a relationship yet.

While this is so, there is still a significant difference between a situationship and an MU.

"Situationship is characterized by having an emotional connection and physical and sexual intimacy, while mutual understanding typically only involves having romantic feelings for each other," Brigaste said.

Mental health resource site Choosing Therapy meanwhile described it as a "no strings attached relationship or an emotional or sexual bond without a title."

How can you tell if you're in a situationship?

With no clear understanding of your labels, boundaries, and commitments, it can be difficult to tell if you are already in a situationship.

Brigaste highlighted that one sign that you are in one is that if the two of you are simply "living in the moment" and moving from date to date without having any expectation of anything beyond it.

"The relationship may be non-exclusive and there is no clear label. There are no long-term plans or discussion of a future together. The relationship is based on convenience and the connection is superficial or there is no deep emotional connection," she said.

In an article by health and wellness site Healthline, other signs include feeling confused at the lack of commitment in your relationship, when your partner hasn't made the effort to introduce you to their friends and family, and when you're feeling uncertain about wanting to be with them in the future.

What to do if you're in a situationship?

Whether or not you've purposely entered a situationship with your partner, this stage can lead to complications if you're not equipped to handle it.

Brigaste advised that while it's perfectly normal to want to explore different kinds of relationships, it is important that you know what you really want in life and why you are in a relationship in the first place.

"This may come from personal values or levels of self-worth. Ask yourself: Do I really want this and for how long?" she said.

This also applies if you ever find yourself wanting to end things with the person you're in a situationship with.

"You have to know your worth as a person. As they say, do not settle just because it is convenient, fun, or easy (for now). Ask yourself: is this what will make me happy and contented?" Brigaste said.

She continued, "Be honest to yourself and to your partner, and choose what is worth pursuing—is it a long-term committed relationship or the living-in-the-moment kind of relationship?"

Choosing Therapy added that you should always be honest with your partner about how you feel about your setup.

"If someone is looking for a long-term relationship and the other partner is not, it’s important to recognize this and end the situationship to avoid wasting time and emotions on a relationship that is unlikely to evolve into what they desire," they wrote.

"Alternatively, if someone is happy with the situation but the other partner wants more, it’s important to be honest and end the relationship if the feelings are not reciprocated," they added. (with reports from Brooke Villanueva)