Have you ever been in a situationship? The first time I heard that troubling word I was listening to a song by the Swedish-Iranian singer, Snoh Aalegra. I thought it was just another made up word in a string of lyrics about unsaid feelings. It wasn’t until I did a bit of googling, that I discovered it’s actual lingo for an “undefined relationship.” Obviously as Muslims, situationships shouldn’t ever happen. Either you’re single, engaged, or married (or divorced). There’s no ambiguity in a relationship status. And yet, I’ve seen Muslims (including yours truly) end up in these messy relationships that are neither completely platonic nor are they part of any official marriage talks. How on earth does this happen? Well, it comes with the territory of being “just friends” with someone of the opposite sex.
I know, I can practically feel your eyes rolling now. You’ve probably been lectured about mixing with the opposite sex one too many times growing up and now you’re triggered. I get it. But hear me out. I’m not saying one can never have a friend of the opposite sex. I’m saying it’s dangerous when your friendship rises to the level of confidante, and you end up spending all your free time with that person (even if it’s just virtually), AND you’re both single.
Even when it starts off totally platonic, at some point, the relationship always takes a left turn, and one person falls for the other. And when you do get to that point, where you finally have thoughts about whether this is your person, you’re stuck! You end up too scared to make a move towards marriage because you don’t want to ruin your beautiful friendship.
Instead of giving you blanket advice like “go cut off all your friendships with the opposite sex NOW,” I’ll present you with a few different scenarios to help you decide if you’re currently in a situationship that needs to either be scaled back or pushed towards marriage.
This one is obvious. You are spending loads of time together. He’s the first person you’ll call when a problem arises. You’re the first one he’ll call to make last minute plans. People are constantly asking you if you’re secretly engaged because they see you guys showing up at different events together. You brush it off with a laugh saying, “we’re just friends.”
Ask yourself why? Why are you “just friends?” What’s holding you back? If this is someone you get along well with and are spiritually aligned with, why not entertain marriage with them? Or is there something problematic with them? Maybe you haven’t made any more moves because you know it would never work out. What’s the real reason you’re still “just friends?”
Sometimes it’s not you that’s the problem. It’s the signs you’re reading from the other person. However, there’s definitely chemistry. When you guys are together it’s an endless stream of banter and laughs. There’s comfort. There’s affection and care. There's a legitimate connection. The only thing is every time you try to take it to the next level, hint that you’re tired of being single, or that they should come meet your parents for dinner, they change the subject. Your “friend” starts listing all their currently single friends that they can set you up with. They slip in the fact that they’re doing so well these days working on bettering themselves. They don’t want any distractions. Still, they’ll message you every day before bed, or send a voice note about the latest work drama. So you wait, hoping and praying they’ll come around and that one day they’ll wake up and choose you.
Ask yourself, why am I waiting for this person? If they clearly know how I feel about them, shouldn’t I take the hint and move on? If I know this person doesn’t want to marry me, but I still want to get married, how can I maintain a close friendship and search for a new potential?
Sometimes you mistake it for excitement or butterflies, but really it’s just stress and anxiety. Why? Because the uncertainty that comes with a situationship is anxiety ridden. You might have love for this person, but the fact that you both have allowed your friendship to remain stagnant, in purgatory, means you are now living with an added stress of could this be something more, will I ever find out if it’s mutual? The endless questioning and wanting to know if you should stay or go, will drive you nuts.
If any of these three examples hits home for you, it may be time to reassess your friendship.
You’ve got two options:
Find a new person to be your go-to, bestie. Maybe you just stop reciprocating on the brunch or dinner plans. You don’t ghost them, but you begin to make up excuses to do other things with other people. Maybe you tell them you need to go on a detox from friendships because you want to reaffirm your connection with God.
Maybe you’re brave enough, committed enough, to see this thing to the end. Maybe you put all your cards on the table, and say “look, I care about you, in a way that makes me think we should consider marriage, or we should stop being as close friends as we are now.” I know it’s awkward and scary and naseauting to think about how you might get rejected, but you’re doing it for yourself. You're doing it for God. It’s okay that things got off the tracks. Just know you can always fix them. Be honest with them and yourself, and know that you will be rewarded, in this life or the next, for doing the right thing. Know that being “just friends” will eventually have repercussions. Someone always gets hurt. The heart is too delicate to play with.
Best of luck friends! May Allah make it easy for you.
Writer Nailah Dean