Healing from a situationship can be harder than recovering from a breakup, and it’s not talked about enough. Taylor Swift’s recent album, The Tortured Poets Department, is filled with situationship-related themes, and it’s inspired me to really think about how painful they can be.

It might not be a “real” relationship, but the people in it are real. The feelings are real. 

First, let’s define what a situationship is. A situationship is an undefined romantic relationship in which two people act like in a couple in some ways, but there’s no official commitment. One or both don’t know where the relationship stands at any given time because there are no formal expectations, boundaries, or consistency.

This lack of clarity makes situationships — and their endings — confusing and painful. You might never get clarity from the end of a situationship, but here are answers to a few questions you might have about why situationships are so painful: 

  • Why does it hurt so much? In a situationship, there’s more hope than there is in other relationships, and the loss of hope is horrible. After all, the opposite of hope is despair. 

  • Why does it feel worse than other breakups? The dynamics of a situationship — anxiety, uncertainty, hope — can increase emotional distress, lower self-esteem, and cause isolation, making the ending more agonizing. 

  • Was any of it real? The illusion of a future (however unlikely it might have been) is shattered when a situationship ends. This also puts cracks into the past, causing you to question the validity of everything that happened. This can be heartbreaking. 

  • Why did I do this to myself? It’s hard not to feel ashamed and angry at yourself for tolerating what you did. It feels as if you’re dealing with the consequences of your own poor choices, which adds to the pain of the situationship’s ending. 

  • Is it really over? The unpredictability was part of the situationship’s appeal, and this is what makes it so hard to end. Can something end if it never officially began? Of course it can, but it’s harder to comprehend. And sometimes it hurts more.

  • Why do I feel so alone? Because a situationship is harder to talk about, both while it’s happening and when it ends, you might not get the same comfort from those around you when it ends. They might not understand or you might even tell them about what you’re going through.

  • How can I have closure? The lack of clarity that exists throughout a situationship means you probable won’t get closure, at least not in the way you might with other relationships. This can make it harder to move on because you will have to create your own closure. 

  • Why am I having a hard time moving on? Being in a situationship can feel like taking illicit drugs. There’s longing and intermitted highs; there’s knowing you should stop and the pain of hope. The loss triggers withdrawal in a way that other relationships do not.

Strange as it might seem, getting over a situationship is often more painful than recovering from a breakup. It seems as though it shouldn’t be — after all, things weren’t clearly defined, and the possibility of an ending always lingered  in the air — yet it still hurts more. 

But it will be okay. You might never have answers. You might never have closure. But you can still heal. You can and will get past this. In the meantime, here are some Taylor Swift songs from The Tortured Poets Department that you might want to listen to based on your specific situation:

If you thought it would work out somehow, listen to “loml.”

If you’re just ending it and the pain is fresh, listen to “Down Bad.”

If you’re furious and want answers, listen to “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived.”

If you don’t understand why it ended, listen to “How Did It End?”

If no one knows how heartbroken you are, listen to “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart.”

If you sure you’ll always wonder why, listen to “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus.”

If you thought you could change them, listen to “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can).”

If you wish you could see them one more time, listen to “I Look in People’s Windows.”

If you’re hurting but you’re healing, listen to “The Manuscript.”

If you wish it wasn’t over, listen to “The Prophecy.”

If you were involved with someone who wouldn’t grow up, listen to “Peter.” 

If you still can’t believe they don’t miss you, listen to “The Black Dog.”

If an old situationship is impacting your current relationship, listen to “Fortnight” and “Guilty As Sin.”

If you’re living in delusion that they love you listen to ” My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys.”

If you’re free but moving on to a new situation, listen to “Fresh Out the Slammer.”

You might also enjoy reading Taylor’s poem, “In Summation,” here:

At this hearing
I stand before my fellow members
of the Tortured Poets Department
With a summary of my findings
A debrief, a detailed rewinding
For the purpose of warning
For the sake of reminding
As you might all unfortunately recall
I had been struck with a case
of a restricted humanity
Which explains my plea here today
of temporary insanity
You see, the pendulum swings
Oh, the chaos it brings
Leads the caged beast to do
the most curious things
Lovers spend years denying what’s ill fated
Resentment rotting away
galaxies we created
Stars placed and glued
meticulously by hand
next to the ceiling fan
Tried wishing on comets.
Tried dimming the shine.
Tried to orbit his planet.
Some stars never align.

And in one conversation, I tore down the whole sky
Spring sprung forth with dazzling freedom hues
Then a crash from the skylight
Bursting through
Something old, someone hallowed,
who told me he could be brand new
And so I was out of the oven
And into the microwave
Out of the slammer and into a tidal wave
How gallant to save the empress
from her gilded tower
Swinging a sword he could barely lift
But loneliness struck at that fateful hour
Low hanging fruit on his wine stained lips
He never even scratched the surface
of me.
None of them did.
“In summation, it was not a love affair!”
I screamed while bringing my fists
to my coffee ringed desk
It was a mutual manic phase.
It was self harm.
It was house and then cardiac arrest.
A smirk creeps onto this poet’s face
Because it’s the worst men that I write best.
And so I enter into evidence
My tarnished coat of arms
My muses, acquired like bruises
My talismans and charms
The tick, tick, tick of love bombs
My veins of pitch black ink
All’s fair in love and poetry
Sincerely,
The Chairman
of The Tortured Poets Department

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