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What is a Short-Term Relationship?

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As the start of cuffing season is upon us, we may find ourselves looking to start a relationship that will get us through the cold, dark months ahead. Someone to count on for holiday parties, a New Year’s kiss, and a sweet Valentine’s dinner, with whom we’ll part ways with the first spring buds. What we may want is a short-term relationship.

What is a Short-Term Relationship?

First, we need to remind ourselves of the variable nature of relationships as a whole. Although the word has come to be associated with notions of a romantic and/or sexual connection, the word is defined in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as “the way in which two people, groups, or countries behave toward each other or deal with each other.”

Historically, people have seen longevity as correlational to success because romantic relationships have been precursors to marriage and family life. In the Philippines, divorce is still illegal, so a relationship has no choice but to last a lifetime once it’s consecrated. But a shorter relationship is not necessarily worse than a longer one.

The name defines a short-term relationship primarily by its length. It can last anywhere from a week to a year, and it can end for a variety of reasons. 

Maybe you’ve been together all summer, but one of you has to leave come September. Possibly you’ve been reveling in the honeymoon phase but realize you two are actually more different than you thought. Maybe you’ve been exploring a new part of yourself and are simply ready to move on.

Whether the relationship has been positive or negative is not dependent upon its length, nor should it automatically be considered a failure because it has ended. Let’s now understand what good a short-term relationship can bring to a person.

What are the Benefits of a Short-Term Relationship?

The attractive qualities of a short-term relationship–its spontaneous and low-pressure nature–rely centrally upon its shorter length. 

A shorter relationship timeline may be necessary for some people. Work, travel, and family life are some of the numerous factors that may limit the amount of time or effort someone can put into a relationship. In this case, a short-term relationship can provide fun and companionship without a long-term commitment.

As short-term relationships naturally take up less time, they also allow people to explore more different types of relationships and make more connections than staying in a long-term relationship would.

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Younger people especially can benefit from the experimental and discovery-based characteristics of short-term relationships to help them get to know themselves and their own values and preferences. These discoveries are applicable to either short or long-term relationships in the future.

Another key skill developed by having short-term relationships is the ability to end them

Whether this is due to its easygoing nature, or the fact that it’s limited by outside circumstances, or maybe it’s just run its course, a short-term relationship is often ended sooner and more easily than a longer one. Practice in ending relationships is crucial in helping people build confidence and stand up for their wants and needs.

What are the Drawbacks to a Short Term Relationship?

Of course, a short-term relationship is certainly not for everybody.

The limited timespan of a short-term relationship may leave some people feeling unfulfilled when it’s over. Poor communication or becoming too emotionally invested can mean one person may want more from the relationship than it can provide.

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As short-term relationships give people less time to know each other than long-term relationships do, there can be lots of unknowns after they end. Unknowns give way to “what ifs,” which put people in the realm of fantasy rather than reality. The fantasy can be fantastic because it’s not real, but it can also cause rumination and longing for a future that most likely would not have happened.

A short-term relationship could also be accidental. If the relationship begins too quickly, people may realize that their goals, values, and personalities are less compatible than they seemed at first, so the relationship inevitably ends. This ending could leave people feeling depressed or discontented, prompting them to enter another relationship in the hopes of rectifying that, when in reality, they are only perpetuating a negative cycle.

What if I Don’t Want a Short-Term Relationship?

If you find yourself in a short-term relationship without meaning to, or you are afraid you might accidentally enter one, fear not! The most critical facts and factors to know before venturing into any relationship are your personal values–desires, goals, and expectations. Marriage, children, occupational goals, and travel plans; are all things to incorporate into your relationship building.

To end a cycle of short-term relationships, take the time to address feelings you may have from past relationships, but try not to let them get in the way of your greater aspirations and outlook. Don’t ignore red flags or major differences just because they’re attractive, and maybe you can change them–it’s hard, I know, but you probably can’t. 

Whatever relationships you’ve had or will have, it’s important to recognize the good and bad in them, regardless of their length. Appreciate the good, and try to learn from the bad. Remember that the end of a relationship is not a 

Written By

Hi, I'm Caroline Heath, and I write for the News section of Trill. I grew up in New York City, and I currently go to the University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland. I am particularly interested in sharing stories related to education, literature, and writing/language.

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