What’s An Imaginationship And Why Is This Dating Term So Big On TikTok?

Remember back when you were in middle school and you used to scribble the name of your crush in your Lisa Frank notebook that you kept tucked away in your Trapper Keeper? (Sorry, I’m dating myself here!) It was fun to fantasize about what it’d be like to be coupled up with the person who caught your eye on the playground, and you probably got carried away sometimes. Hey, no shame here! Now, TikTok has come up with the 2023, grown-up version of that dating trend: the imaginationship.

What is an “imaginationship” and why is it so big on TikTok?


#talkingstage #imaginationship #crush

♬ original sound – m6tters

When you have a crush on someone — and yes, that still happens long after you’re past your school days — it’s normal to think about them pretty much 24/7. You wonder what they’re doing, whether they like you, and if you’ll ever actually get together. However, as TikTok users reveal, the imaginationship takes this many steps further.

The imaginationship is all about constructing a whole relationship with your crush in your head that doesn’t exist. You might picture yourselves having kids together and what their names are. Or, you might envision yourself traveling the world with them, or having a massive wedding with both of your families there to support you. It’s a deep dive into fantasizing about your crush.

You might worry that you’re some kind of weirdo if you do this, but you’re not. Given that the #imaginationship hashtag has 14.5 million views on TikTok, it’s clear this is something many of us do.

While TikTok may have popularized the imaginationship dating term, it’s actually been around for a while. Urban Dictionary has had an entry listed for the word since back in 2009, and they describe it as “an almost nonexistent relationship, usually of a romantic nature, with one party exaggerating or imagining their closeness; a relationship almost exclusively existing in the hopeful person’s mind.” Geez, when you put it that way, it’s actually kind of sad.

It’s pretty harmless, right?


Recorded this 20 billion times my voice is fried #fyp #obsessed #singing #originalsong #songwriting #crush #imaginationship #ReasonForBooking #foryou #voiceeffects

♬ original sound – Audrey💐🎶

Totally! Exploring fantasies in a safe and healthy way — i.e. inside your own brain — isn’t just normal, it’s encouraged. Not only are you not causing anyone any pain (except yourself, of course, if you really like them!), but you’re also playing out some important scenarios in your head. While your imaginationship may never turn into anything more than a much-liked TikTok video, it still has its benefits.

  1. It helps you realize what’s important. If your imaginationship with someone includes marriage and kids, that’s a good indication that those two things are important to you in a relationship. If, however, it’s more about shared adventure traveling the world, you know you crave that element of excitability in your life.
  2. It highlights what you’re looking for in a partner. Just as your imaginary relationships with your crushes can help you figure out what you want in a relationship, it can highlight your must-have qualities in a partner too. For instance, maybe in your fantasy, your crush is super attentive and great at giving advice. Whatever qualities you give them in your mind, that’s obviously what you’re looking for in real life.
  3. It gives you space and time for reflection. The stuff that goes through our heads can actually shed a lot of light on who we are and what makes us tick. Because you’re not actually in a relationship with this person, you can use your imaginationship as a space for self-reflection. The more you learn about yourself, the better person (and future partner) you’ll be.
  4. It could help you avoid toxic partners before you actually get involved with them. Just because you have a crush on someone doesn’t mean you’d be good together. It doesn’t even mean that they’re all that great on their own. By keeping your connection strictly in your imagination, you could be saving yourself a lot of trouble.

Can an imaginationship ever turn into a real relationship?


#talkingstage #imaginationship #crush

♬ original sound – jaimeseath xxx

Sure, why not? While TikTok uses the dating term “imaginationship” specifically to refer to those fantasies about someone we can never be with, there’s nothing to bar you from actually getting with your crush in real life. Assuming you’re both single and in a position to date, you never know. It could actually be real love.

If you do think there’s a chance of a real-life connection, don’t wait for them to make a move. Let them know you’re into them and see what happens. You might just be glad you did.


Why am I like this? #imaginationship #talkingstage #crush

♬ original sound – jaimeseath xxx

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill