With all the fun summer energy going around, it’s not uncommon to be open to—or actively want—a short-term, casual relationship that might last anywhere from a few days on vacation to a few weeks or months.
“The nature of a fling is such that you just get to enjoy the passion without having to stick around for the inevitable reality check that sets in after the passion starts to wane,” Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Lovehoney Scientific Advisor and Researcher at the Kinsey Institute. “Another way to think of it is that flings allow you to experience all of the benefits of what’s often termed ‘new relationship energy,’ but without all of the pressure and expectations to turn it into something more.”
Since summer flings typically involve sex and an expiration date, there’s the risk of doing a summer fling the wrong way—causing confusion and hurt feelings. So before you approach someone on the beach, here’s what to keep in mind so you can avoid being a jerk.
Be honest with yourself about what you want and what you can handle
Before you begin a fling, Lehmiller says it’s crucial to be honest with yourself and your own expectations around a casual encounter. Some questions he recommends asking include: What are you looking for right now? What do you tend to do in casual situations? Is a fling good for you right now?
A fling might sound good in theory, but if you’re not emotionally equipped to deal with one then it’s best to skip it and not risk hurting yourself or anyone else in the process.
Set the ground rules of the fling
If you’ve decided a fling is something you can emotionally and physically handle, Lehmiller says it’s important to communicate early and often about what your relationship is—and isn’t.
“When I think about a healthy, positive fling, I think about my research on friends with benefits (FWBs), which is another type of temporary, casual relationship,” Lehmiller shares. “In that work, we see that the FWBs who have the most favorable outcomes are those who communicated the most at the outset about the ground rules, including what the relationship is and isn’t, as well as those who shared the same expectations as their partners. The people looking for true love and a long-term relationship are the ones most likely to end up disappointed, especially when they tell their partner they want to keep it casual when that’s not really what they want. To reduce the risk of getting hurt or hurting someone else, it’s important to be true to yourself.”
So if you’re strictly looking for a fling, make sure your partner knows that from the jump and set boundaries as to what that looks like. Maybe it means you only text each other for sex. Maybe it means you casually see each other a few times a week. Or maybe it means you set an expiration date for your fling from the beginning—or all of the above. Just make sure you’re both on the same page about the nature of your relationship and what you can expect from each other.
Recognize when things begin to change
It’s easy to get carried away with the chemistry of a fling, but it’s key to hold onto your integrity, especially if you’re trying not to be a jerk about the whole thing. According to Lehmiller, this means:
“Don’t lead the other person on if it becomes clear that they’re looking for more than just a fling and you don’t want to take the relationship further,” he says. “That’s where a fling can start to go off the rails because one person starts investing in the relationship, while the other is already checked-out but wants to enjoy the benefits of the fling just a little longer.”
Also: “Don’t say you’re looking to keep things casual when you’re secretly hoping this will turn into a long-term relationship,” he shares. “Sometimes flings do turn into long-term lovers, but most don’t, so that’s not a realistic expectation.” And putting pressure onto what’s already been an established fling can create tension and drama between you that can be alienating, and ultimately diffuse your connection.
End a fling the right way
Even if you both know the fling is headed for splitsville, someone might still have to initiate it. If you’re the one to do it, remember that respect and kindness go a long way. Even if you both knew it wouldn’t last forever, that doesn’t mean the end of it still won’t sting a bit. Treat your partner with the same care and consideration that you would hope and expect from someone else. Don’t ghost them. Don’t do it over text. Don’t do it angry. Be clear, sincere, and kind, and say what you need to say so that you both can walk away without any questions…hopefully just happy memories of a fun-filled summer.
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