A Flickering Flame: The Anatomy of a Summer Fling

Couple kissing

“My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!”

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Summertime romance has served as a rite of passage for young men and women who have yet to face the routine tasks of growing up since the first clarion cry of “School’s out!” was uttered. Summer brings a heightened sense of expectation, as we are released from the realities of the day-to-day grind, and launch into a three-month time warp, that thanks to a definite beginning, middle, and end, has the ability to intensify the cycle of attraction, desire, consummation… and leave-taking.

In fact, one aspect of summertime romance that actually makes it so appealing to some is the advance knowledge that the affair is likely going to end. Knowing that what you say or do (within reason of safety and sanity) will not have any long-term repercussions can be very liberating. That’s why summertime romances often burn hot, burn fast…and burn out, by design.

In a CNN interview, Catherine A. Sanderson, psychology professor at Amherst College, explained, “People out of their regular environment find it easier to pursue romance or love [during vacation], especially late adolescents, because they don’t have classes or exams, as they would in their regular social world. They almost take on a different persona, and that can make it easier for some students to engage in summer romances.” (1)

The Dos And Don’ts of Summer Love

Of course, not every summer romance is destined to cool as the weather grows cold. Some warm-weather matches are simply “meant to be,” no matter what season they take flight. Unfortunately, trouble often ensues when one person in the relationship sees a relationship as a summer fling, while the other views it as a stepping-stone to serious commitment. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your summertime romance leaves you with happy memories instead of heartbreak.

Be Clear From the Beginning

If you meet someone to whom you are attracted on summer break and want to pursue the romance, but know in your heart you’re not up for anything like serious commitment, as hard as it may be, tell the person the truth. If heading back to work or school come fall means stepping back into a real life that doesn’t have room or time for romance, you have to be upfront about that. You’ll also need the courage to ask about the other person’s expectations. If they’re also looking for a fun, casual, commitment-free fling, then go for it. If not, throw them back in the sea and fish for someone who shares your romantic mindset.

Keep Communication Open

So, you’ve told your summer someone that you have no plans for from here to eternity, but you find yourself actually falling in love with them. The best-laid plans often go awry, especially where Cupid is concerned. If think you’re forming a stronger than casual attachment than you’d originally anticipated, don’t keep that knowledge to yourself, especially if your summer love also made “keeping it simple” a requisite to the romance. It’s possible that your lover will be simpatico and share your deepening emotions, so talk it through. But if your summer partner remains firm in his or her “commitment to non-commitment,” you must respect those desires.

If you feel you can’t stay in the relationship without getting more in return, forget about “changing their mind,” because nothing will scuttle any romance quicker than the scent of desperation. Cut your losses, say good-bye, and head back to the beach.

Don’t Take Advantage

Karma! Karma! Karma! If you realize that your summer fling is falling for you and you don’t reciprocate those emotions, don’t add fuel to the fire by giving them false hope that you might someday return their feelings, because if you do, when the eventual crash and burn happens, you’ll be in for a bonfire of Armageddon-like proportions. The bottom line: Just because you’re not going to be seeing this person after the summer ends doesn’t give you license to lie or misrepresent the truth. Maybe you can get away with it, but why would you really want to?  Karma and Cupid both have ways of coming back to bite you.

Think you may be over your head in your summertime fling? Let a KEEN love advisor guide you back to safer waters.

Click to See Our Infographic on the Science of Summer Love


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