Now that we’re well into the dog days of summer, our thoughts are turning to the school year ahead. We’re wrapping things up at our internships, packing our clothes up for school, stuffing our bikinis and cutoffs into storage…but does saying goodbye to summer things mean saying goodbye to summer flings? For those of us who found a guy to make our summer even hotter, how do we turn off the heat as the temperature outside starts to cool down? It’s never easy to end a relationship, and sometimes it’s even harder to break it off when your fling was short but sizzling. But just as summer has to end eventually, so too will your summer fling have to fade…and Her Campus is here with three ways to bring the sizzle to a simmer without anyone getting burned.
The Slow Freeze
Unlike longer-term relationships, most summer flings don’t end with a “we have to talk.” Instead, once everyone goes back to school, summer relationships slowly fizzle in the absence of summer’s constant opportunities for contact. Dr. Ish Major, top psychiatrist and author of the book Little White Whys, explains that letting a summer fling fade away minimizes heartbreak: “You let the summer fling end the same exact way the summer itself ends…it gently fades into the fall. The days slowly get shorter and shorter, the temperature slowly gets cooler and cooler, and you slowly let it fade away….usually that way there are no hurt feelings. You don’t want to do it abrupt, because that can be a little too emotionally traumatic.”
Lauren*, a junior at George Washington University, worked closely with her summer fling as a lifeguard. She let their relationship slowly fade away to minimize hurt feelings and awkwardness, and she’s happy she did, because they ended up working together again the next summer. “The longer we went without seeing each other, the more disconnected we became, so this summer when we worked together there wasn’t any baggage from the summer before,” she explained.
If you’re going to attempt the slow freeze, avoid a “talk” at the end of the summer about what happens come September. The best plan is to acknowledge the summer is ending while leaving things as vague as possible. Make sure your fling knows how much fun you had over the summer, but don’t give him any ideas about a future relationship if you’re not looking for one. Chances are, he’ll feel the same way about “the talk” as you do, and you can part ways with minimal awkwardness.
Lauren, for example, walked away from her fling with a simple “I’ll talk to you soon!” She continued to text and call him as the school year began, but let their conversations get less and less frequent as the months passed.
The Cold Shower
While some couples both agree that their relationship has an expiration date, others might be a little out of sync when it comes to their fling’s shelf life. Sometimes, even if you don’t see the relationship lasting past Labor Day, your guy could be envisioning a beautiful future together—or vice versa. If you’re getting the feeling one of you is a little too serious about your fling, it’s necessary to have a little chat—sooner rather than later. Dr. Major says, “you don’t want to have one person be all in and the other person not sure where it’s going, because that’s where your feelings get hurt. At some point you’re going to need to talk about it and see where the relationship is going.”
Sophie, a junior at Cornell University, avoided having “the talk” when she felt like her fling was getting a little too serious—and she paid the price for it later. “I tried to let it fade away,” she said, “but in the fall he tried to get back together with me, thinking we were going to pick up where we left off over breaks. I already had a new boyfriend by then, and I had to hurt my fling’s feelings by saying I didn’t want a relationship.”
Make sure you approach the conversation as directly as possible—if you really want to end the fling once and for all, the worst thing you can do is leave things too vague and give your guy the wrong idea. Come right out with it; since you’re ending it abruptly, you don’t need to worry about hurting his feelings in fear of awkward encounters in the future. Here are some phrases you could try:
- I had a lot of fun this summer, but I don’t think this is going to work once we get back to school.
- I really want to be free to do my own thing this fall.
- I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to keep seeing each other once school starts.
- I’m really not looking for a relationship, and I think it’s better for both of us to end things now so no one gets hurt.
The Back Burner
For most of us, sustaining a fling throughout the school year isn’t very doable. But lots of girls keep their flings around to start up again over breaks, or even to rekindle the flame the next summer. Dr. Major says that if it’s a mutual decision, it may actually be a good idea to keep a fling on the back burner: “If you both agree that you can do whatever you want in the in-between time as far as having different friends, and seeing other people, and as long as you can keep tabs on each other without getting jealous, then it’s okay. And the flings that start up again the next year are often the kinds of flings that can lead to a long-term relationship.
Jackie, a senior at Cornell University, managed to pull off the back-burner move, and has had a steady summer fling ever since. “We left promising we would visit each other,” she explained. “We didn’t discuss it much because it was kind of awkward to establish something. But we continued to talk…a few times a week all year.” But while her recurring fling has been fun, it hasn’t come without a bit of emotional baggage: “I think it was nice to keep him around for breaks and the summer, but sometimes I’d unhealthily compare him to other guys.”
In general, the most important thing to keep in mind as your summer fling winds down is what you expected to get out of the relationship back in June. If you went into the fling expecting a long-term relationship, the breakup might be tougher than if you were just looking for some summer fun. If you were just looking for some lighthearted sizzle this summer, it’s important to keep things as light as possible during this last month. “If you went into the fling expecting a monogamous, boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, the breakup can be traumatic whether the relationship lasted two months or six months,” Dr. Major explains, “but if you have in the back of your mind that it will only be a summer thing and you’ll see where it goes, then it will be much easier to pull away.” So as the summer winds down, keep tabs on your fling—it will make things much easier when the temperature—and your relationship—starts to slide in a couple weeks.
Dr. Ish Major, licenced psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys
Jackie, Cornell University senior
Sophie, Cornell University Junior
Lauren, George Washington University junior
*names have been changed