Summer Flings and Mental Health

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You’ve read romance books with exciting summer flings in them, or your friends are all doing it. Should you indulge yourself?

What you need to know about summer flings

The most important thing to keep in mind about summer flings is that they are not for everyone.

Just because other people are fine with them does not mean you will be, or that there is anything wrong with you if you aren’t.

Summer flings require confidence and an ability to move on quickly that we don’t all naturally have. Some of us simply weren’t born with such a personality, or our life experiences have led us to be sensitive, or easily attached.

The dangers of summer flings

Research shows that when we are on vacation, away from our usual routines and worlds, we can become less inhibited and more willing to try new things. We test our own personal and sexual boundaries, and go faster than usual with sexual partners.

Exciting, if you are in a stable headspace. A fling can be a fun way to learn about who you are and what you want, or to test drive ways of relating that you are curious about.

But what if we are in a vulnerable or unstable headspace? Such as already dealing with mental health issues? Mental health issues like anxiety and depression cloud our ability to make good decisions or listen to ourselves. We can find ourselves doing things we regret, that trigger or make our issues worse.

Mental health issues that can be triggered by a fling

The following mental health struggles can interact with summer flings in ways that are not always simple.

Intimacy issues.

If you struggle to get close to people, a fling can seem perfect. But if you end up liking them more than they like you, or, vice versa, they end up wanting more and being demanding? Then it might be more than you bargained for, and trigger feelings of low self-esteem and overwhelm.

Anxiety.

If you suffer from anxiety, be sure the fling won’t add to it. If you are in anyway uncertain about the other person, or too concerned what other people think, then do ask yourself if it’s worth the extra anxiety clouding your holiday.

Depression.

When we suffer from depression we can, without even realising we are doing it, pin our hopes on others around us to somehow magically save us from our own moods.

And we can be prone to highs and lows. When something good happens we can bump out of our depression, only to hit down to a darker level when it quickly ends or if it ends in a way we find disappointing. Do ask yourself if you currently have the energy to navigate the highs and lows that a fling risks triggering.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Borderline personality disorder is triggered by feeling abandoned and rejected. And it can also involve a need for intensity. Flings can be very triggering. Even though we know that it’s only a few nights, we can play power games to try to manipulate the other person to really like us, and then feel very abandoned when it’s all over.

Codependency.

Do you know how to set boundaries around what you do or don’t want? Or are you codependent, always falling into pleasing others… including sexually? As mentioned, summer flings can be fast and see us testing our inhibitions. So if we are codependent, we are more prone to doing things we don't actually want to and will feel bad about later.

Low self-esteem.

Struggle to feel good about yourself? If you are relying on having a fling to raise your self-esteem, think again. Confidence is best if sourced from within instead of without. When we look to other people to make us feel better about ourselves we often end up disappointed. Other people are dealing with their own issues, and our low self-esteem will also lead us to be oversensitive to any casual comment they make.

How to have a healthy summer fling

1. Be honest.

If it's a fling you are after, let the other person know that it won’t continue past the vacation. Or, if you already know you feel more and want more even if you live far apart, be honest about that. By pretending you only want a fling if you want more, you risk ending up feeling rejected and bad if they don't.

2. And be honest with yourself.

Be honest about your own intentions, this is perhaps the most important. Are you secretly using the other person to try to move on from an ex, for example? Is that really going to work, or will it just make you feel worse?Is this what you really want? Or are you doing it out of some belief you need to be more exciting? Listen to yourself, and what actually makes you feel comfortable, instead of any perceived notion of what you should or shouldn’t be.

And be honest if you are possibly hoping a fling will save you from yourself and any sadness or mental health issues you are dealing with. Flings tend to cause more life drama, not less.

3. Have reasonable expectations.

Don’t expect the other person to treat you like a partner or share their life story. And certainly don’t expect them to endlessly text you for months afterwards. Go into it knowing that you can’t have big expectations. If you can't do this, then a fling might not be right for you.

4. Be safe.

It's not just about being physically safe (although that is certainly wise. Research shows those engaging in casual sex like summer flings are far less likely to divulge any sexually transmitted infections). It's also about being psychologically safe.

Listen to yourself. If at any point it no longer feels right and you want to back out, then do so.

You are not obligated to do anything you don’t want to, and your wellbeing should always be a priority. If the other person at all tries to pressure you after you say you’ve changed your mind, it’s simply proof you’ve made the right decision.

Struggle with intimacy and sex issues? Or can't seem to move from casual sex to a relationship despite best efforts? Therapy can really help. Use our easy booking tool to find your perfect therapist now.

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