A summer fling can be a balmy breeze caressing your cheek. But it can also be a tropical maelstrom leaving you with an acute case of whiplash. 

While a heated romance by the shoreline can be endlessly refreshing, it can also devolve into something much more sinister. There are only a few variables controlling for those “I thought I really meant something 2 u” storm gusts, and unfortunately they can be easy to miss. Luckily, we’re here to define them for you so you don’t get drowned in the downpour. 

As usual, the golden rule is always communication. I’ve had my share of brief flings and a few have seriously spiraled beyond my grasp. Why? While each instance is different, the issue consistently dissolves down into a network of misunderstandings. I’ll give you an example. 

My last summer fling was with a man who we’ll call NiceGuy. As his title suggests, he possessed all of the typical “good guy” qualities: he answered all of my texts promptly, took me to breakfast after late–night hookups, and had that boyish smile that radiates a warm sense of altruism (swoon). However, I’d recently escaped a nasty breakup and wasn’t ready to even glance at the waters of commitment. And NiceGuy was already neck–deep and beckoning for me to swim after just two weeks.

Multiple times, I sat him down and with a calm smile, I stated my position. “I’m really not looking for anything serious” ... “I’d like to just take it slow” ... “I like you a lot, but it’s not the right time”—you know, that whole spiel. No matter how much NiceGuy expressed that he felt similarly, I could spot the budding affection in his gestures. Needless to say, it ended with a blowout argument about me not wanting a relationship and him melting into a puddle of tears.

But here's the moral of the story: learn from my mistakes! I should’ve been more even more explicit with NiceGuy about my boundaries. I should’ve truly mapped everything out for him instead of tiptoeing around the topic to spare his feelings. However, if you’ve had multiple conversations and you can tell that your SSO (summer significant other) is still not on the same page as you, then you need to make a decision. 

Sometimes, regardless of the communication, you'll simply be in different places. People can’t change how they feel, so don’t ignore it! If you continue the fling with conflicting feelings, it will most likely result in an explosive argument, or even some serious ghosting. Trust your intuition and be honest with yourself. If you know that you could hurt your partner, let them go! Summer sex is never worth someone else’s (potentially year-long) hurt feelings.

This brings us to one of the most important things that you should cover with your summer fling, an issue that can get particularly blurry under the summer sun: exclusivity. Are other people still on the menu while you’re with your casual fling? Or would you rather keep it close–circle and slap a label on it for the next few months? It’s entirely up to you and both options are viable. Yet, as always, you must clearly address it. If August swings around and your partner is in hysterics that you’re not comfortable with long-distance dating during the fall, then something went wrong. You’ll find that with flings, as with all relationships, the key is almost always communication. Be upfront and be vocal. Be happy that you’ve even secured your fine self a summer lover. But, most of all, be diligent about not letting your fling boil into a full-out cyclone, so that you can enjoy the heat without getting burned!