Staying Safe with Summer Flings

If idyllic summer lovers Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson taught us anything, it is that summer flings could be a blast or end in tragedy. Whether the relationship ends with someone alone at a drive-in or making those magic changes into a long-term relationship, it almost never fails to sail some awkward waters.

Before the summer begins, it is important to follow a few guidelines to protect both the heart and the body. There are worse things one could do, but staying safe sexually and emotionally are a must for healthy relationships.

Michelle Howard of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Student Counseling Services said that in determining a potential summer match, it is important to consider two things.

“Sometimes we want to jump into things,” Howard said. “It’s fun to meet new people for friends or relationships, but we have to be careful. ‘Do I know this person? How do I know this person?’ Also make sure that this person is healthy for (you), (is) a positive influence and is encouraging.

Howard also said to consider the location where summer flings are usually formed.  A bar or a club is not going to be as conducive to finding a good, solid relationship as some other social options.  She also said to watch for problems early on, such as possessiveness or issues with control.

According to Marie Claire magazine, the summer is an excellent time to expand one’s horizons and hang out with either someone who is not one’s type or not even one’s age.

Since it’s just a fling, it frees you up to go way out of your usual age range — in either direction — because there’s no concern about the difference in years becoming problematic down the line,” said journalist Maura Kelly.

When this magical, mystery romance does come along, it is also important to establish some guidelines: one should know his or her boundaries and know when to ditch one’s date in exchange for time with friends.

Knowing boundaries is important in establishing a relationship—even a short summer fling. Are you uncomfortable with sex, but are all about spending time together? Or, on the flip side, are you more of a kiss-and-say-goodbye type of person? It may feel awkward at first, but establishing boundaries saves a good amount of heartache in the end.

Going along with the idea of establishing boundaries, talk beforehand and know what you are getting into. Most summer flings do not make it into fall. According to the New York Post, it is short, fleeting and fun, which is part of the reason the romance is so magical. Are they hopelessly devoted to you while you are ready to move on?  You do not have to feel obligated to stay in the relationship if you are not ready for something more serious.

While new love is blissful, you should know when to leave a fling and find your friends. Whether that is grabbing a shake at the local diner, having a “Sandra Dee” worthy sleepover, or having a day at the pool, make sure to make time for friends. At the end of the summer, friends are a strong support system that will help you once the romance slips away.

While most students know about sexually transmitted infections, it is rarely discussed. Know to ask about STIs, otherwise known as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and insist on safe sex.  Planned Parenthood has a guide on its website that lists frequently asked questions about STI testing as well as suggestions for clinics in your area.

Jessica Cox, the health educator for Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg, stressed self-education in preparation for being sexually active this summer.

(A student should) be knowledgeable about the different things that are out there and the consequences of their actions,” Cox said. “(Be knowledgeable) about the different kinds of STDs, how you can get them, how you can transmit them and also if treatment is available.”

There are some STIs that are treatable but incurable, such as herpes, genital warts or HIV. However, many STIs are easily curable with a visit to a clinic, such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.

Cox also warned about the risks of becoming sexually involved while under the influence.

Be aware that being under the influence of such things like alcohol or drugs will cause you to do some things that you normally wouldn’t do if you were not under the influence,” she said. “Some decisions will be altered.

Those summer nights can be fun and memorable for a lifetime. However, when it turns colder, that is where it ends. Breakups can be hard, even after only a few weeks of being involved. 

Howard said that after a breakup, it is important to remember to let go.

With social media, it’s very difficult (to let go). To heal from a relationship, we need to set some boundaries (to avoid) looking at this person’s Facebook or texting this person.”

She also stressed seeking support from friends who are encouraging.

Also, make sure to take some time to do some self-care such as things that you enjoy,” she said. “Do something for you to help you find yourself. I think people get lost because they find their identity is
with that person.”

Summer flings can be wonderful and ethereal, something to remember for the rest of your life. However, they can also end up with tears on your pillow and with someone mooning over the other.  Either way, knowing the risks and how to handle them is an important step to remaining safe and true to who one is.

So, whether you are a rock’n’roll party queen or a beauty school dropout, remember these tips and have some wonderful summer nights.

If you are interested in learning more about what Planned Parenthood, visit its local office or visit www.plannedparenthood.org. Or, if you want to seek counseling, visit the USM Counseling Services office in Kennard-Washington Hall or visit its website at www.usm.edu/student-counseling-services.

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