Of all the seasons, summer might be the best one to fall in love. The days are longer, so it seems like there's more time to spend together. And those sunny hours can be filled with activities that are only around this time of year—like baseball games, outdoor concerts, and movies in the park. "When summer rolls around, people are often ready to get out, enjoy the weather, be adventurous, and have some fun," says Kelly Campbell, PhD, associate professor of psychology and human development at California State University, San Bernardino. It can be a Danny and Sandy–esque whirlwind, which is to say that it could be an instance of a new dating term called "freckling."
"Freckling is another word for a summer romance or fling," Campbell adds. "It's when you find a great partner for enjoying the summer, even though this person is probably not who you'd want to settle down with." A short-term romance can be fun for both partners as long as their intentions are understood. But if you're looking for your Memorial Day match to last into the fall and winter, now's the time to see if this bond is about freckling or something more. To get a better understanding of this dating scenario, we asked Campbell to delve into the motivations behind freckling and how to see if it can last when the weather cools.
The Red Flags
The "freckler" seems more into the physical side of things: Campbell says a relationship missing "mental, emotional, or spiritual components" is an indication that it's probably short-term.
The "freckler" is reluctant to introduce you to their family. If plans to meet Mom and Dad are stalled or nonexistent, it's likely best to re-evaluate.
The only plans the "freckler" initiates are fun. Campbell notes that if you have a work event or a summer wedding to attend where the freckler isn't interested in being your date, that should be a sign.
The "freckler" gives attention when it's convenient for them. If you're waiting hours for a response to your text, for instance.
The "freckler" only gives superficial compliments. Campbell advises you to think about the types of compliments you're receiving—are they about your appearance or about the inner you?
Much like any dating issue, the reasons behind wanting to keep things light for the summer can be complicated. Campbell says that freckling may come as a result of a partner not being ready to settle down or recently ending a long-term relationship.
"This person is in a stage of life where they are just looking for fun and physical chemistry, an easy relationship that doesn't come with baggage or problems," she notes. "They don't have the emotional energy for a deep connection so they keep things superficial."
Of course, if both people in this relationship are looking for an easy summer romance, then Campbell says that the motivations behind freckling don’t have to be hurtful. Instead, this fling has the opportunity to widen the couple's social circles and interests, as well as introduce them to places and things they might not have known otherwise. "If both people are on the same page, this type of relationship can work," she says. "People learn about themselves through these types of relationships."
The Next Steps
If you're in the throes of a summer romance, the first thing you should do is assess your feelings about the other person—and see how they feel, too. "The problem is when one person wants more than the other and gets their feelings hurt," Campbell continues. "This happens when the amount of time and attention one person is willing to put into the relationship is not reciprocated."
"This situation can be especially hard when two people are initially interested in freckling and the relationship is fun and exciting, but then one person wants a greater commitment than the other and gets hurt when the other doesn’t feel the same way," she says.
If you're in the unfortunate position of wanting a stronger commitment when the other person doesn't, Campbell suggests mentally divesting from the relationship as soon as possible.
"In my field of research, there is a concept known as the 'principle of least interest,'" she says. "It refers to the idea that whoever cares least about the relationship has more power. When a person finds themselves being freckled and it's not what they want, the other person has more power. The more the person pushes for time and attention, the less likely they are to get it. So, my recommendation is to shift the balance of power by withdrawing from the relationship. If the freckler doesn't compensate by requesting more attention, then this person is not worth the other's time anyway—it's a sign that they should move on." And if that's the case, there's always the chance of an autumn love affair.