The Sting Of The Fling: The Brutal Pain Of An Unexpected Heartbreak

by Zara Barrie

Oh, the great sting of the wildly unexpected fling pierces the surface of our delicate skin in the sneakiest little way.

When we're in the thick of a fling, rarely do we define it as such. That's the great beauty of the fling: You don't think too much about it.

It's when your feelings run deeper than a cold hookup but you haven't had the "talk" yet. You allow yourself to get lost in the heat of the beautiful moment.

You're not stressing out about whether or not your lifestyles are cohesive. You don't worry about what the future holds.

You might be secretly open to your fling possibily venturing into deeper "relationship" territory, but you haven't really let your mind go there fully yet (at least not consciously).

It's the sparkly honeymoon period. It's like having an electrifying teenage crush, except far more fun because dinner dates, and booze and sex are added to the equation.

When we're lost in the delirium of a fling, we often don't tell our friends too much about it. We might show them a few Instagram pictures here and there, but the true beauty of a fling is we don't put any pressure on it.

After all, isn't life so much more fun when you're relieved from the weight of pressure and just allow the feelings to organically wash over you?

Flings are free of expectations. At least that's what we tell ourselves when we're in them.

Until, we unexpectedly find our hearts smashed into a million tiny shards of glass.

This wasn't supposed to hurt. This wasn't supposed to f*cking hurt. Wasn't that the whole point?

Didn't we know our flings were only going to be temporary? Isn't that why we didn't invest too much into them? Isn't that why we neglected to give them a label?

If only. The truth is we don't realize how many hidden expectations and vulnerable feelings we threw into this person until... it abruptly ends.

All of a sudden, a startling whirlwind of feelings erupts within us.

So what's it all about? Why is the sting of the fling more agonizing than a long-term relationship?

Because the love that haunts you at night is the love that never really happened.

When we're in long-term relationships, the ending is always direly f*cking painful. It's like losing a limb. But at least you can take comfort in knowing you f*cking tried.

When I got out of my longest relationship, you better believe I was sorely gutted. But I knew in the deepest part of my heart we had tried our very damn best to make it work.

We had shared an apartment. We had traveled the world side by side. We saw a therapist. We practically killed ourselves trying to make our relationship work.

When it ended, there was impenetrable pain, but there was also closure.

The loves that haunt us when we're sleepless at 2 am are the loves that never fully materialized. They leave our minds perpetually pondering "what if?"

It's like a holiday romance. You're together for such a short, brief period of time, so you only experience the exploded, wonderful sensations together. You don't have to deal with day-to-day garble.

When you're forced to take that plane ride back home to your unglamorous reality, you find yourself oddly heartbroken.

You glorify the brief time you spent together, because...

You're losing your emotional Band-Aid.

You ripped the bandage off, and now the pain is setting in. Life is hard. Life is so hard.

When we're in the throes of a fling, just like a holiday romance, we're temporarily relieved from the pressing hurt of our realities. Flings serve as the perfect anesthetic to the pain of life.

I'm an addictive personality who loves to run away from the "bad" feelings. I avoid negative feelings like the black plague.

So it makes perfect sense that I love flings just like I love a boozy night out on the town or to throw myself into a project. Anything to avoid thinking the dark thoughts.

A fling is a temporary relief, a distraction, a drink, a Xanax.

When you're on a date, you don't have to think about your failing career or the heart-pounding, anxiety-fueled thoughts about where you're going to live next or what the future has in store.

When the date ends, however, you have to go home and face yourself, don't you? No high lasts forever.

So when the fling ends (as flings do), you think you're crying because it's over -- but that's not why you're crying. You're crying because now you're feeling the pain of everything you've been running away from.

You're crying over the fact that you're unhappy in your career. You're crying over the fact that you feel endlessly lonely. You're crying over all the unconfronted trauma from the past.

It's not about the person. It's about all the sh*t you've been avoiding. It's like when a painkiller wears off.

Because a fling is a fantasy.

A fling isn't real even if it feels real. A fling is a f*cking fantasy. The truth is it takes longer than a few months to really develop deep-rooted, genuine feelings for someone.

You need to experience life's difficulties with the person you’re with before you can call it love (yes, I've confused a fling with love on many occasions).

A fling is infatuation, which is a very different animal than love. Infatuation is a fantasy. When you don't know someone all that well, it's easy to project your illustrious fantasies onto him or her.

So when it's over, you're losing a fantasy, and you're finding yourself with a bruised ego because…

It's the worst kind of rejection.

When your fling decides to pull the breaks, it's the most brutal, bitter form of rejection of all. Because all you have done is shown him or her your absolute best self.

When I'm new to a relationship, I haven't yet let my guard down.

All I'm presenting is a perfectly curated version of myself. They don't get to see me when I'm red-eyed with no makeup.

I don't pester them with my anxiety. I don't tell them about the slew of f*cked-up things I've done in the past. I don't constantly ask for validation and bug them to tell me I'm "pretty."

They're only privy to the pleasant sides of me. The blow-dried, quick-witted, razor-sharp sides of myself.

This is why it hurts so much to be rejected by a fling. You're free of the baggage, and yet they have still decided you're somehow "not good enough"? It cuts deep.

And you're left wondering why.

There is no clean break.

When you break up from a deep relationship, you get to savor the sweet taste of closure.

You and your partner, your family, and friends and co-workers have all talked the f*cking breakup to death. You know exactly why you're breaking up.

When you break up with a fling, you don't have closure. It fizzles as easily as a handful of pop rocks in the mouth.

A fling is so hard to put to bed because you never really know how deep the other person's feelings ran. You don't know if he or she is lying awake at night wondering "what if, what if?" like you.

Sometimes we get more consumed with the nameless people we shared one drunken night of passion with than a person we dated for years. Did they feel it too? Did they feel it too? Did I make the whole thing up in my head?

There is no way to be sure.

Because the most frustrating part is a fling doesn't owe you an explanation for his or her ghosting. After all --“it was just a fling,” right?

No need to get all “intense” about it, right? You were just f*cking dating.