The official first day of summer is here, and if you’re single, you know what that means: It’s time for summer love!
Summer love has been sung about by everyone from Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta to Andre 3000. It’s referenced to death on TV, in movies, and in pop culture. Still, every year, we can’t help it: When the warm weather creeps in, it sends a signal to our bodies that we need to free ourselves from the darkness of winter and get out there and mingle.
Summer is filled with opportunities to meet people. It’s an incredibly social season! Just think of all the barbecues, vacations, pool days, and impromptu happy hours that occur during the summer simply because it’s sunny out. You meet new and exciting people at these gatherings, and often times, you hit it off. It’s that mystery and intrigue of someone new that sparks summer love. But there’s also a scientific aspect to that kind of intense short-term attraction—yes, really.
“Keeping each other guessing increases the production of dopamine, a hormone associated with excitement and anticipation that makes couples feel more sexually attracted to each other,” says Scott Haltzman, M.D. and author.
On top of that, our skin is exposed to more sunlight, which triggers our bodies to produce mood-boosting dopamine, serotonin, and a hormone called MSH. We show a lot more skin and dress more casually in the summer. We bare our arms and legs instead of hiding underneath sweaters. We slip our feet into sandals instead of cramming them into boots. And we find ourselves with many occasions to wear a bathing suit. When we meet someone at the beach wearing just a bikini or swim trunks, there’s high potential for sexual arousal. Plus, seeing that much skin sends a signal to our brains that the person is lighthearted and fun—the perfect summer love interest. Chances are you take people you meet at the beach less seriously than you would if they were covered up.
“Time spent with someone increases attraction in general—in a classroom, at the workplace, et cetera,” explains Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College. “But it also means that people may feel more free to engage in romantic and sexual experiences if ‘on break’ from their real life. You can see this anecdotally with spring break and summer romances.”
Another reason we’re so casual in the summer is because it doesn’t carry the stress of the holidays like the winter does. Yes, we celebrate Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, but those don’t come with nearly the same amount of pressure to be hitched that Thanksgiving and Christmas do. (Not to mention that New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day follow shortly after.) Summer is for short-term attachments and having fun, not worrying if the person you’re seeing will invite you to spend the holidays with their family.
The concept of summer love might seem subjective, but there’s actually data to back it up. According to Facebook statistics from 2010 and 2011, an increased number of breakups (indicated by a changed relationship status) occurred between May and August, across all age groups. People tend to break things off at the beginning of summer so they can enjoy the ride unattached.
You can fall in love at any given moment, but it’s just more common in the summer. Think about it: When it’s cold out, we don’t participate in as many activities. We scurry home at the end of the day, longing to be comfortable and warm. Our moods are lower too, due to less sunlight. So when summer hits, we’re itching to start something up. We’re naturally drawn to summer flings because they don’t typically come with complicated emotions—just casual fun.
“You don’t have to wonder, ‘Where is this going?’ ‘Is he the one for me?’” psychologist and relationship expert Jane Greer explains of summer love. “It hits you quickly—everything is packaged all together, and you already know what’s going to happen. There’s a certain wild abandon that can be very exciting.”
If you want to have fun this summer but aren’t ready to commit to something serious, get out there and flirt your way to a summer fling. Just know what you’re getting into and make sure you’re on the same page as your new flame. Otherwise, someone’s feelings could get hurt come Labor Day.