When you ask someone what they're hoping for from dating, you'll get a variety of answers. Some are looking for the love of their life, a long-term relationship which will eventually see them gliding dewy-eyed down an aisle festooned with flowers. Others have more primal needs: they want drinks, sex, and maybe a bit of dirty texting for a day or two then nothing more. And there are those, whether they want it or not, who get something in between: the fling.
Flings are curious things, usually because at least one of you doesn't know you're in one until it's over. Flings come in all shapes and sizes, whether they're masquerading as lasting loves or little more than a fuck buddy you don't mind having a conversation with, but the one thing every fling has in common is that they end. Flings run their course, then everybody concerned carries on their search for the next progression.
One night stands and long-term relationships have their own set processes once they finish. One-nighters are just that, the most emotional it gets being the misunderstanding by one party that it could've been more than that, usually followed by a brief period of bafflement before a shrug of the shoulders and 'moving on' (unless you're very unlucky and attract yourself a stalker - hide your bunny rabbit now, just in case). LTRs are a more complex beast, but the processes don't vary much from one to the other. Denial, guilt, sadness, rebound, remorse and turmoil abound before the great big move-on occurs.
Flings, however, can go either way. Perhaps you'll both agree that things go no further. After all, it's been a couple of months at most - surely no heavy emotions have come into play yet? Hmmm. For some, however, the fling was just the first building brick of a great big romantic replica of the Palace of Versailles. Ouch. If this is you, you need to know how to deal with it once it's over.
Never ask why
It can be tempting, once a fling has run its course, to get some feedback on how things went. You should resist this; you've not just been rejected for a job, after all. When faced with the question "What did I do wrong?" or "Why did it end?", your former fling will lie - in part to spare your feelings but also to relieve them of the added discomfort of dealing with your reaction. If you're really honest with yourself, you can work out why things aren't progressing past the boot camp stage - don't leave it to someone else to point out your faults for you. You will not like what you hear.
Unfollow, defriend or 'hide'
If you got to the stage where you'd both exchanged social media details - a process so intimate we'll soon be wearing condoms while doing it - then now is a good time to assess whether continued involvement in your former fling's online social circle is wise. If they're a chronic oversharer, chances are you're soon about to see your successor plastered all over the internet like garish flock wallpaper. If you think you can see you both being friends once the sting of rejection has subsided, then just 'hide' them for a while (although this doesn't help with blanking out their drab Twitter musings). If the thought of anybody but you touching their skin makes you fly into a jealous rage, then it's time to cut the cord, as opposed to yourself. Delete.
When a fling is over, it's important to put things in perspective as soon as possible. This was no all-time love, you were not destined for great things, and it was not meant to be. Don't attach emotion to things you did together; you'll enjoy them more when you do them again with somebody who means more to you romantically. Be grateful for the things they introduced to you, but don't wallow in the shared experiences. They don't care; neither should you.
There isn't anything wrong with the odd text every now and again to see how they are, but keep it friendly, light and free of post-relationship mope. And if they don't respond? Take the hint. Don't get bitter and demand a reply; it will be sent through gritted teeth - and possibly accompanied by a restraining order.
Reject or reunite?
Occasionally, you or your former fling may hanker after a reunion. Perhaps it turned out the other fish in the sea were rotten, or the pebbles on the beach not quite smooth or round enough. While it can be tempting to go back for round two, there are a lot of things to think about. Can you handle things emotionally should it all go wrong once more? Does it really have the potential to go the distance this time? And more importantly: where the hell has that tongue been in the months you've been apart? If you're heading back for seconds, proceed with caution - your eyes might be bigger than your belly.
Remount the horse
Don't let this bad trip put you off. Flings are part of the dating experience. Without them, a whole host of us would find ourselves in long-term relationships with the wrong person. Don't waste time crying over what might have been or allow yourself to be afraid of the dating arena. It doesn't have to be scary (unless you're using a certain free 'dating' app, in which case you'd do well not to have a few jitters) - just get on with it. Go on some more dates as soon as you can. Maybe learn from this stillborn romance and choose dates with different attributes. There's nothing better to get the taste of nasty medicine out of your mouth than spoonful after spoonful of hot, sweet pudding. Go on, take another bite.