The Difference Between a Fling and a Committed Long-Term Relationship

A summer romance might last if the elements for commitment are present.
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You and that intriguing someone have shared laughs and memorable moments, perhaps enjoying some of the most adventurous dates you've ever been on. However, pondering whether this is built to last can leave you preoccupied and even nervous around the person whose company you've been relishing. Learning the typical signs of committed relationships versus those of flings can help you determine where you stand and make informed decisions about the future.

1 Protect It or Let It Go

At some point, the time you spend with this other person is bound to be threatened, if not by another individual then by circumstances. If you met at math camp, returning to your geographically distant homes could spell trouble, for instance. According to the study “Love and the Commitment Problem in Romantic Relations and Friendship,” conducted by research scientist Gian C. Gonzaga and associates and published in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," committed couples will respond to such threats by constructively trying to solve the problem. When it's a fling, participants are more likely to accept that a stumbling block signals the end of their time together.

2 The We of You

While maintaining a sense of individuality is important in any relationship, you may find yourself frequently saying “we” and “us” when you're committed, according to research conducted by Purdue University psychological sciences professor Christopher R. Agnew and associates in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" piece “Cognitive Interdependence: Commitment and the Mental Representation of Close Relationships.” In a fling, you and your romantic interest would probably not feel comfortable making statements that speak for both of you and would not identify yourselves in terms of each other, whereas these behaviors are common in committed relationships.

3 Weighing Mistakes and Virtues

One hallmark, and benefit, of a true committed relationship is that the two people involved can make minor mistakes along the way without losing what they have together, says College of Staten Island/CUNY philosophy professor Mark D. White in his "Psychology Today" piece “How Deep Is Your Love? Another Way to Look at Commitment.” Bad moods and moments of poor communication can implode a casual fling. However, committed relationships contain so many positive moments that the occasional negative ones are not really threats.

4 Exploring Your Alternatives

A committed relationship involves two people who are aware of their other choices but deem the present relationship to be most valuable, suggests research reported by social psychologist Caryl E. Rusbult in the "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology" piece “Commitment and Satisfaction in Romantic Associations: A Test of the Investment Model.” By its very casual nature, a fling can be easily rocked when one or both of you notice other enticing options. When you are devoted to each other, though, you are willing to invest yourself because you consider your union the most valuable romantic bond available to you.

Jae Kemp has been writing and editing professionally since 2010. In addition to reviewing novels, memoirs and psychology/self-help books for major review services, Kemp has served as a copywriter, commercial and creative editor, and staff article writer.