Though the phrase "summer shading" might be new to your group chat's vernacular, the buzzy dating term confirms behaviour we've already seen for years: singles want to be single during the warmer months. As a result, the Gen Z and millennial crowd are saying goodbye to full-blown relationships and putting their potential matches on hold (or in the "shade") in July and August.
"Unlike 'cuffing season,' where people settle down in relationships for companionship during the winter months to avoid loneliness, summer shading allows people to explore their options," clinical psychologist Lisa Lawless, PhD, CEO of Holistic Wisdom, tells POPSUGAR. In other words, the last thing singles want to do in the summer is be burdened by the confines of commitment.
While ghosting and fizzling are undoubtedly bad ways to go about summer shading the person you're casually seeing, there's nothing wrong with embracing independence — whether you're doing so consciously or subconsciously. Ahead, experts explain how to identify summer shading and what to do if you're on the receiving end of it.
What Is Summer Shading?
Summer shading is the act of distancing yourself from a person you've been dating in order to enjoy the freedom of a single summer — be it so you can date other people or just spend time with yourself. This typically applies to more casual dynamics and falls during summer for a reason.
There are more "opportunities to socialise, and frequent places with strangers," relationship expert Callisto Adams, PhD, explains. "And most people like to seize these opportunities while being single and not exactly involved with a person."
According to Adams, though, that doesn't necessarily mean people end their relationship completely. People that "embrace this trend will either save this partner for later (the cold days of winter, for example) or will hide them from friends and family" for the time being.
Summer Shading Signs
If the person you've been seeing isn't showing you the same kind of attention they were before, it could absolutely be because they're busier than usual. But it could also be because they're summer shading you. Lawless says that if "you notice a significant decrease in communication or a general feeling of distance from your partner" then you might be experiencing the phenomenon. "They also may continuously cancel plans and show signs that they want more personal space," she adds.
You may notice that their time is booked up with other things — friends nights, trips abroad, and social events that don't include you. It may not look like the relationship is ending, but it also may not look like the relationship is chugging ahead towards anything substantial. You're at a standstill.
Now if you notice that you're the one avoiding someone and feeling less enthusiastic about spending time with them, you, yourself, may be subconsciously summer shading your partner, says Lawless. "If you consistently prioritise making plans with friends or alone time over the person you are dating, you may desire more freedom or have a fear of commitment."
This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it just means it may be worth assessing what you're looking for and what your intentions are, and making sure your partner is on the same page.
What to Do If Summer Shading Is Happening in Your Situationship
If you think the person you've been seeing is summer shading you, think about what that means to you and how it makes you feel. If you're enjoying your time single and casually dating, it may not be a problem. You can equally use the time to prioritise other fun, summer things that aren't a relationship. But if you are looking for commitment, then the person who is summer shading you may not be in the same head space.
The best thing you can do? Communicate with this person. You don't have to directly call them out for "summer shading" — especially since most people are probably not doing this intentionally — but you can acknowledge the lack of effort and communication by saying something like, "Hey, I've noticed things have felt a little off recently. Mind if we check in about where we're at?"
"Summer shading allows people to explore their options."
You can use that conversation to get on the same page about what you're looking for, what your intentions are, and if you'd like to explore something more serious or not. If they're not looking for the same thing you are, "let them go, talk to them about how their behaviour is making you feel, and go about your business. If you're in the mood, have your own hot girl summer," says Adams.
Just note that if, at the end of that conversation, you decide to let them go because they don't want to commit, get ready for them to coming crawling back, says Adams. Especially when cuffing season approaches. And if and when this happens, stick to your boundaries and know that this back and forth effort likely isn't worth your time — and likely isn't going to give you what you want in the long run, either.
Now if you think you may be summer shading your partner, your first order of business is to pause and reflect. Think about why you are either intentionally or unintentionally stepping back — whether that be emotionally, physically, or both. You should then communicate that accordingly with your partner, because otherwise, summer shading can look a lot like ghosting or fizzling.
"It is perfectly reasonable for a person to decide they wish to date others as long as it is done respectfully. It becomes unhealthy when it's done in an insensitive manner," Lawless says. "Being clear about one's expectations in a relationship is a form of kindness, and when we are unkind to people, we damage our own integrity."
Again, it's NBD if you want to be single. It just means you should be transparent about those feelings with your partner or potential partner.