Rachel and Tag in Friends
Photo: Warner Brothers


Just out of a relationship? You need an in-between fling

Sali Hughes has some advice for the broken-hearted. Find a person you like well enough but absolutely will not marry

Added on

By Sali Hughes on

In-betweeners are almost invariably undesirable. A plane seat between window and aisle, an extended spell between jobs, the impossible predicament between a rock and a hard place. Between is neither one thing nor another, unsatisfying, intangible. But there is one key – and wholly underrated – exception: the in-between shag, or, as I more politely call it, The Angel Pancake Fling.

In cooking terms, the angel pancake is the anaemic, misshapen end result of that first dollop of batter in the pan. One goes through the motions before binning the inevitably inedible outcome, reassured that the pan is now primed to make a good, real pancake next. Call it culinary collateral damage in the pursuit of perfection.

I feel exactly the same about romantic relationships. It is exceptionally difficult to have a great, significant relationship immediately after the end of another. So, just as you might take a breather between the intensity and emotional investment of Line Of Duty and The Handmaid’s Tale by popping on the brain-dessert of a quick Broad City, the idea here is to bridge the gap between hefty relationships with the palate-cleansing properties of an Angel Pancake Fling.

An APF is the arrangement that comes after a meaningful break-up, when you’re burnt, hurt and possibly regretful. Even if you were happy or relieved to get away, you’ll still have plenty to process and too much baggage to unpack for the next big relationship to stand a fair and fighting chance. Instead, you can put clear blue water between past and future partners with a person you like well enough and find attractive, but one who you absolutely will not marry, fall in love or move in with, and may not even see beyond next week.

Your sexual needs and desires are met, your repertoire possibly increased ahead of the next partner

The pros column is long: no need to meet their mother, no obligation to check-in daily, be liked by their friends, clean up their crap or remember their niece’s birthday. Your sexual needs and desires are met, your repertoire possibly increased ahead of the next partner. Your only responsibilities are to be decent and respectful and, beyond that, it’s every woman for herself. The Angel Pancake Fling is a nice little present to yourself and your body. A spring-clean for your heart. A battery recharge. A brisk walk around the park to help you regain your appetite.

It can also be hugely helpful in the recovery process. In-between shagging is often precisely what you need to realise that the grass isn’t necessarily greener. In the aftershock or fug of a significant break-up, it’s easy to wrongly look back on the old relationship as a wholly negative experience. Seeing your in-jokes fail to land with your in-betweener, hearing that they don’t much care for a cheeseboard, or that Joey is their favourite Friend – all can uncover new and necessary appreciation for who and what came before. And while that may be a bittersweet realisation, it’s vital to regain perspective and honour the past in order to move forward.

Similarly, when the next Right One comes along, time spent on the APF will have given the emotional bruises a chance to fade and helped to crystallise what it is you actually want. You’ll be more inclined to judge potential partners on their own merits, not – either generously or harshly – in terms of your ex. First dates are less likely to descend into ad-hoc therapy sessions, making second dates much likelier.

Not that the APF is purely a means to an end. Far from it. As long as you’re both on the same page, they often make for the most enjoyable relationships. Without the weight and expectation of lifelong success on their shoulders, they can be liberating, angst-free and let you enjoy good company without threatening your independence. So, if you’re just emerging from a serious relationship, don’t feel your options are feast or famine. Just snack on a pancake instead.


This week, The Pool contributors are writing about The In-Between, that period between Christmas and New Year – a time of family and reflection, a time when we think about the past and look to the future

Sign up

Love this? Sign up to receive our Today in 3 email, delivering the latest stories straight to your inbox every morning, plus all The Pool has to offer. You can manage your email subscription preferences at My Profile at any time

Photo: Warner Brothers
Tagged in:
break up
the in-between

Tap below to add
the-pool.com to your homescreen

Love The Pool? Support us and sign up to get your favourite stories straight to your inbox