What Is a One-Night Stand?

Couple dancing.
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Whether in movies, on TV or IRL, you may have heard the expression, “one-night stand,” and are wondering what it means. There’s also the possibility that you’re thinking about having a one-night stand, but you’re not sure if it’s the right decision for you. Whatever the case may be, it’s important for you to understand what a one-night stand actually entails.

What is a one-night stand? In the most fundamental sense, a one-night stand is a sexual encounter in which you have no expectation of seeing the other person ever again.

In other words, a one-night stand is when you’re sexually intimate with someone, but there are no strings attached, and you likely won’t be intimate (or even see) this person again in the future. In fact, the expression itself can clue you in about the shelf life of your intimate time with this person, as it’s for “one night” only.

Does a one-night stand only involve strangers? While it’s certainly possible to meet a stranger while you’re out on the town and then go home with this person, not all one-night stands involve people who don’t know each other. In fact, while you may have a one-night stand with someone you just met, there are instances where people have a sexual encounter with someone they may know, but it’s only a one-time occurrence, and they’re not committed to each other at all.

Can a one-night stand turn into a relationship? In most cases, a one-night stand remains exactly that—a one-time sexual encounter with no strings attached.

But there are definitely people who engage in a one-night stand only to realize that they want to pursue something more with this person. For example, you may have a one-night stand with someone and then transition to friends with benefits, an open relationship or even a long-term, monogamous relationship.

However, if your plan is to engage in a one-night stand in the hopes of turning your relationship with this person into a serious commitment, it’s important to keep your expectations in check, as this certainly isn’t the norm.

What are some safety tips for having a one-night stand? If you’re interested in engaging in a one-night stand, there are steps that you should first take to make the overall experience safe and rewarding. In fact, it’s important that you prioritize your physical as well as your emotional health by using protection and staying levelheaded in every sense. Additionally, when it comes to the location of your one-night stand, it’s important that you trust your instincts and keep others in the know regarding your exact whereabouts, whether your one-night stand happens at your place, his or her place or even at a hotel.

Should I tell this person I’m only interested in a one-night stand? In order to avoid hurt feelings, mixed messages and general animosity, it’s in your best interest as well as the interest of your partner to tell him or her how you feel. In fact, by letting him or her know that you’re not looking for anything serious before your sexual encounter, you can both be on the same page regarding the implications of your time together.

How do I avoid an awkward encounter the next day? For those who engage in a one-night stand, it can be a bit uncomfortable waking up next to this person the following day. However, if you’re open and honest from the start that you’re not looking for anything serious, this can again be a helpful way to lessen any awkwardness since you’re both in accord about what the night meant. Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no obligation for you to sleep over or have this person sleep over, and many people prefer to have a one-night stand without spending the night.

Is a one-night stand right for me? If you’re wondering if you should have a one-night stand, it’s important that you look internally and play out the situation in your head. Would you feel happy, excited and satisfied after engaging in this type of sexual encounter?

Or do you think you’d feel let down, unfulfilled or perhaps a bit used? Once you play out the entire scenario and are honest with yourself about your true reaction, you’ll have a much better idea if a one-night stand is something you want to withstand.