Are you actually dating someone, or stuck in a several night stand?

It’s like a part time boyfriend or girlfriend and it’s very confusing


No one’s having one night stands anymore, they’re having several night stands instead.  Often starting as a one night stand, it keeps recurring over a long period of time, but without exclusivity, commitment or labels. While it’s presented as casual, you’ll kiss, watch movies, hold hands and have really intense sex, but can go weeks without speaking.

Described by Maria Yagoda for Broadly, it’s “a casual recurring hookup situation that mimics a relationship but is definitely NOT a relationship because one party recently got out of something long-term or is not looking for anything serious right now or wants to keep doing this without a label?

I spoke to dating experts, and people who’ve been in one, to find the difference between a several night stand and early stages of a relationship.

It’s like a one night stand that takes place over a long period of time

Dating expert Kezia Noble believes it evolved from the one night stand: “The ‘several night stand’ is something that has been going on for a long time, but it’s just been given a new name.” While she believes they all start with good intentions, things quickly change into something else.

“They always start as a one night stand”, says my friend Tommy, who’s recently come out of one. “We met at a house party through a friend, and went back to hers and slept together. We both enjoyed it, and we both left it with no real plans to see each other again. The thing is, we’d see each other every month or so at an event our mutual friend had invited both of us to, and every time that happened we’d end up getting drunk and flirting and, eventually, sleeping together again.

“It was definitely more than friends with benefits. We didn’t feel the need to rush off in the morning or for it to be awkward when we bumped into each other. It was sort of an unspoken agreement, and it was good for both of us because we knew if we were at the same thing we didn’t have to worry about grafting or trying to pull anyone else – it’s just easy like that.”

You might have the intimacy and closeness you get from proper relationships, but without any commitment

The problem with one night stands is the awkwardness, coldness, or the fact they have no idea what you really want in bed. With the several night stand, you know what the other person likes, you can talk candidly, and you’re probably affectionate the same way boyfriends and girlfriends would be.

Amy, who’s currently in a one night stand told me “After we slept together, we spent the night and the entire next day watching movies and talking. He texted me once he got home and it went from there. We didn’t really talk a huge amount, but there was the occasional text and we kept sleeping together. It felt like we were a ‘thing’, but we never talk about what was happening or where it’s going, because we both kind of know it probably won’t go much further.”

You might be like a couple when your together, but once you’re apart the intimacy disappears

Amy added that when they’re apart, their closeness vanishes,”we have mutual friends, so when we’re together in public we act like we hardly know each other, even though people probably suspect something.

It’s like a part time relationship for people afraid to commit. “It’s perfect,” says Amy, “I like the idea of a boyfriend but just don’t have the time for it. This way, I can have sex and emotional intimacy when it works for me.”

Your friends know who they are, but you probably haven’t introduced them

Chances are you’ll have spoken to your friends about them, but even though it’s been months you haven’t introduced them because you’re either freaked out or scared it’ll freak them out. “It makes it seem too much like a relationship”, said Sam, who’s been sleeping with a girl for a few weeks “I don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere, so I keep our meetings just the two of us.”

It’s rare for both parties to want the same thing, or communicate it effectively

Broadly’s Maria Yagoda writes: “The problem is that the convergence of two people who want this same arrangement, and who can communicate enough to effectively establish it and allow it to exist but not develop into something lopsided, is rare. Often there’s an imbalance in feelings built on a lack of communication so deep that a year might pass before you realize what’s going on and that you hate it.”

While they may begin with good intentions, dating expert Kezia Noble believes the several night stand is destined to end badly. “Nine times out of ten, someone is going to catch feelings, and that’s when it all goes horribly bad for both parties.”

“If you restrict someone enough from getting feelings, then guess what? The opposite tends to happen, it’s like the forbidden fruit.” She advises for people to be “less rigid when it comes to laying down the rules for these kind of arrangements.” It’s fine to agree for something to be casual, she says, but advises knowing that to be realistic by knowing feelings will probably develop: “People need to be more open to the ‘what if?’ element of any kind of relationship.”

It’s a lot easier to end than a normal relationship, but it rarely ends well

Because your “label” isn’t properly established before, people often end up wanting different things. Tim had been hooking up with a girl for two months before it ended dramatically when the other party caught feelings. He said “One night, she turned up late to a party and saw me getting with another girl, and that sort of stamped it out. We don’t talk any more.”

But in this weird, confusing relationship-but-not-relationship situation, it’s hard to not catch feelings. And because you never made it exclusive, you technically (they’ll claim) can’t be surprised if they meet someone else, and because you’re not official, things can fizzle without talking things through.

But could you turn it into something more? According to dating expert India Kang, it’s unlikely. “It would all depend on the individual situation” she told me, “the only thing to bear to mind is that when they say ‘I’m not looking for anything serious’,  they usually mean what they say. If they’ve already said they’re only looking for fun, it’s highly unlikely this agreement will turn into a relationship.”