An Expert Reveals The Biggest Problem With One-Night Stands

Much like stand-up comedy, oysters, and singing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" at karaoke with your coworkers, when a one-night stand is good it can be really good, but when it's bad it can be... really bad. There's nothing wrong with wanting to have a one-night stand, but not all hookups were made equal. To pinpoint the biggest problem with one-night stands, I talked to psychiatrist, sex educator, and relationship therapist, Sue Varma. She had a lot to say on the topic.

One-night stands need to have a handful of characteristics to be successful for both parties. When you've had sex with a person multiple times, you can get an idea of what they like in bed, how the two of you move together, and thus, you can develop a rapport that's all your own. When you have a one-night stand, you don't have this information at hand, so you need to communicate a lot more about what both of you want and are comfortable with.

Dr. Varma explains that a big reason one-night stands can end up going awry is that the two parties can be on different pages about what having sex means. This problem can only arise when there is a lack of communication on either side. "If one person is expecting to have fun, let loose with no strings attached, while the other may be hoping — consciously or subconsciously — for their to be follow up, and for it to evolve into something beyond — not necessarily a relationship — but maybe even a string of hookups but it can end up hurting or just not being fun," says Varma. This means that it's essential to communicate what you want, and while ensuring that you are honest with yourself in the process.


A one-night stand may not be the easiest time to delve into your feelings (as you rip each other's clothing off), but just verbally checking-in and making sure that this is what you both want is essential. Even if it feels uncomfortable, it can make the difference between a messy (physically and emotionally) experience, or a night that makes you feel like a million bucks.

One-night stands work best, according to Dr. Varma, when both parties are upfront about what they need and want before, during, and after. Consent must also be communicated for every activity — not just intercourse. "One-night stands require clear boundaries and expectations, discussion of where emotions fall in," says Varma. To know if you're OK with something, Dr. Varma recommends that you ask yourself, "Do I feel safe with this person? Do you feel comfortable asking for what you want? Do you feel you can say no? Would I be okay if this didn’t lead to anything? Are my needs being met in this interaction?" It's crucial that you feel secure with the person that you're going to hook up with. If they give you any signs that they may not listen to you and what you want, it's absolutely within your right to get up and leave.

Stocksy/Joeslito Briones

To ensure that you have a pleasant experience with your one-night stand, Dr. Varma recommends that you communicate like crazy. "Try not to be self-conscious about how you will be perceived and ask for what you want," she says. Make sure to discuss condom use, contraception, your current STI status, what you're OK with doing, and what you're not. Remember that it's OK to be very clear and upfront, as well as have deal breakers.

"Remember that you can enjoy various shades of physical intimacy and contact and negotiate that ahead of time," says Dr. Varma. "Picking partners that show respect to you in other settings is often a sign of how you will be treated in this context as well" One-night stands can be super satisfying, but if you've had one that didn't go the way that you wanted — you're not alone. But by practicing open and honest communication, you can build a sexual rapport with future partners — one that feels as good as singing a Whitney Houston song.