One night stand

The idea of having one night with a total stranger might seem like an exciting, whimsical prospect at first, but it can actually get pretty complicated. So should you have a one-night stand? What if you regret it? And what could go wrong? The Mix talks to relationship psychologist Beverley Stone to get the answers.

A young woman is smiling. She is thinking about having a one night stand. This is a wide-angle image.

What is a one night stand?

A one night stand means sleeping, or having any other sexual encounter, with someone outside of the usual trappings of a relationship. It’s one night sex, then bye-bye. Typically this is with a person you don’t know very well or have only recently met, perhaps even earlier that day. A one night stand can be many things. They range from fun, awful, embarrassing to the start of something truly wonderful.

Why do people have one night stands?

If it’s only one night, then why do people do it? Well, there are tonnes of different reasons which include: 

  • You think one night of sex can be exciting
  • You like the idea of doing what you want, maybe even experimenting a bit, without worrying about the repercussions
  • They’re amazingly good-looking and irresistible
  • They think you’re amazingly good-looking and irresistible
  • You’ll have great one night stand stories to tell all your friends in the morning
  • You’re gagging to have sex, with anyone
  • There’s potential for a relationship, at least you think there is
  • You’re drunk. There’s no logical explanation besides your blood-alcohol levels being higher than usual

Should you have a one night stand?

The most important thing to ask yourself is ‘are you in control of this situation?’ Is this your choice? Or are you getting pressure from somewhere else to do it?

There are plenty of positive one night stand stories and they can be a lot of fun; as long as you’re feeling empowered and totally happy with what’s going on. However, if the opposite is happening and you don’t have any say in the situation, then try to find a safe way to leave the conversation and get back home. 

“Make sure it’s what you really want; think about how you’ll feel in the morning and your reasons for doing it,” says Beverley Stone, a relationship psychologist.

When to avoid having a one night stand

Not all situations are right for having a one-night stand. For example, if:

  • You’re lonely
  • Low self-esteem is something you struggle with and  you think it will make you feel better
  • Friends or the person you’ve met are pressuring you into it
  • You want to start saying ‘I lost my virginity’

Never do it just because you think everyone else is. Firstly, that simply isn’t true, and secondly you should only have sex for yourself.

Staying safe when having a one night stand

Sleeping with someone new is fun and all, but it also comes with risks. If you wanna reduce these, then do the following: 

  • Make sure you’re on the same page before you’re in the same bed (or toilet cubicle). One of you may want it to lead to something more serious, while the other person wants the complete opposite.
  • Don’t do it if either of you are far too drunk to be in control.
  • Tell someone where you’re going. Remember, even if they’re unbelievably gorgeous they’re still a stranger. Protect yourself by letting your mates know your whereabouts.
  • Use a condom. We can tell you one thing for sure: genital warts aren’t sexy.

What to do if you regret having a one night stand

So, you’ve slept with someone and it wasn’t great, or even if it was, now you’re feeling rubbish. The fact is, having one night stands isn’t for everyone. The best thing you can do now is not to beat yourself up about it.

Beverley says use it as a learning experience. “Think to yourself: I now know that one-night stands aren’t for me and I don’t have to take part in one ever again,” she says. Having a one-night stand doesn’t have to shape who you are, it’s just something you did. It’s time to let it go.

But one thing you can’t let go of is your sexual health. So if you’re worried that you’ve had unprotected sex, go to your local GUM clinic to talk about getting tested for STIs, or get hold of the morning after pill.

The negative side of a one night stand

Maybe you didn’t regret it the first time, but now you’ve had quite a few flings and it’s starting to worry you. You could be concerned for a couple of reasons:

You’re worried about what people are saying. The fact, that even 18 year-old Olivia Rodrigo knows, is it’s brutal out there. People will talk and gossip for practically your entire life. But as long as you’re not hurting anyone else, you’re happy in yourself, and you’re safe, remember your sex life is no one else’s business. “I find the double standards really annoying,” says Lilly, a 22-year-old student. “I really like casual sex and what of it? Somehow society thinks it’s cool if a man likes it but shameful if a woman does. If you ask me, people need to get their priorities straight and stop caring so much about other people’s sex lives.

You’re worried you’re sleeping around for the wrong reasons. The: “They think I’m fit – go me!” feeling you get after your first one-night stand won’t necessarily last. If you’re sleeping around to validate your attractiveness, or to get that same initial high, it may be worth taking some downtime. Maybe try to reflect on why you’re doing this. Our tips on building self-esteem might be able to help in that department.

Remember to stay safe when you have sex, especially if it’s with a new partner.

Have you got an opinion on one night stands? Why not share your one night stand stories with the community on our discussion boards?

Next Steps



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 22-Dec-2021