The ‘One Night Stand’


What is a ‘one night stand’ and is it good for your love life?

The most common definition of a ‘one night stand’ is sex without really knowing one’s sexual partner. The one night stand can occur with someone completely unknown in a first time encounter, or with someone who has been met previously but with whom there is no significant relationship.

What is the upside to a one night stand? Sex. The downside? Risk. The risk would be in the form of exposure to sexually transmitted illness and/or having sex with someone who is emotionally ill. You can think of a one night stand, especially the type where there is no previous knowledge of one’s sex partner as ‘blindfolded sex.’

In the singles world you might have to categorize yourself as either looking for sex or looking for a relationship. If you are only looking for sex when you encounter potential partners, I suppose the one night stand would be an acceptable risk. Hopefully you’ll exercise good judgment and take care of yourself. If you are looking for a love relationship, I suspect it won’t be.

People who are looking for a love relationship would tend to require relationship before, during, and after sex. The one night stand is essentially sex without relationship.

An emotional hazard exists for people who are looking for a relationship and find themselves in a one night stand situation. If your need for love is active and you are looking for a healthy love relationship, a one night stand experience will probably leave you feeling ’empty.’

This is the experience that occurs after having sex with someone who gives you the impression that when the sex is over he or she would prefer to be somewhere else. That the experience of having sex with you had absolutely nothing to do with you personally. This can feel bad when your motivation is to look for something a bit more meaningful.

Problem is, too many of these one night stand experiences when you are looking for a healthy love relationship can lead to a lowered self-esteem. Like there is something wrong with you and your interest in finding a more committed love relationship. Nowadays it can be difficult to differentiate between people who are interested in one night stand sex and those who have something a bit more meaningful in mind.

A single woman I once spoke with about this topic told me her method was to impose a ’90 Day Sex-Free’ rule on the men who were interested in her. She told me of a string of one night stands that had left her feeling pretty unhappy and discouraged. For her, if a guy wasn’t motivated to make the ‘no sex 90 days’ (sounds like coming off of alcohol or drug abuse) she figured he wasn’t worth her time. She met a man who made it through the 90 days and as far as I know they are still together.

It looks to me like people go through phases in life. There may be a period in life where sex without relationship appears more attractive. My personal feeling is sex is always better with relationship, even if the relationship is short-term. There is something about the interpersonal intimacy, the getting to know each other, that makes sex a healthier experience overall.

It might have something to do with the respect for the person you are having sex with. When the focus is just sex for sex sake, it’s easier to demote your sex partner to simply an ‘object’ of personal pleasure. When that happens a lot is lost in the experience.

It’s really the intimacy and relationship, when two human beings do anything together, that promotes our personal growth and development. I think that would be the true purpose for having any interpersonal experience anyway.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


Posted in

Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.


  1. JS on September 15, 2022 at 9:38 am

    I’m 53 and still single, but I’ve had many one night stands. I never thought that was unusual until people started suggesting that these were not a way to find a relationship. So what might one do to find someone one for a relationship?

    • Dr. Jordan on September 15, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      Hi JS, Thanks for visiting the Love Life Learning Center. In my opinion, the “one night stand” is pretty much focused on sex. That’s fine if that is the only thing you are looking for. Your comment makes me think you have a “relationship” in mind when you are having your one night stands. If you are looking for a love relationship, I would suggest that you change your expectations from one night stand to “getting to know someone.” Sex on first contact usually establishes sex as the only thing two people will focus on during the brief time they are together. Relationship requires dating over time and I would suggest looking for someone you are compatible with, sort of “like having a friendship” with someone you are interested in romantically. That way you’ll get to know the person, feel that he or she is interested in knowing you as well. Hope this helps.
      Good luck,
      Dr. Jordan, founder of the and author of Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life.

Leave a Comment