Sexual chemistry with your one-night stand: lust or love?


Did you know that thirty percent of all relationships start in bed? We often see one-night stands as meaningless and sometimes even embarrassing, but there are plenty of adventures like this that lead to a serious relationship. How do you know if there is more to it than a sporadic booty call? Where does lust end and love begin?

One-night stands and Tinder dates

We usually don’t take one-night stands very seriously. After we spend the night with someone, we giggle and laugh about it the next morning with our girlfriends. We usually don’t think about having a future with that person, except when we suddenly feel butterflies in our stomach.

Of course the most spun-out questions and theories have to be considered: ‘Do you think he likes me? What does it mean that he made me breakfast in the morning? He said he would call, do you think he will?’ Like a Bridget Jones in overdrive, we drive ourselves crazy with questions, insecurities, and overanalysing every detail.

Swiping on Tinder

The fact that we have sex with relative strangers more often than we used to is not that surprising. We never had access to such an enormous pool of potential bedpartners before. Since Tinder and other dating apps were created, a quick sexual encounter or one-night stand is just a few swipes away. In fact, Tinder has almost become synonymous with casual sex, no strings attached.

In an interview with The Guardian, ‘Sally’ tells the story of how Tinder helped her discover that sex could be just as fun and pleasurable without any obligations. Sometimes she had three to four Tinder dates a week and she felt good about it. That doesn’t mean that she had sex with everyone she met. In almost ninety percent of all cases, she noticed that she didn’t feel anything for her date in real life. Even though they flirted online and exchanged sexy messages, there wasn’t a spark in real life.

Also read: The best dating apps for the LGBTQ+ community

Intense attraction

A spark is a necessary, because nothing is more addictive than intense sexual attraction. Before the pandemic, it was easier to find sexual ‘high potentials’. The only thing you had to do was go to a pub and you would find out who you’d feel attracted to soon enough. You made eye contact, sparks were flying, and after an hour of flirting you stepped into the cool night air together: ‘Your place or mine?’.

At the moment, this process is a bit more difficult. Still, the chances of lust at first sight increase when we start dating more and meet more people. And with that, the potential for love grows as well. The idea that a lasting relationship can come from something as meaningless as a Tinder date may sound far-fetched, but it happens more often than you think. There’s a reason why people who use dating apps want to settle down faster than people who meet each other the old-fashioned way in a pub. Using a dating app is conscious choice. It makes sense that many users are looking for more than just a quick shag.

Also read: The future of online dating

One-night stands are confusing

Why do you often feel so confused after a one-night stand? Why are those feelings that are floating around your head so difficult to define? It has everything to do with the differences between lust and love. Various studies show that it only take ninety seconds to fall in love with someone. In books and movies, it feels like a lightning bolt, like sparks that fly, and like electric pulses that rush through your body. It all sounds very romantic, but the reasons are very much biological in nature.

French kissing in a cab

First, the neurotransmitter dopamine produces the sex hormone testosterone, after which your libido and sexual desires increase. Then adrenaline, cortisol, and other neurotransmitters take over so your focus on your potential love interest intensifies and becomes clearer.

When you don’t notice anything anymore except his overwhelming presence, your frontal and prefrontal cortex start to swoon as well. You know, those parts of your brain that give you the ability to make well-informed decisions. Before you know it, you find yourself French kissing in a cab, on your way to a thrilling night of sexual pleasure.

There is no logical explanation for who turns you on, who makes you feel lust, or who you fantasize having children with. It’s all about those allusive connection you feel, or don’t feel, within a couple of seconds. Although it’s more about lust than about love at that moment, the doors for potential deeper feelings have been opened wide.

More intimate than ever

Sometimes it feels strange not to be able to rationally explain that attraction, for example when you drink a beer with someone you have absolutely nothing in common with. You have different interests, a different taste in music, completely different ideas about what’s important in life, and still you’re set on fire and you want nothing more than to take this new conquest home with you.

The confusing thing is that your expectations of such a random night of sex are often relatively low. Nobody sees a one-night stand as high art or a modern equivalent of Victorian era courtship. On the contrary, we often consider it a fleeting, perhaps even dirty, experience and we often feel ashamed when we make our retreat in the morning with a mascara-stained face.

Love hormone

If a one-night stand does create intense feelings, you feel confused. But those feelings are actually very understandable. You wake up naked next to someone you barely know, but have been very intimate with. In a certain way, you know each other very well. You know each other’s scent, each other’s bodies, each other’s touches.

The love hormone oxytocin, which is stimulated by skin-to-skin contact, rushes through your body and makes sure that minimal emotional connection has a chance of growing into something more. You also find yourself in some sort of bubble at that moment: you’ve left your daily life behind for a moment and you feel free and loose. In a setting like that, where hormones are flying around, it’s difficult to keep your barriers up and keep a rational distance.

Is it lust or love?

If you’re at home overthinking everything and checking your phone every couple of seconds to see if you have a new message, the knowledge that those feelings are simply biological doesn’t help at all. But you can still check if your one-night stand only wanted you for sex or if he developed serious feelings.

Want to know how to read the signals? Here they are:

Pure lust:

  • Your lover only looks at your body
  • Your lover doesn’t seem very interested in you
  • Your conversations don’t last long and go nowhere
  • Sex on the other hand is something that he is very interested in
  • He makes sure you’re out the door fast in the morning

Potential love:

  • Your lover mainly looks you in the eyes
  • Your lover wants to know everything about you
  • After sex, he makes you breakfast
  • After sex, he wants to meet up with you again
  • You feel comfortable with him

Does your one-night stand give off ‘pure lust’ signals? And do you still feel ‘high’ when you’re near him or thinking about him? That’s not uncommon, because according to researchers, passion is the basis of both lust and love. The fact that you don’t know what to make of your feelings is completely normal.

However, for your own peace and confidence, it is a good idea to critically review the situation before you waste weeks daydreaming about that one guy who seemed so great, but is actually stringing you along.

Unsure? Be brave and talk about it

Sometimes the situation is crystal clear. If you wake up next to your latest conquest and you want to get out of there as soon as possible, it was just a one-night stand and nothing more. But if you’re curious about him, feel butterflies, and want to stay with him longer, there might be some deeper feelings you want to explore.

After all, great sexual chemistry can potentially form the basis of a loving relationship. That’s why it’s so important that you’re not endlessly circling around around each other. Do you feel more than just sexual attraction? Be clear about your feelings. If he doesn’t see you as anything more than someone to have sex with on occassion, it’s best to find that out as soon as possible. This saves you a lot of doubt, pain, and time spent analysing the situation with your friends.

Does he want to get to know you better too? Good, because the best way to find out if you’re right for each other, is to spend time together in various circumstances. And who know, perhaps your one-night stand will eventually lead to another long-term Tinder relationship!

Also read: The best high-end sex toys for women

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