Advice to My Younger Self About One Night Stands

By Romance Recovery's Johanna Lyman for GalTime.com

What did I just do?What did I just do?

Is a fling a good idea for you?

Have you ever woken up the morning after a one-night stand and wondered, "What was I thinking?!"

I certainly did in my younger days. Today, I have the wisdom of some twenty years in my back pocket. With that, here's the very best advice I have -- and some of my colleagues have shared -- on how to make those one-night stands work for you.

First, know that one-night stands are a common part of early adulthood. They're a great way to let off a little steam, hook up with a hot guy, and expand your sexual repertoire. But they can also be land mines for low self-esteem, shame and judgment.

The way to avoid any negative ramifications from casual hook-ups is to be clear about what you want and why before you engage with someone. Here are 6 things you can do (or not do) to make a fling fun rather than awful.

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Don't blame your behavior on alcohol or drugs. My biggest "I wish I hadn't done that" moments came immediately after overindulging in alcohol. What I know now, because hindsight is 20/20, is that I really did want to do that thing, but thought it was socially unacceptable to do it. The problem with blaming alcohol is that it causes shame. Years later, thinking about that night still makes me feel shame, but not because of what I actually did. Instead, I feel shame that I didn't just own my desire.

Be brave in the bedroom! This advice is courtesy Joanne Dawson, a sex-positive educator and personal trainer, who says, "Be brave in the bedroom! Focus on speaking up for what you like, and focus less on anticipating things you wouldn't enjoy or wouldn't want to do."

I love this advice because the biggest difference between sex in your 40s and sex in your 20s is that, in your 40s, you have no problem speaking up for what you want. When I think of all the opportunities I missed for adventure simply because I didn't vocalize what I wanted, it makes me want to scream with frustration

Get comfortable with casual relationships. Dawson also recommends that you relax. "Casual encounters are possible, and they really can be just for fun, or last for the time you're interested in that person," she says. If that feels fine for you at this point in time, there's no need to put pressure on yourself to be committed, married or move forward with someone you think is really only a good fit for something casual.

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Know why you're getting into one-nighters. Maria Merloni, sex therapist, has this suggestion: "Check in about why you want to have a one night stand. Is it a "good reason" or a "bad reason?" For example, is it because you just want to let loose and have some fun (good reason) or because you have low self-esteem and you think that by doing this the person will somehow like you more (bad reason)? Listen to your intuition and do not ever feel obligated to follow-through with a fling.

Be safe. This isn't just about condoms (but do use condoms properly and always). Take lots of measures to ensure your physical and emotional safety. Don't sleep with someone who doesn't speak kindly to you and doesn't respect your sexual (or other) boundaries.

Be very careful about who you share your address with, who you invite into your home and where you go, particularly with someone you don't know well. Choose a friend you can share your whereabouts and information with confidently and text the other person's name, address and time you will check in to her. This may sound restricting but your safety is not something to doubt or mess around with ever.

Be honest. Get real, not just with the guy you're hooking up with, but also with yourself. The biggest problem women have to deal with when they're in a casual or non-relationship like "friends with benefits" is that they're not in touch with what they're really feeling. If you really want a committed relationship but don't admit it, you'll set yourself up for disappointment.

Women do have a more difficult time separating sex from love. Part of it's biological-- we're the ones who actually make the babies, and it's easier to raise a child with a partner, but part of it is also social conditioning. That reason is a little trickier to navigate, because most social conditioning runs in the level of the subconscious mind. You're probably not even aware it's there. Believe me, I've uncovered some hidden beliefs I thought were crazy, but there they were, dictating my behavior in ways that usually didn't serve me well.

What advice would you give your younger self about one-night stands?

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