When a couple tells the “how we met” story, chances are that story doesn’t start with one too many drinks at the bar and end with a one night stand.
That might be the true version, but one night stands carry a huge stigma, and most of us probably wouldn’t be eager to admit that’s how one of our relationships got started.
And that’s a real shame, according to relationships expert Dan Savage, who appeared on a recent episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio show.
Savage said one night stands that blossom into long-term relationships happen a lot more than we realise. About 60% of Americans have reported having a one night stand, according to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, who also appeared on the show. And of the people who had a one night stand, over 30% actually ended up in a long-term relationship because of it.
It’s just that no one wants to admit that.
“People who have sleazy meetings, they don’t tell their kids about it,” Savage said. “So we have this distorted view of how a decent loving relationship must start.”
And telling a more innocent, if untrue “how we met” story comes with serious consequences, Tyson said.
“Because if we give the view of love and romance that we want to be true, and that’s what percolates, then we establish cultural and social mores based on that,” Tyson said. “So then if anyone is different from that, you get ostracized.”
But that’s not even the most damaging part about our messed up perception of one night stands, Savage said. It changes our opinion of the person we just slept with in a very negative way.
He articulated what many people might be thinking about their partner after a one night stand:
“This might have been someone I would date but look at what they did,” Savage said. “Like, I couldn’t date this person. We had a one night stand and no decent relationship can grow from a one night stand.”
In reality that’s completely untrue, Savage said. Decent relationships grow out of one night stands all the time. And Fisher pointed out that there’s a good biological reason for that.
First of all a one night stand is almost never a strictly casual encounter.
“Casual sex is not casual unless you’re so drunk you don’t remember it,” Fisher said.
Sex activates brain circuits that make us feel attachment to our partner.
“Any stimulation of the genitals drives up the dopamine system and that can push you over the threshold into falling in love,” Fisher said. “And then with orgasm there’s a real flood of oxytocin giving you feelings of deep attachment.”
The bottom line is that not all couples have an innocent, “meet-cute” story to tell about how they met, and that’s ok.
Listen to the full StarTalk episode below:
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