Originally posted in Bustle.
Casual sex can be such a divisive topic. Some people love it, some people hate it, and a lot of people want to love it — but end up hating it after the fact. I am totally of the mind that you should never be hooking up if it doesn’t make you feel great about yourself. And if you can have a healthy hookup, then by all means do it! But what makes a hookup “healthy”? And what doesn’t?
“A healthy hookup is about three things,” Dr. Joanne Davila and relationship expert Kaycee Lashman, authors of The Thinking Girl’s Guide to the Right Guy: How Knowing Yourself Can Help You Navigate Dating, Hookups, and Lovetell Bustle. “1) You know what you want, 2) you and your partner are on the same page about why you’re hooking up, and 3) it’s a good sexual experience for both of you. In the end, a hookup is healthy when both people come away sexually satisfied, happy they did it, and are OK with the idea that it might never be anything more than a hookup. If you’re interested in hooking up, there are three skills you need to use to increase the likelihood that you’ll have the experience you want and that you won’t end up confused and feeling bad.”
But it doesn’t always feel that simple. So here is how they break it down about how to keep your hookups healthy, because they’re not for everyone:
1. It Has To Be Good For Both Of You
First, I want to reiterate one of their points. Davila and Lashman point out that mutuality is key to a healthy hookup. It’s not about just one of you being horny and the other having an emotional attachment, you need to be on the same terms. If it’s not good for one of you, it’s not healthy.
2. You Need To Emotionally Regulate
Emotional regulation is all about being aware of what your emotions are doing after a hookup. “Emotion regulation is easier if you’re just looking for a fun sexual encounter between two consenting adults who are on the same page and who have no expectations that it will turn into anything else,” Davila and Lashman say. “Once other expectations or feelings of uncertainty come into play, that’s when it can get tough.”
If it was agreed that it was just a one-night stand and you start to want more, you can’t hold that against the other person. At the same time, your feelings are totally valid and if you start to feel that way then you shouldn’t do it again. But you also need to accept the encounter for what it is.
3. You Can Also Regulate By Avoiding A Situation Completely
Sometimes you can only control your emotions by knowing what situations to avoid totally. Like I said before, if you’re not a hookup person, that’s totally fine. “You need to know what situations are likely to be hard to deal with emotionally and keep yourself out of them, at least until you can learn how to manage them better,” Davila and Lashman say. “If you know you’re the type of person who falls in love quickly, or who gets really anxious about whether someone likes you, then don’t put yourself in an ambiguous hookup situation (e.g., with someone you don’t know) where you’re likely to experience these things. Maybe those kinds of hookups aren’t for you.”
There’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first. “Take care of yourself by knowing what’s healthy for you emotionally and what’s not. If you can’t handle something, don’t do it.”
4. Understand What You’re Trying To Get Out Of it
Sometimes, things just happen. And with sex, we don’t always like to think about why we’re doing something. We like the spark, the spontaneity. But if you’re going to have a healthy hookup, it’s good to look at why you’re doing it and what you want out of it. Now, that can totally be as simple as “good sex”, but just know that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
It’s the bottom line of everything, isn’t it? You need to communicate. And sometimes that means having some really awkward conversations about your needs.
“Unhealthy hookups happen when people are not aware of and don’t communicate their needs”, Davila and Lashman say “A hookup can go wrong in at least three ways because of this. First, you might do it for the wrong reasons. This happens when you’re not aware of your needs, motives, or goals. For example, you’re trying to get the person to like you or you really want a serious relationship and you think hooking up will lead to that. These situations lead to major disappointment and even regret and a loss of self-respect.”
But it’s also about what’s happening in the bedroom. “Second, you might not get what you want sexually,” they say. “A hookup, by definition, is about sex. If you don’t communicate what you want, then what’s the point? Third, along the same lines, if you don’t communicate what you don’t want — what your limits are — then you might end up doing something that is way out of your comfort zone. That’s another recipe for dissatisfaction and regret.” So as soon as you start thinking about a hookup, you should start communicating.
Hookups can be fun, silly, and amazing — but they can also be a source of stress and doubt. Make sure you know what you’re getting into and that it’s good for both of you, that’s the only way to make it work.