Here’s why you should probably stop
by Tracy Moore
We know this because over at Broadly, Maria Yagoda explores this new dating phenomenon from the female side, and it is not a ringing endorsement. Yagoda writes:
Enter what my friend and I have dubbed “the several-night stand,” a casual and recurring hook-up situation that mimics a relationship but is definitely NOT a relationship because one party recently got out of something long-term or is not looking for anything serious right now or wants to keep doing this without a label? As its name suggests, the several-night stand is like a one-night stand, but takes place over several nights, often over a period of weeks or months. When you are together, you feel like you’re dating-dating. When you’re apart, the intimacy vanishes, save for the occasional post-2 AM Instagram-story remark or a “sorry your cat died” text. (That counts as intimacy, yeah?) The several-night stand arises because one person wants a girlfriend or boyfriend for a night, maybe a few times a week.
The stories are basically the same: A woman has been hanging out a bunch with a dude who doesn’t want anything serious, yet he shares emotionally and texts all day. The result is she’s dancing around an impenetrable door-to-more that will never open. It feels like the guy is having his cake and eating it too, but isn’t just the sex-cake of yore; it’s also the feelings-cake of today. It’s why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, but the milk is blowjobs as well as talking about his life and his feelings and giving him supportive responses and equal parts adoration in return. And blowjobs.
And most importantly, there’s zero obligation on either part, only it feels like there’s too much going on for there not to be. It’s all the sex and the emotional labor of a real, honest-to-god relationship, only he can dip in and out without explanation and she has no ground to stand on if she objects because like, No labels, babe. Told ya up front! He either suddenly treats her like a psycho, or simply says any discussion of the relationship beyond this fake relationship version is simply too much.
While we’ve written skeptically before about the proliferation of allegedly new dating phenomena that’s really just an old thing repackaged in a new term — Cushioning! Breadcrumbing! Benching! — this feels truly and distinctly modern. (And shitty.)
Dating, as fraught as it is to do a dance of courtship, at least used to be something like layaway, in that it came with the possibility of something more committed down the road if both parties agreed. Casual flings, for all their equally fraught possibilities of catching feelings, not only involved laying down limits up front (I’m not looking for anything serious) but they also reflect that casual, limited status in the lived experience. You might have sex, but you don’t spend that much time together. He definitely isn’t texting you adorable cat gifs, remembering your birthday, and telling you you’re gorgeous and wonderful.
But such is the dilemma of the several-night stand. It’s literally all the Things with none of the Thing. It’s not a series of disconnected hookups (though it’s presented as casual) but rather comes plush with all the perks of a relationship, while skillfully masquerading as a booty call. No one likes a relationship whose steps are already laid out, unless that’s all you want.
Evan Marc Katz, a relationship coach who often translates male behavior for a female audience, fielded this exact question from a woman recently who found herself in a several-night stand situation. Kris writes in:
I have been in an exclusive relationship with a man for 6 months now. He has shown up in every way AND more. I had major surgery and he stood by me, slept in the hospital, and took care of me at my worst for my 3-week recovery. He just took me on our first trip away. He wants to see me every day and I love that.
Basically though, I was blindsided the other day because after everything, he said that I am not his “girlfriend” and he doesn’t want the expectations that come with the title…