The 'one-night relationship theory' and how it explains all your recent bad dates.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that 11 days ago I had one of the best first dates of my life. And that very rarely ever happens

So it was, like, a BIG deal, but maybe just for me? Because (spoiler alert) there was no happily ever after. 

(So WHY, OH WHY I continue to romanticise this night in my head is BEYOND me, but alas, here we are.)

Anyway. It was a Saturday night. It was a super-spontaneous invitation, and I thought, what the hell, let’s do it. And so we met at the sexiest underground bar in the city.

Watch: Relationship red flags. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I arrived, dressed in my favourite little black dress, and holy moly he was even hotter than in his photos. But more importantly, the conversation was on fire.

From one cocktail to the next, we didn’t stop talking, endlessly interrupting each other to ask more questions. From ‘Are your parents still in love?’ to ‘Tell me about your last heartbreak’, the conversation spiralled deeper as we opened up, sharing our vulnerabilities. He told me about his songwriting – something he’d always kept so private, he said – and we chatted about wanting kids.

My date had already mentioned that he was an affectionate guy by the time he reached out and took my hand. Facing each other on bar stools, we got closer and closer, until – halfway through a conversation about the difficult relationship he has with his brother-in-law – he kissed me.


And we didn’t stop for the rest of the night, mixing in more questions with kisses before Frank Sinatra’s 'I Love You Baby' burst through the speakers. He suddenly pulled me to my feet and spun me around the bar as we danced to what can only be described as one of the most romantic songs in history.

By the time we fell into an Uber, he’d bought us some takeaway and wrapped his coat around me. Pulling me in close, he hugged me tight while I rested my head on his shoulder. It was a literal rom-com and I was finally living my main character life.

Back at mine, we were eating dinner on my couch when he leaned across me.

“I really like you,” he said. Up close. In my face. Inches away.

“Don’t be silly, that’s just lust,” I joked back while my insides caved in. WAS THIS IT?!

Now, I want to make this clear. Before we decided that he’d come back to mine, I told him that I would not sleep with him. That wasn’t something I wanted to do until I knew him a bit better, I said. And he seemed to totally respect that. He said he didn’t want to do it either.

So we spent the night in my bed kissing and cuddling before falling asleep all wrapped up in each other. 


The next morning, I popped out for breakfast and we had coffee and bacon and egg wraps in bed. Then – and the feminist in me is still shaking with rage – I sewed on a button that had come off his pants the night before. I SEWED FOR THIS MAN. And then he left, kissing me on the lips with a mention of a second date later that week.

And then he died.

Or at least, I like to think he did, because what else could possibly explain a week of meagre texting before, POOF!


A relationship for the night

It turns out that what I endured actually has a name. At least, unofficially it does. It’s a theory that’s blown up on TikTok called the One-Night Relationship. 


“Guys are human beings too – they crave love and intimacy, connection – and when there are just so many options and they’re still adventurous and looking to hook up and have fun, they’re not going to commit to something full-time,” TikToker Christina Zozulya told her followers. 

“But what they will do is act like they're in a relationship for a night.

“During this night they’ll cuddle you, they’ll trauma dump, they’ll hold your hand, they’ll tell you all their deepest, darkest secrets, and then the next day they might not even say hello to you.”

The clip has since been viewed more than 652,000 times and lemme tell you, the people agree. But apparently, it’s not a new idea. 

“Often women are socialised to be emotional, to be caring, to be loving, to be open and vulnerable, and men are socialised not to be,” sex and relationships coach Georgia Grace told Mamamia. “So often when men get the experience to be open with a partner, it can feel like an incredible relief and moment of human connection.”

@christinazozulya the one night relationship theory 👀 #dating #casualdatinglife #collegedating #relationships #datingtheory #datingadviceforwomen #fypシ ♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono - moshimo sound design

She said it was similar to ‘love bombing’, in which someone showers you with extreme displays of attention and affection to manipulate you into a relationship with them. (It’s also a form of emotional abuse.)

“I'm not saying that it is in this case – but it is the act of giving someone all of the love and emotion and affection and attention and then just removing it,” Grace explained.

How is this different from a one-night stand?

For starters, a one-night stand is often just about sex.


“That's not to say it can't be emotional, but often people are pretty clear on what it is,” Grace said. “It might be going home to that person's house after a night out and knowing that it's a bit of fun and perhaps it's not going to lead to anything else.”

But when it comes to one-night relationships, it’s more about offering “the girlfriend experience” and the idea that the connection might lead to something else. 

“A one-night relationship is a more in-depth, human connection in that you get all of the things that a relationship offers but not the relationship at the end of it,” Grace explained.

So is there any way of protecting yourself against the one-night relationship?

It’s all about setting boundaries, according to Grace, so that you’re not constantly in “a really exhausting position of thinking there's something and it turns into nothing”.

Listen to the hosts of Mamamia Daily discuss the emotional toll of being on dating apps. Post continues below.

“That might be saying, ‘Yeah, I'm really into you, I find you really attractive and I feel a connection with you, however, I want to know what you want. Are we going to meet up after this? What are you currently looking for?'” she explained.

“That then gives the other person the opportunity to be like, ‘Oh no, actually, I just want something a bit casual,’ so then you can make an informed decision on whether you want to stick around for all the emotional labour with this stranger who might ignore you the next day.”


“It says more about them than anything you’ve done.”

I asked Georgia if putting up higher walls was the answer. To which she gave me an emphatic 'no'.

“It's so challenging and risky and vulnerable being open on a date, and you ask yourself the question, 'What could I have done differently, what could I have done better?” she told Mamamia

“Let's move the blame away from you and instead look at the facts: On the date, he's had a really good time, he really likes you, and then he's gone and done something completely different to what he was promising on the date – and I'm getting a sense that it was way more about him than anything that you've done.” 

Instead of putting up walls, Graced suggested we all need to employ some protective methods.

“Those resources might be therapy, or they might be making sure you've got a really supportive, loving friendship group around you that really values those relationships to be as important – and sometimes even more important – than romantic relationships,” she explained.

Luckily, I’ve got the right people for the job.

“What an idiot,” my friend Christina told me after my ONR. 

“I feel bad for him. Imagine being that dumb. For genuinely having an excellent time and having the opportunity for more great times but f**king it up with poor communication and the inability to just be an adult and be clear.”

“What a f**kwit,” my mate Simon added. “You had me at breakfast, and in all reality, coffee.”

Image: Getty.

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