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From Hookup To Happily Ever After


Is it realistic to believe you can turn a single tryst into the love of a lifetime? According to experts, yes… provided you both explore the possibility with your eyes (and ears) wide open.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

o you got hot and heavy with that last date really fast, huh? Well, before you do the walk of shame down this-relationship-is-doomed road, listen up: New statistics show that not only is it possible for your one night stand to transition into his-and-hers nightstands, it's becoming increasingly common.

In fact, in a recent Happen magazine survey of more than 15,000 readers, 52 percent of respondents said they'd had a casual encounter turn into a bona fide relationship, while 48 percent said
The danger lies in determining the motive behind the hookup.
they had not. And another survey conducted by Match.com showed that 36 percent of singles are open to having a fling in the future. These results don't necessarily condone hooking up as a proven method for finding your true love, but they do suggest that all is not lost if you realize that you might actually be interested in seeing this person again after the next morning's awkward "So, can I call you sometime?" moment.

"There's less stigma attached to casual sex today, and therefore, it's probable that both parties involved in a hookup are also less likely to make stereotypical assumptions," says Dr. Karin Anderson, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Concordia University Chicago and author of It Just Hasn't Happened Yet. "Men in the new millennium may not immediately judge a woman for 'putting out' the first time they meet. Similarly, today's women may experience less post-hookup shame. The result? Both individuals carry away less baggage from the hookup, and hence, the possibility of an emerging love connection remains viable."

Having said all that, in order for a single encounter to turn into something else (which could mean happily ever after…or, at least, a second date), certain components must be in place. If you're thinking your fling could become a real thing, keep the following in mind:

Examine closely what led to the two of you hooking up in the first place
"What a neat concept, right? Start with someone you barely know (or are just getting to know), add some attraction, mix in a bit of chemistry with perhaps a splash of Patron or Pinot Noir, two tablespoons of lowered inhibitions, two teaspoons of trust, shake well over a cool night out and voila! You just made a perfect hookup — real adults making real decisions," says Dr. Ish Major, a psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys: A Woman's Guide Through the Lies Men Tell and Why.

Sometimes a hookup is literally just the byproduct of two people who meet in a bar and decide to skip the formalities before getting hot and heavy. Other times, it's two people who've known each other for a while and suddenly find themselves naked. The danger lies in determining the motive behind the hookup. If one person is crushin' on the other and thinks a hookup is the way to "hook" the other…get ready for some tears.

If you both are truly OK with the situation, however, then the "no pressure" attitude may be what allows things to continue down the road. "This is one situation where most guys' favorite line truly applies: 'It is what it is,'" says Dr. Major. "It can be a great thing if you're mature enough to handle what it means. But what does it mean? Well, that's just it. It could mean something. It could [also] mean nothing."

Before you broach the subject of making the quantum leap from messing around to legitimately dating, really spend some time analyzing what brought you two to this point — whether it's alcohol, chemistry, desire, a need to be touched, a hope for more, etc. and proceed from there. The clearer you are about how the hookup happened, the better your chances for shifting into another, long-lasting romantic scenario with your eyes wide open.

Listen…really listen to what the other person says (and wants)
If you decide you'd like to take your booty call to a more serious level, realize that the other person may or may not have the same idea that you do. As you make your intentions known, listen carefully to how the other person responds. "Often, our hopes for where we'd like a relationship to go taints our perception of the realities in front of us — particularly in our ability to accurately interpret conversations," says Dr. Anderson. "For example, if she says 'I don't see us moving in that direction' but he hears, 'Give it time. We could end up dating' [instead]. Or she interprets his 'You're pretty sexy' as 'I see you as the mother of my children.'" There is always the possibility that someone's mind can be changed, but you would be wise not to get your hopes up. Instead, proceed (for now, anyway) as if what the other person says is an immutable truth so you can make the healthiest decisions regarding choosing to continue with the situation — or not.

Take responsibility for whatever decisions you make
If you decide to roll the dice and see if a committed romantic relationship can develop
Aren't you looking for someone who genuinely loves and accepts the authentic you.
from a hookup, be sure you take full responsibility for putting your heart on the line. Know that you're taking a chance and nothing's guaranteed. "If he/she loves the idea of moving forward, great, but if he/she doesn't come around, you need to keep your emotions in check," says Dr. Anderson. "It's not fair to lash out at someone for failing to get on board with a program he/she never endorsed in the first place." Indeed, relationships make you vulnerable, and there's no way around it. There is no reward without risk — just remember that you're opening yourself to the possibility of getting hurt, so be prepared for either outcome and make sure you can handle it before diving in.

Leave the analyzing to psychologists
When relationships fail to develop as we'd like them to, we often begin performing "armchair psychoanalysis" in an effort to figure out which particular psychological barriers might stand in our way. "We decide that he's commitment-phobic due to his parents' divorce, or she's afraid of dating a nice guy because her father was never around and so she's only comfortable with emotionally unavailable men," says Dr. Anderson. "Remember: even if you correctly unearth the rationale behind your partner's reticence to move the relationship toward commitment, it's not going to change anything. Your brilliant assessment won't get you any closer to your goal." Making excuses for another person and/or "hanging in there" won't change things. It takes two to tango — and both parties need to be dancing the same steps.

Remember that you could be wrong about your romantic potential together
When so much titillating chemistry abounds in the bedroom, it is natural to assume that this same energy would exist in the other realms of the relationship (if only both people would give it a chance, that is). "Frankly, you could be dead wrong. Many couples resonate on a physical level but lack compatibility in other key areas of life," says Dr. Anderson. "His smoldering, brooding, edgy demeanor may generate heat the bedroom, but if you were dating, this same reclusiveness would likely prove exhausting if he refused to attend any of your friends' dinner parties — or worse, he joined you but insisted on holding counter-culture court and spewing three-hour-long ideological rants while other guests choke down their tiramisu." Physical chemistry is vitally important in a relationship and can make a great start towards developing something long-term together, but keep in mind that it's not everything.

Don't try to change another person, and never, ever change who you are
It's disappointing to hold a vision of what could be — if only a paramour could see things in the same light. At such times you may be tempted to tweak or adjust qualities about yourself. "She thinks, 'If it's just my tendency to chatter too much, I can stop that. That's an easy fix.' Or he reasons, 'She's into macho-type guys. I can always join a UFC Fight Club,'" says Dr. Anderson. Small alterations might seem benign at first, but these adjustments never work out over time — and, ultimately, they steer you away from who you are and who you're meant to be (and who you should be in a relationship with). Eventually, you'll resent the other person for "making" you change or for lacking the ability to appreciate you for who you really are. Aren't you looking for someone who genuinely loves and accepts the authentic you, not some fabricated version? Also, if you catch yourself thinking that this person would be great after changing x, y, and z traits first…keep in mind that people rarely change down deep at the core. A better bet is to try to discern whether these traits are things you can truly live with long-term. If not, trying to turn this romp into a relationship might not be realistic.

Examine what it takes for a couple to be truly happy together
If you take the time to explore what it takes for a couple to be genuinely happy long-term, it's clear that certain things that must be present. Dr. Major says that this list includes attraction, transparency, honesty, compromise, acceptance (not trying to change each other), setting goals for the relationship, respecting certain boundaries (i.e., keeping others out of your relationship) and knowing when it's time to walk away. "Now here's the weird thing: these are almost the exact same ingredients for a perfect hookup!" says Dr. Major. "So, while it may not follow the natural order of a traditional relationship, [going from] hookup to happiness is definitely possible. It takes two adults that are willing to be honest with themselves about what the situation is and what it is not. If a deeper connection is found down the road, then that's just what it is — a connection!" And isn't finding that connection — regardless of how you got there — really the whole point?


Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Women's Health, Marie Claire, Maxim and more. A frequent online contributor for Match.com's Happen magazine, she's also the author of The Real Reasons Men Commit and Sex Comes First as well as the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.
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