You Hooked Up…Now What?

End up in bed with someone you don’t know very well? Here’s how to handle the aftermath—and maybe even pave the way to a real relationship.

By Amanda May

aybe it was the rum punch or the fact that you really wanted someone to kiss this holiday season. Or maybe it was just basic “animal attraction” that carried you away. Whatever the case, if you find yourself waking up next to someone you barely know, follow these tips for a smooth morning after—whether you want to make a graceful exit or think there’s potential there for a more lasting connection.

Channel your inner etiquette pro
While a romantic breakfast in bed might not be on your agenda with this near-stranger, just because you casually hooked up doesn’t mean
If you have no intention of calling this person, don’t ask for his or her number.
you should throw your manners out the window. So keep these small courtesies in mind: “If you’re hosting the sleep-over, in the morning offer your guest coffee and a chance to shower,” says Josey Vogels, author of Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy. If you’re the one who stayed over, however, don’t ask for these things unless they’re offered (it’s pretty rude if they’re not, but not everyone’s well schooled in post-coital protocol). You can make a graceful exit (or nicely request that the other person prepare to go) by using the “I’ve got a busy day ahead,” pretext. “Everyone knows it’s an excuse, but it’s a gentle way of ending things,” she says. For extra points, consider walking your date to his or her car or even calling a cab.

Temper your expectations
The first rule of one-night stands is kind of a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget in your post-coital haze: You slept together, and it was great, but that very well could be it. “Just because you wake up next to someone doesn’t mean you’re their boyfriend or girlfriend,” says Ian Kerner, author of DSI: Date Scene Investigation. So even if you’re feeling warm and fuzzy as you roll out of bed, it’s probably best to refrain from hugging, kissing or holding hands unless you get some really clear indicators that’s what your partner’s thinking, too. That’s welcome advice to George, a New York-based lawyer who had a one-night stand with a woman who then claimed girlfriend status. “She kept dropping by my apartment uninvited,” he complains. “I tried to be nice at first, but eventually I just had to tell her straight out that I wasn’t interested in anything more.”

Don’t send the wrong signals
It’s always tempting, of course, to ease your way out of an awkward scenario by saying “So what’s your number?” or “Maybe we could do something next weekend. I’ll call.” But if you truly have no intention of following through,
Your best bet is to revert back to the courtship process.
don’t say it—it will only get your date’s hopes up to be dashed later when the phone stays silent. “And if this person asks you out and you’re not interested, let him or her down gently by saying you’re just not looking for a relationship right now,” recommends Vogels. That worked for Janna, a Los Angeles-based actress who met a much younger guy at a party and invited him home. In the morning, he left and Janna started getting ready for her day. “But a minute later, there was a knock on my door—he had come back to ask for my number!” She gave it to him—but told him that she wasn’t in the right place for a relationship. “He took the hint and didn’t call.”

Turn the chemistry into a connection
It’s definitely tricky to start a relationship after you’ve gotten intimate so quickly, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. “I married my one night stand,” admits Vogels. If you think there might be a real connection, it’s worth risking a little rejection to ask this person on a date—especially since you may never see him or her again otherwise. “Keep it lighthearted, but straightforward,” says Vogels. “Say, ‘This was fun, but we should see how we do during daylight hours.’” Remember, though, that no matter how close you were that first night, you really don’t know much about this person. So, it’s completely within your rights to say, “I know we got pretty heavy pretty fast, but if we continue seeing each other, I’d like to take things slow.” As Kerner says, “Your best bet is to revert back to the courtship process. Otherwise, you could build a relationship that’s solely about the sex.” Give yourself a chance to get to know each other outside the bedroom to see if you two truly click, and if you do, you may find yourselves with quite an interesting “how we met” story (stick with the PG version) to tell friends for years to come.

Amanda May has written for Redbook and other publications.
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