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Why Are Relationships Better Than Hookups?

hooks and relationships and sex

What are hookups?

It is very common these days, especially amongst college students for them to connect purely for sex. There is no need for the pretense of dating – it is clear that they are meeting just for sex and nothing else.

Often they have not spent any significant time getting to know their sexual partner. In some instances, they have known them for less than a week before having sex with them.

Sometimes they don’t even like their sexual partner and have no desire to be friends with them. These “booty calls” do satisfy sexual urges, but are they healthy psychologically?

What did research on hook-ups / casual sex show?

Melina Bersamin and her colleagues# conducted some research on 3,907 students and found that whilst more men (18.6%) compared to women (7.4%) said they had had casual sex in the previous month – regardless of gender – casual sex appeared to be “negatively associated with well-being and positively associated with psychological distress”.

After having sex with someone they had known for less than a week, they reported higher levels of distress and lower levels of happiness. They experienced lower levels of self-esteem and satisfaction with their lives, and higher levels of depression and anxiety.

How do hookups and relationships compare?

Studies on married couples (or long term de-facto couples) are complex. Those that succeed can lead to long term health benefits because someone is there to give support and to help when necessary, but it depends on the quality of the relationship*.

As the graphic above shows, sex can lead to a number of emotions like pleasure, passion and love. Sex can be part of a long term relationship or part of an infidelity or a casual hook-up. Sometimes it can be unpredictable. You can think you are just having quick casual sex, but end up feeling like your heart has been broken. In a long term commitment, sex can help deepen the bond and help love grow.

So it appears from the research that it is worthwhile trying to develop longer term relationships rather than just nipping out for some quick sex. Making a relationship work takes effort. It takes skills like communication which you can work on with the help of a couple’s counselor. And of course, the kind of love that develops over time and with getting to know someone better.



* (this paper references other studies)