Some nights you just want to sleep alone in your own bed (or as alone as you’ll ever be with a human-sized dog or five cats or a live-in partner or two). Sleeping next to someone can be a way to build intimacy, show trust, get a jump-start on your early morning plans together, or just make sure no one has to head home at 4 am – but it can also interrupt your sleep, disrupt your morning routine, mean that someone has to sleep in the wet spot, or just not be what you want out of an evening. Wanting to have a date and wanting to have (or be) a houseguest aren’t the same feeling, you know?
Here’s what to do if you want to sleep with someone without sleeping with someone.
Establish Expectations Before The Date
Honestly, it would not have occurred to me that “I’m not sleeping over” would be something anyone needed to say before a first date because of how obvious it is, but then I learned how many of us are out there bringing toothbrushes and overnight bags to first dates and here we are!
Sometimes, the chance to mention that you don’t want a sleepover will come up naturally as you arrange your date. For instance, if you live across a city from each other and they suggest getting dinner at [a late hour] on their side of town, you could suggest [an hour earlier], and mention you want to be okay to drive home before it gets too late. If you live in different cities and you’re visiting theirs, you can mention that you’ve booked your AirBnB. If it’s purely a sex thing and they’re coming over, you can always say, “just to make sure we’re on the same page, I don’t want this to be a sleepover” or “I’m excited you’re coming over, and I prefer to sleep alone after.” You don’t need to give excuses or apologize – there’s nothing to apologize for.
If the chance to establish that you’re not sleeping over doesn’t come up in advance, you’ll have a few other chances to bring it up.
Have Dates That Make Sleepovers Less Likely
There’s being on the same page about not having a sleepover, and there’s getting up for a glass of water and a fresh pair of gloves and realizing the last metro ran two hours ago. Keeping an eye on the time, drinking or consuming cannabis lightly or early enough to get home safely, and checking in with your energy levels can all help prevent sleepovers from happening accidentally.
So can planning dates that make sleepovers less likely. I’m sure there are breakfast dates that roll into the next morning, but it’s not an obvious move. Midday dates can fit around classes, meetings, or someone’s live-in kids’ classes or meetings. In evenings in a certain type of city, making sure a date ends on time can be as simple as “my friend’s improv group goes on at 1.”
Mention It Before You Head Back To Their Or Your Place
If it hasn’t come up until now, or even if it has, the point at which you ask them back to your pace or they ask you back to theirs is a perfect place to slip in a “just so we’re on the same page, I don’t want this to be a sleepover.” If they’re not on the same page, say goodnight. If they are, get itttt.
If You Go Back to Their Place
Take a moment to check in with yourself. Are you raring to go, or getting a little tired but pushing through? If there’s a chance that you might pass a point where you’re too tired or asleep to get safely home, set an alarm on your phone for about 20 minutes plus your travel time before that. You can even tell your date “one second, I just want to make sure I know when to leave.” (Setting it a little early gives you time to finish or pee or say goodbye.) This is also a good moment to plug your phone in if your battery is super low and you need it to get home – just make sure to plug in within ear shot of where you’re having sex.
On one hand, sure, it feels dorky as hell to be half way through leaving a trail of clothes between the door and the bed to stop and say, “hey one sec I need to set an alarm.” On the other hand, you’re clearly concerned enough about not sleeping over that you’re reading this article, so what’s a little dorkiness?
When it’s time to leave, get dressed, pick up a little (throwing out gloves, rinsing toys with your germs on them, putting the pillows back on the bed, etc.), say goodbye and go. You’re not star-crossed lovers torn apart by a 5 a.m. spin class; you’re adults taking care of yourselves the way adults do when someone has a 5 a.m. spin class. Go.
If They Come Back to Your Place
Set your alarm (“want to make sure you can make the last bus,” “want to make sure it’s early enough to call a rideshare,” etc.) but use the rest of your home to your advantage, too. If you love sex playlists, make one in that gets louder after a certain point. If you have smart lighting, set it to turn on and get brighter at the time you want to start wrapping up. If you have a dog, please shut the door between you and your dog, but also be generally aware of when she’ll need to go out to pee and create a natural end point. Most non-Virgos won’t want to pause getting naked to do these things, so set them in advance. The key isn’t to depend on technology to set your boundaries for you (no “Sorry the bedroom light always turns on when it’s time for bed – oh is it too bright for you? This is how I sleep. Let me walk you out.”) and more to use technology to help you enforce the boundaries you’ve already established.
When you’re done fucking and are winding down, end the evening by offering to walk your date to their car, to the transit stop they need to get home, “downstairs” or “out” or whatever; to call them a ride; or to drive them home if that’s the vibe.
Have Public Sex Instead
Don’t want to chance a sleepover? Don’t go home. In a lot of places, in addition to the impossibility of getting advance consent from strangers who might see you by accident, public sex is illegal – and obviously I would never recommend doing something illegal, and definitely not in a discreetly parked car or single-stall bathroom or shadowy corner or closet somewhere as part of a long legacy of queers having public sex. I also absolutely would not recommend bringing nitrile gloves and travel lube even if you don’t normally prioritize safer sex to make cleanup easier and avoid having to find somewhere to wash your hands first.
Be Clear All The Way Along
If you’re out and they say they wish you could sleep over, don’t say you do too but you can’t tonight; just say you can’t. If they’re in your bed and they say they wish they could sleep over, they just really like sex sheets, they’re obsessed with the notorious breakfast place around the corner and it’d be so good to go in the morning, don’t say yes when you mean no. Be consistent. If it makes it feel easier to enforce this boundary, come up with a reason, even if it’s a subjective one — “Sleepovers are more of a relationship thing to me/it’s hard for me to sleep with someone else in my bed/etc” — and calmly repeat it every time. If they constantly push to sleep over when you’ve said multiple times that you’re not interested in doing that (right now, yet, or ever), then it might be time to think about what other boundaries they might push and whether you want that in your life.
What To Do If They Really Don’t Get It
Sometimes, people just don’t listen. You can be upfront and clear about your boundaries, transparent about your needs, and still find yourself trapped at the end of the night under a human koala who keeps saying “I just wish I could sleep in your bed.”
In those scenarios, I recommend the magic words: “Your driver is arriving in 4 minutes. Look for Sam in a 2013 Honda Accord.”