I think time of day is crucially important when making decisions. What seems perfectly reasonable at 2am almost certainly sounds like a daft idea during bright daylight. In the world of dating this may be even more true than during other interactions – nighttime seems very special to any sort of romantic activity (see going to the park or dealbreaker III for specific examples, although virtually all the stories on this blog happened between 8pm and 8am). Especially the wee hours of the morning appear prone to intimate conversations, emotional revelations and rash decision making. This is not a new observation, and someone has even centred an episode of a sitcom around this phenomenon.
But what makes this time so special, so intimate? Is the link between nighttime and romantic activity strictly coincidental, correlational or even causal?
In a recent conversation with a friend we identified the following three factors.
1) If you are talking to someone at 2am, you probably have been talking to them for a while or know them well.
This is an important factor, and strictly correlational. We usually don’t start conversations with strangers at 2am, so you probably have been talking to the other person for several hours since you started the conversation at a more conventional time that evening. This means it’s the unbroken length of conversation time, not the daytime itself that leads to revelations and sharing of intimate details.
A possible extension to this rule is that if you feel comfortable to start a conversation at 2am with someone you probably are either already familiar with each other, or at a party (and possibly inebriated). Both of these situations again benefit being close to someone.
Even if this is not true for you, and you neither know the other person nor have talked to them for a while, the sheer existence of this social convention creates the illusion of intimacy (“We are talking at a socially unconventional time – we must be able to share intimate details with each other”).
2) It’s dark outside.
Both me and B. agreed that this was somehow important, and probably a causal factor. Maybe it’s the age-old kindergarten trick of “if nobody sees me doing it, then I’m not doing anything wrong”, but regardless of the mechanism, inhibitions definitely drop in the dark.
3) Nobody else is awake.
Being alone with the other person definitely helps to bring intimate moments along. And at 2am you’re much more likely to be left alone than earlier in the day, simply because other (sane) people are sound asleep. Furthermore, not only are you physically alone, you also share the feeling that you’re the only people out of bed. If the two of you are the only ones to do something, then this means there is a special connection between you, right? Again, this creates the bond of together defying a social convention.
This factor is a mix of correlational(physical aloneness) and causal(perceived aloneness).
So there you have it, the nighttime/intimacy link is neatly analysed and explained. I still don’t think I subscribe to the theory that “nothing good happens after 2am”. Quite to the contrary, I believe that the wee hours are a time with incredible potential.
However, certain safety measures should be in place to fully benefit from the nighttime phenomenon. During the day it all seems just so clear, so it might not be much use to pretend “Would I act the same if it were 10am right now?” – we have just established that you probably wouldn’t.
Instead, just ask yourself whether your reaction the next morning is likely going to be “Wow, I finally dared to do this/ tell her/kiss him. I can’t believe I had the guts to do so” or “OMG, WTF, please let this not be true/Why have I ever done this???”.
The fine line between relief and regret can be hard to make out at 2am, but it’s certainly worth trying.
***disclaimer: this post was written in broad daylight***