First things first: what is aftercare and what’s the point of it? Aftercare as a specific concept originated in the BDSM community as a way for partners to communicate and wind-down after a scene. Aftercare in BDSM is considered common practice, and specifically meant to prevent the emotional drop that can occur as a result of physical and mental exhaustion following a scene. While different for everyone, generally it can include things like cuddling, talking over the scene, hydrating, or giving verbal affirmations.
But aftercare isn’t just relevant to BDSM. Sex can be intense and exhausting for anyone—as a matter of fact, it should be if you’re doing it right. Around 43% of people (male and female) report feeling depressed after sex.
The main theory behind why this occurs centers around hormones. Sex triggers a crazy flood of endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin, all serving the purpose of making you feel great. But afterwards, those all decline rapidly, which may make you feel like shit. So how can we avoid that feeling and leave our sexual encounters fulfilled and satisfied?
Strictly casual sex and aftercare may seem like a match made in hell, but hear me out.
Aftercare is what you make of it, so in situations where you don’t want to snuggle up with your partner following the act, you can still take steps to ensure you won’t end up feeling bad.
One thing you can do is just simply communicate—and it doesn’t have to be about your deepest darkest secrets.
No matter how casual the sex is, checking in with your partner is the bare minimum. Having a brief, casual conversation about what went well and a genuine “You good?” can go a long way.
If you’re having casual sex, the likelihood is high that there isn’t too much emotion involved, but hormones (and societal stigma) can still do their best to confuse a good time with something to be ashamed of. Doing that brief check-in can be enough to have you both walking away feeling good.
FWB can sometimes be complicated, but aftercare doesn’t have to be. The good news is that if you consider yourself FWB, you’ve already established some level of emotional connection—you’re friends after all!
This means that you’re probably going to feel more comfortable communicating what your needs are after sex, and you’ll be more familiar with what your partner needs. Like I said, everyone is different, so they might be the type that doesn’t need anything at all.
Knowing someone gives you, as a partner, a bit of an advantage here. Some things to look out for would be your partner getting uncharacteristically quiet or seeming sad after sex.
Theoretically, sex should be making them feel good, so if their mood doesn’t reflect that, they could be experiencing a drop. If they do experience an emotional drop, some small things you can do that shouldn’t blur any established boundaries are grabbing them a snack or some water, talking a bit about what was fun and what you’d like to do next time, or just spending some time watching TV together before you go about your day… or night. Any friendship relies on open communication and being there for one another, so as long as you’re both happy with the arrangement, sex is no different.
Recognize that even with friends, many people have a hard time communicating how they’re feeling. Though there are plenty of advantages to a FWB setup, it can be complicated. If you’re the type to experience a drop, try to remember that your partner is supposed to be your friend. If they really are, you should assume that they’ll want to ensure you have the best experience possible. And that goes both ways, if you have a FWB who experiences a drop, be their friend and look out for them. I’ll say it again, communication is key!
If you’re in a relationship, chances are you’re already covering a lot of the bases, but it never hurts to be sure. Sometimes when we’re already comfortable, we don’t even realize that something could use a bit more attention.
Hopefully, you both are already open in communicating your feelings and needs to each other, so if you realize that this is something that needs some work, it’s absolutely worth talking about, especially if one of you isn’t the type to experience a drop.
Some people are perfectly fine jumping up and moving right along, so if you need 20 minutes of cuddling after sex, tell your partner! As the previously mentioned statistics show, it’s totally natural to feel low after sex and need some extra time, even if you already know how much your partner cares about you. And trust me, it never hurts to give your partner some extra love.
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At the end of the day [or night ;)], it all comes down to assessing your needs and communicating them. Sex should ultimately come down to both partners feeling good, and ensuring you and your partner achieve that goal should be a priority, even if it’s for 5 minutes following the act. Remember, if you experience a drop it’s normal, and if you don’t, it doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t, so check-in. Whatever your arrangement is (and there’s no way to say this without sounding like a sex-ed teacher), take care of yourself and your partner, be safe, and have fun!