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Aftercare Should Be A Thing Both Inside & Outside The Bedroom
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Aftercare Should Be A Thing Both Inside & Outside The Bedroom

Turns out, it isn't limited to the BDSM community.

Love & Relationships

If you're on the spectrum of kink or maybe you went down a Google rabbit hole at some point throughout the 50 Shades of Gray craze, you probably already have an inkling of what aftercare is. The best way I can describe what aftercare is, is an intimate check-in that occurs after any level of BDSM interaction has occurred. For every couple, it looks different, ranging from actions like washing one another or a sultry massage/rub down or even cuddling. It can even be verbally communicative, providing positive reinforcement and sharing how the interaction made you feel. In the kink community, aftercare is absolute and understandably so!

However, it never occurred to me that this practice should be normalized in a handful of potentially traumatic interactions that might take place in our romantic relationships. Well, until I saw a tweet that suggested it, that is! The tweet read:

"Aftercare in relationships, in general, isn't discussed enough. If we get into a huge fight, there needs to be aftercare. If we have some wild ass sex, there needs to be aftercare. If we have a series of super deep discussions, there needs to be aftercare."

I was immediately all snaps for this concept. Because, yes, arguments can absolutely be traumatic. Anything can become a traumatic experience if we don't take care.

What Is Aftercare?

In the same way that Black parents refer to their children's romantic partners as "little friends," you may have already been practicing aftercare without labeling it. Immediately, the "never go to bed angry" philosophy comes to mind and it's absolutely rooted in aftercare principles. The wise old adage acknowledges that while couples may not come to a consensus on whatever it is that has created a divide or tension, this disagreement doesn't mean that I'm loving or caring for you less. And it is often followed by a gesture that makes the sentiment actionable. Couples may kiss it out, hug it out, or even sex it out. They may simply say, "I love you." But, I wouldn't be opposed to us being more intentional about aftercare---calling a spade a spade and putting it into practice for better or worse. It would be a game-changer for intimacy in so many capacities but especially in strengthening nonsexual intimacy through facets such as communication. It provides a lofty opportunity to explore one another's love languages.

I say this given the rawness and vulnerability that likely follow acts like rough sex or a bad argument---acts that need to be validated---and the best way to validate a partner is caring for them through their love language. I've had plenty of disheartening arguments that left me wide-eyed, awake, and angry, perhaps even feeling like unwanted goods. And I've definitely felt like unwanted goods after having what I perceive as wild sex and not being properly cared for afterward---especially where hook-ups are concerned! A nigga just fucked me doggy style and the first thing they do is sit up, wipe their dick off with a worn shirt, and then throw their Timbs on? Oh, I'm for sure feeling some type of way.

And, therein lies the other piece of what aftercare in the kink scene gets right: it does not discriminate based on relationship status. Everyone gets aftercare, to not leave the experience feeling used and abused. It doesn't matter if you're romantically involved or solely sexual.

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The Importance Of Incorporating Aftercare Into Your Relationships

Put into practice, aftercare provides a safe space to speak on things that perhaps you all failed to communicate prior to sex. For example, if something during sex triggered you because you're coming from an abusive past and your partner touched you in a way that reminded you of said abuse, it opens the floor to speak on those things when the two of you come together for a moment afterward to check-in. While this may seem unlikely, especially when considering this is an actual scenario that might take place in a romantic relationship — unfortunately, the reality is that many couples struggle with communication and vulnerability in relationships — thus it wouldn't be far-fetched for either party to be triggered by rough sex or even regular sex where one touch threw the mood.

Whether we care to admit it or not, trauma is a subjective experience and maybe it's my own trauma speaking but it's pretty impossible to go through life never incurring any of the baggage that comes along with it. Sometimes we can prevent the creation of more or rehashing of old, unhealed trauma.

Introducing Aftercare To Your Partner

If you're interested in introducing aftercare to your partner, it's always suggested that you discuss it with them so that they are aware of the expectation that they will hopefully participate and reciprocate. But I also think it would be safe to introduce them to aftercare by simply doing a show-and-tell setup, if you will. If you know your partner's love language, try to tap into that when providing them with aftercare post-whatever — sex, deep dialogues, arguments — literally what.ever. This is especially encouraged if your partner's love language is anything other than "gift giving" and I only say that to acknowledge the others will be easier to integrate into aftercare since they don't require much premeditation.

If quality time is their love language, sit and play a game with them after a bad argument. Physical touch can be as simple as holding their hand, caressing their face, or giving them a long hug. Try words of affirmation like, "I appreciate that you were willing to share the deeper, more intimate parts of yourself with me tonight. It says so much about the man you are." (Hell, I'm convinced the way the male ego is set up, they all might be equipped with physical touch and words of affirmation as love languages.) And if your partner's love language is gift-giving, get creatively corny. Seriously, when has giving someone a key to your heart ever gone wrong?

Aftercare doesn't have to be over-thought nor difficult. It's actually just an extension of the things we already knew but with intention.

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