How can I relax, immediately after a hookup?
February 22, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I definitely don’t want, and am not ready for, a relationship. I do want a bit of fun now and then, except insomnia and overstimulation mix with a bit of post-coital anxiety and mess everything up. What are things I can do to soothe myself to sleep, so I can enjoy the evening I had?

I’ve enjoyed most things about FWBs, one-night stands, etc, which I only got into much after my last (terrible) relationship. I don’t wish for or expect more, except accidentally, via hormonal attachment, which I recognize (I cut off contact when that happens). And I’m fine the next day.

It’s just that immediately after sex – any sex; the best, most respectful sex, with the coolest, nicest guys I don’t want to date - I tend to get skittish. I know better, I do! but some part of me actually takes a kind of offense if he falls asleep straight afterwards. Or if there’s no chat (not after pillow talk, just a bit of friendly bullshit). Or if there’s too much chat, and it feels like things might be veering into relationship territory. Or if I’m not at all held or touched afterwards. Or if I’m held too tight. Or if there’s no room to stretch out my legs, or if dude sleeps all the way on the other edge of the bed.

The ideal: shooting the shit, for a teeny tiny while. Maybe just an arm flung over my shoulder. Maybe the odd cuddle.

But even with a perfect balance of space and faux intimacy, I can’t relax. I either wind up trying not to fidget and holding my breath until morning, or slipping out shortly afterwards. (I don’t like for people to come over to mine, either.)

Part of it is straight-up physical discomfort. I’m a lifelong insomniac, and getting to sleep is a battle, even when I’m on my own. I’ve always had a difficult time adjusting to the presence of another person in bed, even in the context of not-horrible relationships. But then I could just move to a couch if I had to, instead of hauling ass across town at great cost, in the middle of the night. (Which also precludes the possibility of further sessions over the evening, and making sure everyone had a good time.)

And sure, some of it is emotional business - responses to cues - creeping in, related to not wanting to feel dismissed (as I did, daily, for too long), or suffocated. Even though I know differently at the time, I’m not certain how much I emotionally understand that the guy next to me is not dismissing or invalidating me; that he's just tired and likes to sleep on his side. And I'm too awake to shake those kinds of stupid feeling-echoes off.

Again, I don’t care about any of it in the light of day, and I don’t often think about these people when they’re not around. Not even residually religious.

I’m in my mid-late 30s, straight, female, a few years out of a volatile LTR. I’ve been unemployed as long, & studying and caring in the meanwhile. For those and other reasons (like, pleasure in FREEDOM), I’m staying away from committed relationships. Once my life and career are sorted, I have more to offer, and I don't hate the idea of compromise, or worry about power struggles, I might think about opening it up to someone else, to whom I could explain things, adjust, etc. As things are, I’m very much uninterested in that (and, probably, anyone serious would feel the same about me). I just want to have some nice moments not ruined by this, while they’re still available to me. Celibacy isn't an option. Therapy isn't on the immediate horizon for financial reasons (free options didn't work out).
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You've ruled out therapy because you can't afford it, and the free options didn't work out. But you're trying to walk a tight-rope and you need some help managing it. That's why you've turned to AskMetafilter! And that's why you should probably pursue more therapeutic options. Therapy gives us the toolset to handle these kinds of situations.

Emotionally, you're not getting your needs met by these encounters. That's why you're feeling skittish. Your emotions might be conflicting, or mutually exclusive, and that's fine. That's another area where therapy helps.
posted by RainyJay at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about keeping a journal where you write about this sort of encounter? Keeping track of who it was, what make you want to go into the encounter, what happened and how you felt?
posted by BibiRose at 8:22 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you tried melatonin or Benadryl or other sleep aids? Or just basic relaxation tricks like taking long, slow breaths and counting each one? You say you have trouble getting to sleep even when you're alone -- what kind of things work for you then, and can't you still find a way to apply most of them with someone else there? That's where I'd start. For example, are you not getting your usual side of the bed? Little things like that can make a huge difference.
posted by pete_22 at 8:25 AM on February 22, 2013

Things you cannot control: other people's actions and attitudes.

Things you can control: how you express your needs.

There's nothing wrong with chatting up the "fall asleepers" before they fall asleep, throwing your arm around the non-cuddlers, asking the "hold tight-ers" to give you some room to breathe. There is absolutely nothing wrong about telling your FWBs and ONS what you like post-romp before you get into bed.
posted by Milau at 9:11 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Any chance of getting your sexytimes during the day? Cuddling & intimacy stuff you still have to deal with, but at least it would take sleep & insomnia out of the picture.
posted by tomboko at 9:25 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

I either wind up trying not to fidget and holding my breath until morning, or slipping out shortly afterwards

This is so common that my friends and I have a name for how we feel the next morning: hookup hangover. (So much worse when combined with an *actual* hangover.)

There's nothing weird or pathological about having a hard time sleeping in, essentially, a stranger's bed. Sex with new people is fucking awkward, man, even when you're not trying to walk an invisible line of faux-intimacy that never veers close to actual intimacy or away from it either...nobody can read minds, so everyone dances gingerly around the other person hoping not to offend/gross them out/freak them out. If you refuse to be involved with these people over time all you can do is spell out exactly how you want things to be and hope they'll be game.

But it seems like you're bringing A LOT of weight to what are supposed to be light, breezy encounters. I wonder if there's something else you could be doing to meet some of these needs, so that each of these hookups doesn't have to be so fraught. Example:

I just want to have some nice moments not ruined by this, while they’re still available to me.

Holy crap, that's heavy. Is there any way you could meditate on finality and transience and all that *separately,* so that each time you bang someone you don't have the inevitability of finality hanging over it like a sword of damocles?

Finally: you may need to accept that this phase you're in does something that you enjoy and which is good for you, but it might not ever quite meet all your needs, no matter how much you try to hack it.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:29 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Look over, make eye contact, smile sweetly, say, "That was awesome, yo. Now let's cuddle and chat for a few minutes, and then roll over to our own sides of the bed to get some sleep. Oh and please don't worry if I eventually head to the couch or go home... I’m a lifelong insomniac, and getting to sleep is a battle, even when I’m on my own. Sound okay to you?" End with a smooch.

The awesome thing about these kinds of no/few-strings-attached deals is that being totally blunt and upfront with your needs has few repercussions. If he reacts in a way that makes you feel shitty, then no biggie: head home and cross him off the list for next time.
posted by juliplease at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't like sleeping in bed with people, never have. I have my own room and I'm happily married (probably because I have my own room and my own bed!)

So plan to leave after the hook up. Say it up front, and then dip out when you're ready.

No law says you have to hang around.

To paraphrase Stephen Pearl, "I wish my one-night-stands would turn into pizzas so I could be alone with my record collection."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:52 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make going home after sex the rule, rather than the exception. These are casual hook-ups, there's no problem with saying, "Hey, I can't stay over afterwards. I need to get some good sleep before work tomorrow."

Nobody is going to *expect* you to sleep well at a place that isn't "home" for you, and by saying it brief and matter-of-fact up front, you take away the "what now?" anxiety of the post-coital moments. You can still shoot the shit and laze around naked for a few minutes, but you both know that it's temporary. No need to be hyper-aware of what it is or how long it's lasting.

Then you get the comfort of your own bed. :)
posted by itesser at 10:05 AM on February 22, 2013

1.) you seem to be very anxious about many things that are out of your control. You seem to want everything "just so" in many aspects of your life, and can't relax or move on or commit or whatever until they are sorted out. I think you need to find ways to work on your anxiety in general. Meditate, do yoga, avoid caffeine, take long walks, eat well, get massages, let go of things you can't orchestrate to the tiniest detail.

2.) Have sex during the day.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2013

Yeah, I sleep really badly with strangers - I didn't like the 'get up and go home' aspect because it felt kind of cold. But in my present situation I love it. I get to sleep properly, and I get to make myself a big post-sex sandwich once he's gone home.
posted by poissonrouge at 3:55 PM on February 22, 2013

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