The first time it happened, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. My partner and I had just had some pretty wild sex, and after catching out breath, we were shifting around in bed to snuggle when a tear rolled down my cheek. My guy reached over to brush it away, but when I looked up, I saw that his eyes had welled up too. Before I knew it, another few drops slid down my face. What was going on? We’d just had awesome sex. Why the hell were we crying?
My partner and I are that couple: we cry after sex, though I do most of it. Even a few years after getting together and getting hitched, my now-husband and I still occasionally turn on the waterworks after we do the deed. Don’t get me wrong; we aren’t sad. We’re usually a mix of relieved, content, and post-orgasmic giddy. We’re also aware of just how lucky we are, and sometimes our emotions run so high that it comes out in unexpected ways. The sheer joy of being together, which I readily admit sounds sickeningly perfect, actually comes from a far-from-ideal past that we’ve both spent a long time working to overcome.
I’d like to pretend that I only get a little weepy after sex for positive reasons, but the truth is a whole lot more complicated than that. After privately enduring a sexually abusive relationship during my teenage years, my early 20s were filled with some pretty terrible couplings. I hadn’t yet dealt with the fact that my first sexual experiences were non-consensual and rather frightening, let alone hidden from most of my friends. At the time, I was actually thankful my boyfriend (now better known as my abuser) had pummeled my self-esteem rather than my face. I somehow thought I’d gotten out lucky compared to what a lot of women survive, as if there’s some hierarchy of pain and suffering when it comes to abuse. Obviously, there was a lot of damage to be undone.
I went through a modest share of boyfriends in my mid-20s, most of whom seemed particularly focused on sex in one way or another — probably because I didn’t want to have much. I was working at a rape crisis center, starting to put names and labels on what had happened to me, and I wasn’t particularly interested in furthering my own pain until I’d exorcised a few of my demons.
It didn’t really matter when I set limits or shared my story though; one boyfriend, who had initially been supportive of my past, berated me for never going down on him when we broke up after two months, as if I’d failed some sort of sexual abuse survivor litmus test. A year later, my first really serious boyfriend told me after we’d been having sex for a few months that he didn’t really love me after all and had just been using me. Under normal circumstances, this might have been troubling, even heart-breaking, but for me, it was absolutely devastating. Talk about wanting to cry after sex — for all the wrong reasons.
Fast forward past a couple of years of intense therapy and not a whole lot of dating (at least not with any success); I fell for my now-husband after a lengthy friendship. We’d both had remarkably few sexual partners in the past — few like count ‘em on one hand, if not one finger — so it was pretty surprising to everyone, especially us, when we jumped into bed together within days of hooking up. No doubt because we’d known one another for a while, we were instantly compatible, in and out of the bedroom. I was shocked; not only was I finally in a fun and intimate relationship, I was with someone who could accept my limitations, genuinely please me, and was equally pleasured by me. As a result, it ended up seeming really normal when we both got emotional about finally, finally finding a compatible, loving partner.
I’m not attempting to pathologize anyone who gets a little choked up after sex. A whole host of sentimental types — myself included — get pretty overwhelmed by the range of emotions that spill over into post-coital snuggles, smokes, snacks, or well, whatever you do after sex. My point is that particularly for someone who was never fully certain that satisfying partner sex was in the cards, getting it on without reservations continues to be an powerful experience. After being treated like a frigid unlovable gal by most men I’d cared about, a few years of multiple and mutual orgasms with my guy still feels like a serious achievement in both intimacy and passion. I’m also reassured when my tough guy with a sensitive side gets a little weepy too. No one wants to cry alone, especially not naked!
Let’s clear up one other misconception: I don’t just cry after sex. During and after foreplay and sex, my partner and I spend a lot of time making jokes, laughing, shrieking, and even just talking. Just because things can get intensely serious doesn’t mean that isn’t just one part of the whole package, so to speak. Sometimes we have to jump up and get back to work. Sometimes the cat is watching, or someone has to pee, and off we go, the mood broken almost immediately. But sometimes, we both take a minute to realize that we got pretty lucky, and share in our momentary sappiness. The freedom to be emotionally intimate, to even get a little misty-eyed once in a while, is what ultimately bonds us. To me, that’s worth a few potentially embarrassing tears.