After Care and Self Care In ENM, Poly & Swinging
If you’ve been in a monogamous relationship or have been single and then got into ENM, you probably feel that new relationships take up a lot of your energy and time. As a result, you might have little to no time to yourself. Even if ENM has been part of you for years or decades, you know that sometimes, time for yourself can be pretty limited. It’s quite possible you might have developed some after care and self care routines but are they still adequate for your new ENM, Poly or Swinging lifestyle?
For instance, if you’re polyamorous, you spend much of your time with your partners or plan how to fit your new partners into your schedule. While all these activities mean you have some more excitement to look forward to, it’s also essential to take stock of ourselves before and after. While after-care and self-care aren’t a reserve of ENM relationships, the truth is that immersion in different sexual or romantic relationships can leave you feeling emotionally charged.
This is especially true if you’re new to the ENM lifestyle or still relying on previous relationship rules that don’t align with your current ENM dynamic. When you’ve got little or no time to look after yourself due to your commitments to other people, you and those around you could experience conflicts and difficulties. Many people in ENM relationships do not realize how valuable it is to pause and practice self care of themselves before and after experiences with their partner.
Luckily, this is why we’re here. So far, we’ve covered:
- The difference between open relationships, polyamory, and swinging
- Unicorn hunting and why it’s usually unethical in ENM
- Communication in ethical non-monogamy
… and so much more in other articles! If you’re just getting started, you can also check out tips for beginners getting into the swinging lifestyle!
With that out of the way, let’s get started. So, why should we develop after care and self care in ENM, Poly or Swinging dynamics?
Table of Contents
Generally, after care can be described as how you process and learn from different scenarios and experiences while ensuring you’re still in a good place emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or physically. For instance, during aftercare, you reflect on different situations and ask yourself relevant questions about those experiences. Is there anything that went well?
If something didn’t go well, how do you learn and grow from that scenario? Do you feel like your needs were met? How about your boundaries, were they respected? While aftercare might seem to be a selfish activity, there is a lot partners can enjoy after. For instance, take the example of a BDSM scene.
While this might not necessarily be part of an ENM relationship, typical aftercare could involve the submissive getting wrapped in a warm blanket and served something to drink with or without a small snack. The reason for this could be to ensure that they bring their blood sugar levels up to normal or for the dominant to reassure the submissive through cuddling and saying positive things.
In polyamory, after care is essential for successful reconnection. For instance, if your primary partner is out seeing another partner, after care could look like them coming home and making time to cuddle, sit down together, or take a bath together. Remember that after care doesn’t have to involve a partner- you can do it on your own.
Commit to extending after care into other lifestyles, both sex-positive and mainstream. After all, it is only common courtesy and respect to check in with someone with whom you have been intimate. (Grey)
You or your partner doing things with someone else is an emotional experience on its own. It can trigger your insecurities, make you feel uncomfortable, jealous, or more. Just like when coming out of a BDSM scene, having access to support or reassurance can alleviate the negative feelings that come up. It’s the same kind of winding down or ‘taking stock’ you need to do after an emotional experience.
Below are some excellent examples of after care rituals…
Spending time alone
After a scenario, you might feel like you need some time alone to decompress. That’s ok. Some people might take time to reflect on the experience and evaluate what it means to them. Whatever alone time might mean for you, it’s important to indulge so you can reconnect with yourself.
Getting out in nature
Nature can do wonders for your soul. If an experience was emotionally draining, going out in nature can help you feel energized and rejuvenated.
We all know about this one. A soothing bath can help you come down from the high of a scenario. It will help you relax, take care of your body, and you can even have a glass of your favorite wine with you!
It might look like a lot of work, but journaling can help you put your thoughts into perspective. If you’re confused about something or think that a boundary might have been crossed, here’s your chance to pen it down and come up with ways to address it.
If you’ve had an experience with multiple people, you know how emotional it can get afterward. Cuddling can help alleviate any feelings of self-doubt, or body image issues that you might have after
Reconnecting with a partner
If your relationship has a hierarchy, it’s always important to reconnect with your primary partner. For some people, this might look like a few hours together doing nothing but talking about the experience. For others, it might look like enjoying a common hobby together.
Self care is what you do to ensure you present your best self mentally, emotionally, and physically, so you are at peace with everything you do. Self care can mean different things for different people. While others might not think it’s vital, others can take it to mean defining and establishing boundaries, or engaging in activities that will help you take off the pressure of being the best lover or partner you could ever be.
While everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, requires self-care. “When it comes to non-monogamy, “hinge” partners – folks who find themselves the common denominator between two or more partners – and AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) people oftentimes take on the most time, energy, and labor in relationships. Anyone who has been socialized female is no stranger to the practice of training women to be the soothers, the negotiators, the mediators, the organizers.” (Shakti)
Self care in such situations is important to give yourself time and space to reconnect with yourself, or the things you like to do. Not only does it give you a base to come back to, it also allows you to recharge so that you can always present the best of yourself.
“Self care really has little to do with the self once the results are in. From the depths of spirituality to the shallowest thoughts like how pleasant a healthy person is to look at, self-care positively affects everything in life. When you find yourself in a healthy and happy place you’ll desperately want to share the secrets of your joy with everyone around you.” (Chris)
Below are some of the ways you can practice self care…
Spending time alone is powerful. If you haven’t utilized this tool before, you might feel a little anxious about practicing it. However, the more you practice being alone, the better you get at it. Pretty soon, you will start to enjoy your alone time. Use this time to get away and enjoy your hobbies or just relax on the couch while watching movies. Learning to enjoy your own company is empowering. Through this, you can learn how to motivate yourself to do things independently rather than relying on a partner for company all the time.
Pamper and spoil yourself
Pampering and spoiling yourself doesn’t have to involve robbing the bank or emptying your entire wallet. You could sign-up for a meditation class, or do it in the comfort of your own, watch an extra episode of your favorite show, or drink a full glass of wine. Pampering yourself could even look like sleeping in for a few more minutes when you can, or indulging in a few pages of your favorite book. Whatever it is that you consider pampering and spoiling yourself, embrace it and love yourself for it!
Create a community for yourself
While it’s great having a polycule that can support you or give you extra attention when you need it, there’s nothing wrong with having friends that will be there when you need them. Ask one of your friends to be your accountability partner when on the path to taking better care of yourself.
Spend more time with your family and platonic friends
You need to feed the other relationships in your circle too. Remember that each relationship you have in your life meets a different need. If need be, ask them not to talk about dating and relationships so that you’re not back to what you’re trying to take a breather from. Nurture these relationships as much as you can or the same way you would with a romantic partner or love interest.
While communication and consent are vital parts of any ENM relationship, they aren’t enough to keep you going. Sometimes, all you need is a little time to reflect and regroup.
Chris. Self Care for the Polyamous Lover. Feb 2020. 21 July 2022.
Grey, O.M. Courage, Intergrity, and After Care Respect. n.d. 21 July 2022.
Shakti, Andre. Self Care and Open Relationships: A Manual. 4 September 2017. 21 July 2022.