Alan Bernstein understood. He wrote the lyrics to the 1976 song “After the Lovin’,” recorded by Englebert Humperdinck:
So I sing you to sleep
After the lovin’
With a song I just wrote yesterday
And I hope you can hear
What the words and the music have to say.
It’s so hard to explain
Everything that I’m feelin’
Face to face I just seem to go dry.
But I love you so much
That the sound of your voice can get me high.
Thanks for takin’ me
On a one way trip to the sun.
And thanks for turnin’ me
So I sing you to sleep
After the lovin’
I brush back the hair from your eyes.
And the love on your face
Is so real that it makes me want to cry.
And I know that my song
Isn’t sayin’ anything new.
Oh, but after the lovin’
I’m still in love with you.
There’s an old joke that after sex, men simply roll over and fall asleep. That’s not entirely true. But if that’s what happening every time in a marriage, the couple is missing out on another opportunity to bond — after the lovin’.
So what does or should happen after you make love?
Spouses vary on what they desire, but it’s good to consider what can reinforce their sense of intimacy. Let’s start with a little primer about your brain.
This is your brain.
This is your brain on sex.
During sex (especially orgasm) and afterward, the brain releases the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin, which produce feelings of connectedness and contentment. Hello, soufflé! We go to a happy place in our minds and hearts, and these chemicals are responsible for what scientists call “pair-bonding.” Pair-bonding is the glue of monogamy — that sense of you-and-me, we-belong-together, I-only-have-eyes-for-you. So it’s not surprising that after some good lovin’, our bodies may feel awash in satisfaction.
Which sometimes leads to…
Zzzzzz . . . sleepytime. Some husbands, and some wives, do want to roll over and go to sleep immediately after sex. And it’s not usually because they want to be done with their spouse. Their bodies are exhausted and sated, and they feel so good and relaxed that it’s natural to slip into slumber. Now this may not be a good idea if you’re married to someone who wants to chat or cuddle, but it is understandable. Of course, if you both want to journey into dreamland, knock yourselves out. (Not literally, of course; the sex will have done that for you.)
Snuggle bunnies. Some couples love to extend their hands-on time with cuddling, stroking, etc. They fold their bodies together and snuggle like bunnies. One typical post-sex position is spooning, in which one spouse is backed up against the other. But other embraces are common. What matters is the skin-to-skin contact that continues beyond lovemaking. Indeed, that flesh-on-flesh also produces oxytocin and lowers the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body. So it’s no surprise that snuggling is an outgrowth of sex for many couples. It keeps the bonding going.
Talk that pillow talk. The reduction of stress, the lowering of blood pressure, the release of oxytocin and endorphins, the general sense of closeness and well-being — all of these can contribute to more intimate conversation after sex. This is often referred to as “pillow talk.” Your honey may drip words like honey — sweet nothings oozing from his mouth about how much he loves you, how beautiful you are, how awesome that felt, etc. Or the conversation may run deeper, one or both spouses desiring to reveal more of themselves now that they feel connected, vulnerable, safe. It’s also possible the excitement of sex just has you two chatting about this, that, or the other. Maybe you even crack a few private jokes, and this time he laughs at your brilliant sense of humor. However it happens, the intimacy of sex can spill over into the verbal part of your relationship, expressed with some much-appreciated pillow talk.
I’m so hungry now! Some of us get hungry afterward. Possibly even ravenous. A case of the munchies post-coitus is not uncommon. You might even crave something specific. Like a double-decker brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce. You can ignore the cravings or simply head to the kitchen for whatever will make those pangs of hunger go away. If you don’t want to miss the other stuff — cuddling, talking, and eventually sleep — you can bring your food back to the bed. A few crumbs in the sheets won’t hurt. You were probably going to wash those sheets anyway, right?
Whatever you choose to do, consider your mate. Maybe you don’t feel the need to cuddle much, but a few minutes of snuggle time would mean so much to her. Maybe talking afterward doesn’t occur to you, but he needs you to listen and respond. Maybe you aren’t that hungry, but she could use a little help eating that double-decker brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Those moments right after sex can prolong the feelings of intimacy you experience in lovemaking. For many wives in particular, continuing to find ways to connect lets us know the lovemaking was about more than the physical release of sex and climax — that it truly is about becoming one flesh.
Now, it’s your turn: What do you do “after the lovin'”? How important is the time after sex to you and your spouse?