Courage, Integrity, and After-Care Respect

A fellow burner introduced me to the concept of after-care. It seems to me, at least emotionally, that was just the way you respect another human being. However, I have learned through experience that a good deal of people just don’t think that way or, worse, they just don’t care.

This man is part of the BDSM community, something I only know about through friends’ description. Although I did go to my first dungeon at Burning Man. It was quite interesting. I had no idea so much went on in a public setting like that. And they had this wonderful contraption called a pony.

I digress. Imagine that.

Still, this man told me about after-care, which is checking in with a partner to ensure something wasn’t triggered or boundaries weren’t crossed during a BDSM encounter. Whether a one night stand or someone the person frequently “plays” with, after-care is an important part of the BDSM lifestyle. My new burner friend even has calling cards, so it’s very easy to get in touch with him, even after the most casual encounter.

Here’s a challenge: 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. Whether it is a one night stand (ONS), a short fling, a short-term relationship (STR), or a long-term relationship (LTR), after-care is essential in ensuring that your loved one is okay.

It is a way to show respect.
It is a way to show love.
It is a way to show that you are not a monster exploiting the other person for their genitals and ejaculatory means.

Just think, if we took as much time in ending a relationship as we do when starting one, there would be far fewer broken hearts, far fewer traumatized and scarred people, and far fewer “misunderstandings” when it comes to sexual assault.**

So let us all adopt an emotional after-care policy and check in with our partners no matter how short or long-lived the relationships were. Treat everyone with whom we become intimate as special, because they are. They are now lovers, whether you have sex with them once or 100 times. They are lovers. Let’s treat them as such.

Put the love back into the word lover, and treat them with respect.

The most dominant partner takes on the responsibility of checking in for after-care.

Here is what that might look like:

A day or two after a ONS: “I know we agreed that our encounter was just a casual one-time thing,” (because you did, right? As emotionally responsible and ethical people…) “but I wanted to check in with you to make sure you are okay and that I didn’t inadvertently cross any boundaries or have any misunderstandings between us. I also wanted to let you know that you, too, didn’t cross any of my boundaries. In fact it was a beautiful evening. And although it was just that night, I will remember it and you very fondly. If anything comes up for you in the future, please don’t hesitate to call me. Thank you for such a lovely time.”

If, by chance, this wonderful gesture inspires a response from the other person to take things further, you can see if you want to at that point, but if it was truly a ONS for you, for whatever reason, just reiterate the initial agreement with compassion and respect, not condescension. “We had the agreement for one night because it’s all I can offer you at this time.” It might sting a little, although unlikely, but even if it does, it’s better than hurting them worse down the line by getting into something you don’t have the time, interest, or energy for. And do ensure to say “all I can offer YOU” at this time, for you might have a more intimate, committed relationship with someone else.

Don’t want to deal with “drama“? Just want to get laid? Hire a sex-worker and conduct a business transaction instead of sexually exploiting another person, especially if you lie and mislead them and say anything necessary to get laid. How disgusting.

Relationships with people contain drama, whether it’s short-lived or long term. People have baggage, insecurities, fears, hopes, dreams, desires, misunderstandings. It’s all part of being human. Accept it. Learn to cope with it and handle it gracefully, with compassion, courage, and integrity.

After a STR, in which you may or may not have been intimate, “These last few weeks/months have been a lot of fun, and I’ve so enjoyed my time with you! We knew going into this that it would be short lived,” (because you did set those parameters at the beginning, right? And you’ve stuck with them and/or communicated openly about any changes along the way in your feelings and/or intentions.) “and I feel like this has run its course. I’d like to keep seeing you for a few weeks to wind down, so that neither of us feels just cast aside. That time may or my not include sex between us, as we’ll take that as we go, but during that time I won’t start seeing anyone new. This time together has been so wonderful and beautiful, and I want to ensure we end things with compassion and respect for both our sakes.”

NOTE: this works if it was established as a casual, short-term relationship, if that didn’t change and deeper feelings didn’t develop on either side, or if they started to on one or the other side, you discussed it and re-established boundaries/intentions. This DOES NOT work if you intended a casual, short-term relationship and you fell in love, and discussed that along the way as it happened, if you expressed love and depth for each other, and if the relationship took a deeper, more intimate path than either was anticipating. If that’s the case, although it was established as such, the nature of the relationship changed and was communicated as such along the way. You ensured both of you were on the same page as you continued, then you cannot end things so casually or matter-of-factly without causing the other person great harm. If love and deep intimacy was expressed/experienced, don’t insult them by treating your change of emotions or doubts as no-big-deal-this-was-casual-anyway.

Find some courage.
Have some integrity.
Show some respect and compassion.

After a LTR or a deeply intimate and loving STR, which hopefully has slowly evolved if you both have remained open and honest with each other throughout the relationship and any changes/insecurities that have popped up, so a split shouldn’t come out of left field. Say something like this, “We’ve had our ups and downs just like any relationship, and I’ve learned so much from you. I hope you can say the same. I love you, and this will likely be a very painful transition for us both, but I’d like to minimize that pain as much as possible. It’s a difficult thing, to separate two lives that have become so deeply intertwined. There is a delicate balance between finding our own path and supporting someone we love so very much. So, I propose this: Let’s talk this through, no matter how many hours it takes, take responsibility for ourselves and care for the other. Let’s find initial closure. Then, go a week with no contact and check in. There is no ball that’s in my court or your court. We’re equal partners in this just as we’ve always been. If you need reassurance or support, call or text, and I’ll do the same, but the goal is to gradually and lovingly separate our lives on this level. I won’t start to see anyone new during this transition, and I’ll ask the same courtesy from you. After the first week, we’ll check in and if all is well, try two weeks until we work up to a month. That time apart will help us each establish our own independence from the other while understanding that the love we feel for each other hasn’t disappeared, just evolved. At that point, a few months from now, we can begin to date new people again with full support and understanding for the other, and we can maintain a special relationship on a different level. There is no reason that after meaning so much to each other we have to disappear from the others’ life.”

This is conscious, compassionate, committed loving.

Turning on a dime in the middle of a deeply loving relationship is selfish and cruel. Period. Your lack of self-awareness shouldn’t result in the devastation of another life. Be honest with yourself and be honest with your partner. That’s what the polyamorous lifestyle is about. That is what will improve relationships whether monogamous or non-monogamous.

Find some courage.
Have some integrity.
Show some respect and compassion.

Cheating on someone is selfish and cruel. Period. See above.

Deciding you want to end a relationship and not letting your partner in on this very important decision is selfish and cruel. So many people do this with the excuse “I don’t want to hurt them.” Well, you are hurting them while taking the easy road for yourself. When you take this route, you get the luxury of mourning the relationship while you’re still in the relationship. When you end it, you’re done. Moving on. Fucking someone new. The other person gets hit with a brick wall and has to mourn alone while you go off with your new lover. It’s selfish, cowardly, and cruel. I have little respect for people who end relationships this way.

Find some courage.
Have some integrity.
Show some respect and compassion.

The only exception to any of these above scenarios should be when abuse is present. If you are in an abusive relationship, get out. Period. Although it still will likely ease your own pain if you find a way to ease out of it, but if the abuse is severe and your partner is a highly manipulative abuser and/or someone without the capacity for empathy, then just get away.

Most of us in sex-positive communities are compassionate, loving, open people who hold honesty and integrity in high regard. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do. Guess what, neither does your partner. Show your vulnerability and express your empathy. There are so many wonderful ways to end a relationship with love and respect.

Of course relationships end. Of course one risks a broken heart when one loves. Of course there is pain when it ends.

But there is a huge difference between being disappointed or hurt at the end of a relationship and being devastated and shattered to the point where you cannot properly function. That can be avoided with a little time, compassion, and integrity.

Broken hearts at that level are quite unnecessary.

-_Q

**As far as “misunderstandings” about sexual assault and rape, this is a very dangerous topic and a slippery slope. I think, by far, the people who rape know they are committing rape, even though they are loathe to call it that. There are far too many people and communities who will euphemize rape and rapists by saying so-and-so “has issues with boundaries” …but, of course, s/he’s “working on it” while their former partners struggle with the aftermath of being sexually, psychologically, and spiritually violated. Still, as I stated in The Power of Responsibility, how one responds to a rape accusation is very important, indeed. This is, of course, not valid in the case of stereotypical stranger rape or extremely violent acquaintance or partner rape. This is sexual assault and rape where it’s often mistaken as “things getting carried away” or “he just couldn’t help himself.” Well, s/he could help himself, and things likely didn’t get carried away. S/he knew what they were doing…and if not, that’s when after-care becomes very important.

Take responsibility for your actions, and if your actions or lack of self-awareness or self-control or presence in the situation caused another person emotional or psychological damage, step-the-fuck up and be a wo/man. Take responsibility for the pain you caused, whether purposely or inadvertently. If you do, it will be healing for you and for the person harmed. If you do, it will be more believable that it was a mistake or misunderstanding. If you do, you show that you are a loving, caring human being who values the other human being and their heart more than your own ego.

~ by omgrey on September 19, 2012.

14 Responses to “Courage, Integrity, and After-Care Respect”

  1. Love this, O. I wish everyone would read/follow these guidelines. I know I would have been a much healthier (emotionally & physically).

    • Thanks, Tiffany. You and me, both.

      Perhaps it’s just a matter of education and supplying “tools,” like these examples.

      But, I guess I’m no longer naive enough to believe that. In many cases, it is about communication and relationship skills. In far too many cases, however, hearts are broken by people who just don’t give a fuck about anyone but themselves. When it comes down to it, it’s only their ease and comfort that matters, even when such small gestures, a modicum of self-awareness, and loving compassion could save someone so much pain.

      Thank you for your response.

  2. I bet you didn’t expect to hear from me on this one, huh? (wink) Thank you so much for sharing this correct perspective on highly organized, engaged, and experienced TRUE BDSM’rs! You put a smile on my face and did your part on projecting the correct picture of true BDSM: respect. Glad you met your new Burner friend. 🙂

    • It’s always a pleasure to hear from you, Professor. I’m so pleased you approve.

      • If I may Grey, I want to add that if a male Dom has not, does not, or will not “play” in a public dungeon, this should be a quick red-flag, at least a yellow-flag. If there is still interest & attraction to the “private male Dom” after this flag, then necessary precautions are applied, e.g. time consuming public meetings or community references. The critical key concept is safety.

        Really, this treatment & process can be applied in all sex-positive or mainstream communities as you’ve mentioned Grey. The extreme explicit and consensual ‘violent’ activities in BDSM — public or private — typically do not take place until much, much later in the relationship; once a healthy rapport is firmly established and safety has been thoroughly discussed, agreed upon, & expected. This is where trust begins and is developed….and in time developed extensively, especially for the more extreme scenes. Unfortunately, I see & hear too many incidents of impatience, resulting in some form & level of harm. On the positive side, the long awaited benefits of BDSM are life-changing because you both have reached a zone of comfort, trust, & safety to literally live out your wildest fantasies. A point in a person’s life that most people rarely or never reach.

        Okay, done. Spoke my heart on something I’m passionate about. Apologies Grey for rambling. :/

      • Not at all, Professor. Me and my readers appreciate your input, as an experienced Dom.

        Might I add, that often the “boundary crossing” (euphemism for assault and in some cases rape) can also occur after this trust is established, making the assault and betrayal that much more damaging. Of course mistakes are sometimes made, which is why, as I mentioned, after-care is so very important in this, as in all aspects of relationships.

      • Absolutely agree! This is why I thoroughly enjoy the open/swinger, polyamorous, & BDSM lifestyles: they often ‘challenge’ a person’s & couple’s boundaries & comfort zones, typically revealing a person’s true color under pressure, discomfort, & unrealized fears. Great post Grey!

      • Pushing boundaries and revealing Insecurities are wonderful, if done in a loving, compassionate, and supportive place.

        I find having to make these caveats all the time now after being with someone who talks the talk, but is not loving nor compassionate when it comes to genuine fears and emotions. Basically, who doesn’t come from a place of integrity or love. Rather, he was selfish, cruel, and belittling. And that was all expertly disguised as affection and “love,” even before the rape.

  3. […] by violating their boundaries, even inadvertently. And if you do, own it. Fix it. Apologize for it. Through your responsibility and compassion, you will help your LOVER heal, your community will respect you more, and you will grow as a loving, sex-positive human […]

  4. […] is where personal responsibility and integrity come into […]

  5. […] you can offer and honest (and courageous) enough to communicate that effectively. Always practice after-care with integrity and […]

  6. […] Original Blog Post […]

  7. […] Courage, Integrity, & After-Care Respect […]

  8. […] Brilliant post below, one of many in Thomas’s series “There’s a War On” on Yes Means Yes. In this one he talks about consent, blowing boundaries, and the importance of After-Care Respect. […]

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