You think, “Finally, no more lonely nights with nothing more than a pillow and my cat to cuddle up next to.” And then the big night arrives: You make passionate sweet love for the first time.
After a mutually satisfying orgasm, your lover dismounts. But before you can maneuver your hot sticky body next to theirs to form a single post-coital spooning unit, he/she moves over to the other side of the bed and kicks the sheets off. Same thing happens the next few nights you spend together.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario, it may be time to face facts: your partner doesn’t like to spoon.
For some die-hard spooners, this may be a deal-breaker. But according Marilee Sigal, a Vancouver-based relationship and sex therapist, it doesn’t have to be.
“We all have a balance of the need for autonomy and the need for closeness and people just have different degrees of that,” says Sigal. “There are people who can commit very deeply, but also just need more personal space. So I see it as more of a temperamental difference than anything else.
“However,” she continues, “people who have a really high need for emotional reassurance or physical reassurance might take their partner’s low need for [cuddling] personally and they get hurt — rather than just seeing it as a difference in personality. And that is when it can be a problem.”
She also points out that spooners should keep in mind there are many reasons people don’t like to cuddle after sex. For some, the sexual experience is so intense that creating space is just a way to regulate the emotional flooding they may be experiencing afterward. For others, it could be a simple case of being literally too hot to handle.
So before you accuse someone of having intimacy issues, you might want to figure out where they’re coming from first. Because it can be a sensitive issue for new partners and since every relationship is different, Sigal suggests you take the following steps to reconcile your post-coital cuddling practices.
If you’re a natural-born spooner and your partner isn’t, the last thing you want to do is go postal with it. Instead, step back and chill out. Acting on highly emotive knee-jerk reactions could trigger a fight-or-flight response from your cuddle-weary partner. So try deep-breathing, taking a bath, calling a friend — anything to silence the insecure voices that may start chattering in your head.
“A lot of it has to do with the kind of self talk that says, ‘I’m OK. You’re OK. My god, we just made love, so there’s some evidence that we are connected. Things are good,’” says Sigal before adding,”Once the physiology cools down, you’ll be able to think more clearly.”
Talk to Your Partner
Once you feel grounded again, it’s probably safe to broach the subject and figure out once and for all if there is hope of finding a middle ground.
“It depends how your partner responds,” warns Sigal. “If your partner says, ‘Oh I didn’t know. Nobody has ever wanted it. I could do that’ — great. But if your partner says, ‘Well, what’s wrong with you? You’re too needy’ and starts to name-call in response, then you may have a relational problem rather than a personal problem.”
Don’t Take it Personally
This one may be easier said than done for some. If you’re forced to wrap your loving arms around your quilt and prop your head on a pillow (as oppose to your lover’s chest), you may fall into the trap of thinking, “Um, what’s wrong with me?” But it’s important to remember it’s not always about you. And understanding why your partner isn’t down for a sticky post-coital snuggle is a great start to grasping that concept. Plus, if you ask the question, who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised by the answer.
“Some people just feel so fulfilled by the experience,” says Sigal. “They’re done. They don’t need more. They’re filled up. So in some ways, it’s a really good thing, right?”
Factor In the Rest of the Relationship
OK, he/she doesn’t like an après-sex cooing session. If they show you great signs of affection in other areas of your relationship, what does it matter? So, for example, if your non-spooner clears the dishes without asking, sends just-because flowers and offers a shoulder to cry on when you need it, you might have yourself a keeper.
“[Look at] what else is going on inside the relationship outside the bedroom,” suggests Sigal. “Is this a theme? Are you saying well, ‘He or she is never really there for me and I never feel reassured?’ Or is it a case of everything else is great – and this [no spooning thing] is the only thing that feels like a loss. In which case, it’s really not indicative of a pattern and you can put it into perspective.”