Managing the ‘Drop’

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Dear Elizabeth,

I am really enjoying your new column. The relationship escalator article really spoke to me and is something I learned when I entered an amazing dominant/submissive relationship. When I divorced, I knew I wanted to explore kink because I always had fantasies about being tied down and spanked. For the first time in my life, I am now in a relationship based on total trust, honesty, and communication. This leads me to my question. Every time we are together, whether in the dungeon or doing something else, my feelings toward her and the emotional intimacy we share leads me to have drop for the next few days. I’m still able to function, but the next morning I’m on the couch in a blanket reminiscing about our time together feeling a little blue or down. She gives me the support I need to get through this, but I was curious if it is normal to feel this way and if you could give me any advice to help me through it?

Devoted But Dropped


Dear Dropped,

I am happy to hear the column has been helpful to you and congratulations on finding a partnership based on mutual trust and acceptance. That’s a goal many people have, but often it can be a struggle to find. It sounds like you’re aware of this and are putting in the work to maintain the relationship in a healthy way. What you’re describing is a common phenomenon that has been given different terms over the years.

Within the kink community, people use the term “drop” to describe the crash of body chemicals and emotions that happen after a particularly intense or happy experience. It’s easy to explain this phenomenon using science: during powerful moments of pain or pleasure, our bodies release all sorts of endorphins including adrenaline.

Endorphins are one reason people enjoy masochistic activities. Pain hurts, and our bodies are usually trained to avoid it, but there are certainly exceptions to the rule. People choose to engage in painful activities for all sorts of reasons. As a kid in ballet class, we were taught the difference between good pain and bad pain in our bodies and told to lean into the good pain to become better dancers. Marathon runners do this too, pushing through the difficulties using their bodies’ natural chemicals to continue to run. There’s a great book on this subject called Hurts So Good by Leigh Cowart. It might be of interest to you.

When we have exhilarating experiences, our bodies bathe in these feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters. Your heart rate goes up and adrenaline increases. If you’re doing these things with a partner, your body produces oxytocin as a bonding hormone. It’s only logical that when the fun time is over and your body returns to its baseline level of these chemicals, it will feel a little low in comparison.

People in the kink community refer to this as sub drop (when it happens to a submissive) or top drop (when it happens to a dominant). But they aren’t alone in having this experience. I’ve coached couples in long-distance relationships who struggle with drop after spending a whirlwind week together. They go back to their normal lives wherever they live, far apart from one another, and they crash from a combination of missing each other and lower endorphins and neurotransmitters. Outside of intimate partnerships, drop happens with other fun events and hobbies. Ever go on a great vacation, make tons of fun memories, then be too beat to drag yourself out of bed when you’re back home? That’s not just jet lag, it’s also drop. Ever nail your presentation at a work convention, feel super confident, then be depressed as heck the next day? Drop. We’ve all been there.

My advice for managing drop is twofold. Lean into the support of the people who care about you and focus your stress energy on future plans and fun. When long-distance couples are apart, or dominant/submissive (D/s) partners like you are struggling, it’s a big help to simply be able to acknowledge your feelings and talk to your partner about them. Getting it out in the open is a huge first step to improving how you feel. It’s likely your partner is having a similar experience, and it can be beneficial to check in with one another about how things are going. I recommend long-distance couples always set a date on the calendar for a call or Zoom time a day or two after returning home. It gives them something to look forward to.

Similarly, planning the next fun activity or setting the next goal helps manage hobby or work-related drop for all of us. If you felt good about your work presentation, what’s your next big project? How can you occupy your brain with planning instead of stressing? If you just had your first skydiving experience and loved it, how can you sign up for lessons next week? If you and your dominant partner have outside activities you share, spend the time researching what your next adventure will be. Plan your next date, think about where you’d like to go or what you’d like to do together. It’s a positive distraction and will also help generate some of the same happy brain chemicals you associate with your time together.

One other safety pointer: when people are experiencing drop, they need to protect themselves and practice good self-care. It’s great to plan your next dinner outing or pottery class, but if you are feeling emotional or not thinking clearly, it’s a poor time for making big decisions. Wait until the drop passes before you commit to moving across the country to be with your long-distance partner or quit your job to become a zipline instructor. Emotional clarity helps with big life changes.

ERB

Elizabeth R. Busbee earned a doctorate at Yale and specializes in issues of gender, sexuality, and communication. She has been helping people explore and enjoy intimacy for over 20 years. Her private relationship and intimacy coaching practice can be reached at alternativeintimacy.com

Have a question you’d like answered? Write to Elizabeth at UnconventionalLoveCoach@gmail.com