After a big fight with your so, you can go one of two ways: avoid intimacy as you both come down from your anger…or suddenly become super horny, and decide to have sex to smooth things over.
It seems a little strange that you can go from being so pissed off to so turned on, but in fact, it happens to a lot of people. Hence the term “makeup sex,” the act in which couples who have just had an argument head to bedroom to hook up and make up.
Makeup sex is often super intense—but is it a good thing for your relationship? Is it a bad thing? Is it a little bit of both? Here’s what you need to know.
Why does fighting lead to makeup sex? After a fight, you’ll find yourself full of intense energy that can often translate into erotic desire. “We’ve up some of the stagnant energy and buried resentments so that the erotic energy is moving again,” says Lucy Rowett, certfied sex coach and clinical sexologist.
For some folks, having sex after a fight is a chance to release and relax. For others, the appeal may stem from a fear of conflict. When some people fight with their SO, their mind may go into disaster mode, thinking the relationship could be in danger. Makeup sex is a way of affirming that things are “all good” without having to get into the “feelings talk.”
“[It’s] a way to reconnect after an argument that affirms that the relationship is intact and that each of you still desire each other,” says Pam Shaffer, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “It’s a way to signal that even though you had a fight, you aren’t going anywhere yet.”
Even if you plan to talk about the fight later, in the moments right after an argument, your animal instincts take over. Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of the blog Sex and Psychology, says that sex relieves stress—“[so] it stands to reason that makeup sex could help reduce feelings of stress and allow couples to move on faster.”
Why is makeup sex so intense? Makeup sex has a reputation for being some of the best sex you can have. But why? How is it that after being insanely angry with someone, you could suddenly want hot, passionate sex with them?
The phenomenon is called “excitation transfer,” according to Lehmiller. “Basically, the idea is that if you have carryover arousal from, say, a fight with your partner that you bring into the bedroom, it can make the ensuing sex more intense,” he explains.
So, makeup sex is appealing because it brings us back to a state of connectedness with our partner, and it’s so amazing because our physiological and psychological states are so heightened from all the fight drama.
Is makeup sex good or bad for a relationship? Having sex is wonderful for bonding, closeness, and the release of the oxytocin, nature’s cuddle hormone. On top of it all, makeup sex is a great way to air out some of those pent-up feelings, but you have to be careful that you’re not avoiding the “talking about it” portion of the program as a result, Shaffer says.
“Sex can be an amazing way to reconnect with your partner as long as it’s paired with verbal communication and resolution from your argument,” she says. “It’s fantastic to reconnect physically, but it’s also very meaningful (and can prevent future fights!) to talk about what happened as well.”
If you’re going to get it on, you have to be down to talk it out as well. Otherwise you’re just fighting, having sex, fighting, having sex (and so on), without coming up with real solutions to your issues in the relationship.
Shaffer adds, “Physical intimacy is a vital part of relationships, but it shouldn’t be used in the place of emotional intimacy and communication.”