“I’m actually a fan of make-up sex,” says sexual wellness coach Lauren Brim, PhD. “So much of our communication is nonverbal, and we’re able to work out so much through touch.” Besides, as anyone who’s dabbled in a post-fight romp can attest, it’s hot as heck.
Why is that, you wonder? Thanks in part to hormones triggered during fights, researchers see a connection between conflict and sexual desire. Basically, when you feel like your relationship is threatened, your biological instinct is to preserve the bond. Sex is one natural way to do that.
“Anger can become erotically charged,” explains DR Elizabeth Perri, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. The energy you feel from a heated discussion is similar to—and easily shifts into—sexual energy, which experts call "arousal transfer." (Cue movie scene where a couple goes from yelling to tearing their clothes off in .2 seconds.)
Before you start a petty fight in the grocery store in hopes of having the hottest sex later, I’m here to remind you make-up sex has its own baggage and isn’t a fix-all. Sorry to cramp the passion! Here's everything you need to know about make-up sex.
Does make-up sex have benefits?
Yes, and really great ones beyond the obvious (the big O).
1. Make-up sex is a *true* reminder of your affection.
In the moment of red-in-the-face arguing, it’s easy to lose sight of the love you do have. But embracing desire, being vulnerable, and expressing your sexuality even in spite of hard times can be empowering for a lot of couples. “Make-up sex reminds a couple of what makes their relationship special, unique, and important,” says Dr Lisa Marie Bobby.
2. You’ll reconnect in a new, passionate way.
Make-up sex is charged with palpable, exciting energy that causes pants to fly off at the mere mention (much like its conflict-turned-lustful twin, breakup sex). “Sex after a fight is such a powerful way to connect,” Brim says. “It brings us back to what we share in that connection with each other.”
Taking advantage of that arousal transfer comes from a place that feels much different than your routine romps, which can help deepen intimacy after the fact. (Word to the wise, just don’t make it into a habit—more on that in a bit.)
3. Make-up sex can help you heal.
Let’s talk about closure. While verbal communication is the most efficient way to reach a mutual understanding, Brim says physical intimacy is a powerful way to heal, too. Sometimes you’re not able to talk through conflict right away and come to a resolution, and that's fine.
Maybe what you need most in that moment of distress is to feel close to and comforted by your partner. “It’s okay to enjoy the physicality of connecting,” she says. You might need that feeling of safety before you move on to the let's-figure-this-out phase.
4. Make-up sex can make communication easier.
On that note, make-up sex can actually be a really great tool for resolving conflict. By acting as a pause button on the fight or diffusing the tension it created, doing the deed can create enough space to have a productive conversation afterward. Bobby says it can improve communication, kindness, and cooperation in other aspects of your relationship. And at the least, you’re getting out ~a lot~ of energy.
“It’s been said that while things like communication, teamwork, and shared goals are the foundational building blocks of a relationship, sex is the glue that holds it all together,” she says. Preach.
5. You’ll learn something new about the relationship.
Having sex with the “warring party,” Brim says, shows that you’re, in part, drawn to your partner because there's unfinished business to discover or resolve.
“We see the person through fresh eyes as we continue to figure out our own internal situation,” she says. “I believe everything outside of us is a reflection of that, including the partners and the sex we’re having.”
3. Make-up sex can become a pattern.
What if I said make-up sex was a little like doing cocaine? That’s right, one expert suggests that you can fall into the habit of chasing the high that make-up sex brings, and that it can even feel addictive.
If you fall into the pattern of chasing fights with sex and no resolution, Bobby says these issues can become more complex and hurtful—even relationship-ending—over time.
4. Make-up sex can make you feel worse afterward.
I know, I know—I just told you all the reasons make-up sex is awesome. But like with most things in life, there's a caveat.
There are times when make-up sex might sound like a good idea, but when it happens, it feels the opposite. If you feel uneasy or even uncomfortable afterward, Perri says it’s a sign that the issue is truly unresolved and you might’ve jumped into the ring too early. Ever started crying during or right after make-up sex? Yep...the wound is still too fresh.
5. Make-up sex can trick you into avoiding vulnerability.
Remember what I said about getting real? It's so important. If you look to sex to say everything to your beau that you verbally can't express, you're likely struggling with being vulnerable. (I hear you...it's not fun.) Of course, sometimes actions speak louder than words—but action shouldn’t be the only way you deal with conflicts in the relationship.
Not sure if that's you? “One tip-off is that you feel relieved when you move into sex, and then frustrated or disappointed when your partner still wants to talk about the issue afterward,” Bobby says. In this case, talk is not cheap.
6. Make-up sex might provoke you to pick fights.
Adrenaline = hot sex. No problem there if you want to fake fights about petty things like smelly trash and use it as foreplay to get all hot and bothered. But if your desire for angry sex starts becoming especially vindictive, or make-up sex is the only time you have good sex, that’s when it’s no longer serving you. In fact, that can be a sign of a dysfunctional or toxic relationship, Brim says.
7. Makeup sex should never be used as a bargaining tool.
Say it with me now: Don’t. Use. Sex. As. A. Manipulation. Tactic. Has anything good and healthy ever come from an ultimatum in a relationship? (Don’t talk to me about Katie and Schwartz from Vanderpump Rules). Brim warns against using (or withholding!) sex to get your partner to ultimately agree with you, apologize, or decide something in your favour.
Now, if you want to connect in a hot and steamy way, celebrate an argument fought and dismissed, or take a new avenue to resolution, in the words of Brim, “let it flow.”
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.