DEAR DR. JENN,
My partner and I have really hot makeup sex. Since we moved in together, it seems like our fight-f**k cycle has escalated. I am starting to think that she is just starting fights to get to the end game. As hot as it is, this doesn’t seem very healthy. Please advise. —Make Up Sex to Avoid Break Up Sex?
DEAR MAKEUP SEX,
It’s not in your head — makeup sex can feel especially hot and satisfying compared to sex when you haven’t just finished yelling at each other or, better yet, — actually resolving a long-standing issue in your relationship.
Here, a few biological and emotional reasons why makeup sex can feel so good — plus how to tell if it’s veered into unhealthy territory.
Fighting creates emotional distance and tension — which can be erotic.
If you feel your makeup sex has escalated since moving in together, it’s probably not a coincidence. While you may naturally be fighting more because of issues that have arisen since taking this relationship milestone, there may be another factor at play: the eroticism that can come with some distance.
Living together increases intimacy, closeness, and familiarity. Fights create distance, tension, insecurity, and vulnerability. As good as closeness feels emotionally, sometimes it takes some distance to make us hot for each other. (It was Belgian psycotherapist Esther Perels who said, “eroticism thrives in the space between the self and the other.” ) The emotional distance created by a fight can be just the separation that we need to see one another from a different sexy view. The conflict and fear of losing our partner can make our adrenaline rush and create a need for instant closeness — and what is closer than sex?
Fighting makes you naturally aroused — which can then be transfered to your partner.
In the heat of an argument, we’re worked up, feeling passionate — and in turn, our body undergoes a chemical and physiological reaction. The argument triggers a flight-or-flight response: Our heart rate, blood flow, and breathing rate all increase, and our adrenaline starts surging (not unlike when we actually have sex). And this heat, passion, and energy can easily into arousal towards our partner (aka arousal transfer). At the same time, during a fight, our bodies release chemicals like noradrenaline, testosterone, dopamine, and norapinephrine — which can lead to a heightened sexual experience.
The relief of resolving a conflict makes you want to get closer.
After resolving a long-standing conflict, you probably feel pretty happy and relieved — and this can make sex even more emotionally satisfying. It’s a physical way to reaffirm your affection for each other without words — which can be incredibly hot — and lets you both let off steam that has been building for a long time.
The Dark Side of Makeup Sex
To be fair, sometimes steamy makeup sex can be depicted on TV or in movies in a way that glamorizes or eroticizes an unhealthy — or even an abusive — relationship. Case in point: The relationship between Celeste and Perry on the hit HBO show Big Little Lies in which the couple’s explosive fights led to violent and aggressive sex. This dynamic is a reality for some couples, and in these cases, it’s important to get help and find a way to leave the relationship safely.
Even without violence, makeup sex can be unhealthy. For some couples, makeup sex prevents them from getting to any kind of real resolution. The sex acts as a distraction and things don’t ever get talked through, which prevents you from moving past any real relationship roadblocks. If this is the case, it’s important to get professional help so you can both develop the communication skills necessary to resolve issues. Developing the ability to have difficult discussions and learning the skills to communicate in a way that does not escape the problems is crucial in your relationship and in life.
Bottom line: The key to healthy makeup sex is atually talking through your issues and really ‘making up’ before you head to the bedroom. Makeup sex can be both healthy and hot, but in order for conflicts to truly get resolved, couples have to learn how to use their words, not just their genitals.