Insight Is 20/20

Exploring the pervasive, and unperceived, patterns that govern our lives

Make-Up Sex Is Bad: Why, How to Avoid It & How to Move On

Make-up sex may feel good but it can hurt you later.

Intense romantic relationships often include powerful arguments, followed by powerful make-up sex. In general, make-up sex is bad news because it reinforces fighting and emotional drama. Think about it: If you have amazing sex after you have a huge fight, doesn't it make sense to fight again when the reward is so great?

In a healthy relationship, two people can come together after a disagreement and share physical intimacy because they feel close. However, the search for greater intimacy and trust isn't what motivates most make-up sex. The truth is that most make-up sex results from having felt and expressed extreme negative emotions during a heated argument, without any true resolution afterward. Because these individuals get sick of feeling the negative extreme end of the spectrum, they hunger to switch gears and jump to the opposite end of the spectrum — to feel the high that comes with making up. Honestly, it's not that different from an addict who needs a hit of cocaine.

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During make-up sex, couples often express extreme positive emotions and they reach a momentary state of bliss. They declare grand statements of love and feel, in that moment, that they are sure they belong together.

The problem: this isn't real intimacy. Intimacy is about a mutual love and balance, while drama is about extremes and fantasies. Make-up sex often reflects the unconscious fantasy to be able to make everything better with sex. Sadly, it's often after couples have this heated sexual moment that they feel sadder and more lonely when the old feelings come back.

When you find someone you truly belong with, you feel balanced because you think things are in the emotional order they are supposed to be in. The next time you have a fight with your partner and you later try to initiate make-up sex, sit with those feelings a little longer and make sure you are having sex for the right reason.

Should you find yourself in the middle of a sexual encounter and suddenly realize that you feel confused, angry or sad, gently pull back and explain to your partner that you want to stop and try again later. If your partner pushes you to explain in that moment exactly what's going on with you, simply say "I'm not sure, but I know that it'll make sense to me a little later." These moments can be difficult and uncomfortable, but checking in with yourself and communicating honestly and directly is the best way to keep the problem from snowballing.

Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.

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