Makeup sex is touted as a cathartic way to resolve latent issues that rear up in a relationship. But what do psychologists have to say about post-argument sex?
On a surface level, makeup sex seems like an effective, intimate bonding experience that can help couples put differences aside — at least in the short-term. That makes sense because during sex the brain releases a hormone called oxytocin, which plays a central role in social bonding.
"On a large scale, [makeup sex] can be productive in terms of bringing a couple back together after conflict, having passion and lightness, a sense of humor, and emotional and physical intimacy can be a really, really good thing after a couple goes through a difficult argument or a hard time," Dr. Hillary Goldsher, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, told ATTN:.
At the same time, psychologists caution against relying too heavily on makeup sex to resolve relationship conflicts.
Though it might be beneficial after small arguments, having sex immediately after a serious conflict can be "destructive," Goldsher said.
"Where it becomes destructive is if it's either the only tool in the arsenal or the primary tool, so that a couple is forgoing using communication skills, using compromise, being vulnerable — difficult communication skills to resolve and connect and work through an argument," she said. "The more important and intense and large the issue is at hand, the less productive it is to use sex as a way to resolve it."
There's one other situation where makeup sex can be counterproductive: if the couple "gets off" on having sex after an argument, that can contribute to a cycle of conflict that's never meaningfully resolved.
When "the argument itself provides a sense of excitement and danger and risk and feeling on the edge with each other," couples begin to depend on makeup sex for a release. "They actually need the conflict to feel the excitement of the sex," Goldsher said. "That can be exciting, but certainly over the long-run — to have a serious, lasting relationship — that scenario usually doesn't work."
In the end, makeup sex can be a useful tool in a couple's arsenal – but it's no panacea and should be used with discretion.