Sex
Catching feelings or developing an emotional attachment after sex can happen to anyone.

Science Can Explain All Your Post-Sex Emotions — It's Kinda Wild

Your human biology class just got *way* more interesting.

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Casual hookups can be exhilarating, but they’re not always quite as simple as both people initially planned. It’s easy to become emotionally attached to someone you’re sleeping with, no matter your personality or gender identity. Unfortunately, gender stereotypes can cloud our judgment of who “should” feel what in a casual FWB relationship. Women tend to be labeled as more clingy and emotionally dependent than men, but the truth is that guys can catch feelings after hooking up, too. One scientific study proves that women aren’t the only gender who “feels” things after sex. It seems men are just as prone to experiencing that post-sex connection.

Despite the immense pleasure that usually comes with an explosive orgasm, it's not uncommon for people to feel a wave of sadness, joy, or other emotions soon after, even if there was nothing bad about the sexual encounter.

“When we experience physical intimacy with a partner, the brain releases a powerful hormone called oxytocin, which many refer to as the ‘love hormone,’ Dr. John D. Moore, licensed psychotherapist and cognitive behavior specialist, tells Elite Daily. “Some even think of it as a kind of love molecule. This is part of the reason why some people experience an emotional high both during and immediately after sex.” And that leads to a feeling of bonding and closeness.

Guys & Girls Can Both Feel Emotionally Attached After Sex

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Dr. Moore notes that he works with men and women who are experiencing these feelings. “Men and women have reported similar experiences when it comes to feelings of attachment after intimacy,” he says. “The difference is how those feelings are expressed. In my experience, men become much less emotionally uninhibited, at least for a short time. Women, on the other hand, seem to hold a kind of emotional steady state, meaning they experience that sense of closeness with an intuitive understanding that something has shifted.” But it really depends from person to person.

You Might Also Feel Sad After Sex

It’s also not uncommon to feel melancholy right after orgasm. That low feeling post-sex is referred to as post-coital dysphoria (PCD). The emotional blast can go on for five minutes or two hours, depending on the person, and it's not just limited to women. “Everyone assumes what happens in the bedroom is normal, but there are a wide range of responses in the period of time immediately following consensual sexual activity, known as the resolution phase,” Robert Schweitzer, professor at Queensland University of Technology in Australia and researcher on this topic, said in a 2017 statement. Despite past research showing that half of women have displayed signs of PCD in their life at least once, there's evidence that supports men experiencing PCD as well. In other words, men do get attached after sex, and their emotions can range from happiness and intimacy to sadness and loneliness.

Gender Stereotypes Can Make Post-Hookup Feelings Harder To Process

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Misleading stereotypes only further the sense of anxiety people feel. “Nearly half of the men I work with are struggling with emotional confusion after being intimate with a female partner — even on a hookup,” Dr. Moore explains. “The big questions I get as a therapist [from the guys] are: ‘Is it weird that I want to date a hookup?’ or ‘Why am I constantly thinking about this girl I messed around with?’” And that’s a natural way to feel — it’s rooted in our biology. “The truth is that intimate sex, meaning not robotic but organic in nature, is a powerful experience,” Dr. Moore says. “And how could it not be? When you have two people who are experiencing one another on a very deep level, the release of energy doesn't just evaporate into thin air. Usually, it finds a place to connect.”

As for those post-sex blues, relationship expert April Masini gave her input as to why they occur, stating that those sad feelings may arise if you think your relationship is only a sexual one. "Many times … people try to leverage sex into love. They get caught up in the whirlwind and in the morning, realize there's no 'I love you,' or 'I have to see you tonight,' uttered," she told Medical Daily.

Take That Emotional Reaction With A Grain Of Salt

Overall, Masini believes, during those post-sex blues, people shouldn't think too much into their partner's actions because everyone reacts differently. Assumptions don’t help anyone, whether inside or outside the bedroom."Sometimes, a partner will be thinking about marrying you, but you misread this because you're assuming that the absence of affection after the act means an absence of feelings for the relationship," she said.

And don’t try to tamp down your feelings for someone because you assume they won’t feel the same way. “What's unfortunate is that there is this thing out there in our culture that suggests experiencing feelings for someone we've casually slept with is a ‘bad thing,’” Dr. Moore says. “What a bunch of hogwash. We can't ‘catch’ feelings. But what can happen is distortion, meaning we misread feelings of closeness or infatuation for love. The trick is understanding the difference.” Even if someone isn’t a good match for you, that post-sex hormone rush might convince you that they’re someone you should date. And that’s not always true.

So take what you're feeling after sex with a grain of salt, and don't let it cloud your judgment when it comes to your relationship. But feel free to initiate a conversation with your FWB if you’d like to get on the same page. “It is completely normal to experience feelings for a sexual partner after intimacy,” Dr. Moore says. “Part of this happens because, for a brief moment, we can project the things we desire onto them, similar to a blank canvas. And it's those feelings that let us know we are alive.”

And who knows? You just might find out that they secretly feel the same.

Studies referenced:

Schweitzer, R. D., O'Brien, J., & Burri, A. (2015). Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Psychological Correlates. Sexual Medicine, 3(4), 235–243. https://doi.org/10.1002/sm2.74

Snuggle, run or cry: What's your 'normal' after sex? QUT. (n.d.). https://www.qut.edu.au/institute-of-health-and-biomedical-innovation/about/news/news?news-id=115038

Experts:

Dr. John D. Moore, licensed psychotherapist and cognitive behavior specialist

Robert Schweitzer, study author and a professor at Queensland University of Technology in Australia

April Masini, relationship expert

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