No matter how well a relationship is going, sooner or later, it's only natural for a disagreement to surface. Although getting into fights with a partner can feel awful in the moment, it turns out there's a solid link between conflict and sexual arousal that may explain why the subsequent makeup sex is so good. To understand the psychology behind makeup sex, it's first important to understand what happens in our brains when we're in the midst of a fight.
"When couples argue, as we know, emotions can run high," social, personality and developmental psychologist Samantha Joel Ph.D. wrote in an article on Psychology Today. "If we fear losing the relationship, the entire experience can be psychologically threatening." According to a study done by the University of Valencia, the intense hormonal cocktail of noradrenaline, adrenaline, and testosterone that's released during a conflict could also lead to sexual arousal. This hormonal rush in combination with the perception of a threat to the relationship can ignite some very fiery desire. "Feelings of threat activate your biologically-based attachment system, which serves to keep all your important relationships intact," explained Dr. Joel.
But, how exactly does the transition from so pissed to so horny occur? Well, experts believe there is some overlap when it comes to how our bodies respond to positive and negative emotions. Spoiler alert: Here's where things get juicy! The process can be explained by the concept of arousal transfer which was demonstrated by a 1974 experiment published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. During the experiment, some male test subjects were individually interviewed by a female interviewer while standing on a "fear-arousing" bridge. Another group underwent the same process on a "non-fear-arousing" bridge. The results showed evidence that the men on the "fear-arousing" bridge felt more sexual arousal towards the female interviewer than those on the "non-fear-arousing" bridge. "The great excitement generated by make-up sex can be explained along similar lines," philosopher Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. wrote in an article on Psychology Today. "The high arousal state associated with the fight is transferred to a high arousal state during the makeup sex."
This "high arousal state" added to the "threat" associated with an argument can powerfully impact our attachment systems. According to Dr. Joel, this can result in a drive to mend the situation through physical intimacy. "An activated attachment system motivates you to increase your sense of closeness and security with important others, such as your romantic partner," wrote Dr. Joel. "When arguing makes you feel distant from your partner, sex can restore feelings of intimacy and closeness." So, if you've noticed that makeup sex between you and your partner tends to be hotter, no, it's not just your imagination.
Although this doesn't mean intentionally instigating conflict with the hopes of ramping up your sex life is healthy or sustainable, the evidence does seem to echo the sentiment that disagreements that are resolved can strengthen a relationship, instead of weakening it. Ultimately, while fights with bae can be very unpleasant, if you can hash out the issues, some steamy makeup sex can definitely be a silver lining.