The Science Behind Make-Up Sex

Photo: GoodStudio /Shutterstock

Hey, girl, cue your favorite Ryan Gosling fantasy because it turns out that amazing make-up sex scene in The Notebook isn't just a movie trope. Research shows exactly why make-up sex—you know, sex after a fight or even a breakup—is so hot.

Why Make-up Sex Is Surprisingly Amazing

When couples argue—whether it's about being a southern heiress in love with a poor boy or just about liking that girl's Instagram post—powerful hormones are released. This rush of adrenaline, noradrenaline (a hormone and neurotransmitter), and testosterone triggers a state of extreme arousal, says a study from the University of Valencia in Spain. And while, at first, the arousal of anger may not feel sexy, we're biologically wired to respond to any threat to our relationship, even if it's created by us, writes relationship psychologist candidate Samantha Joel in a blog post about the study for Psychology Today. The perception of threat combined with the influence of the hormones on our brains is what takes us from seething with anger to seething with desire.

"This feeling of threat activates the attachment system—a biologically based system that works to keep your important relationships intact," wrote Joel. "Whenever the attachment system is activated, it motivates you to increase your sense of closeness and security with important others, such as your romantic partner."

Joel adds that sex can be a great way to repair a romantic relationship after it's been threatened. "Whereas arguing can make you feel distant from your partner, sex can work to restore feelings of intimacy and closeness," she wrote. (Related: The Right Time to Talk About Everything In a Relationship.)

How to Have Healthy Make-Up Sex

It appears there's a right and wrong way to use that post-fight passion. As anyone who's ever had make-up sex knows, it does work—at least it the heat of the moment. However, the effect is so powerful that the allure of make-up sex can be as addictive (and unhealthy) as cocaine, according to Seth Meyers, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, as reported in Psychology Today.

"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," he writes. (Related: 8 Things You Do That Could Hurt Your Relationship.)

Joel agrees that couples shouldn't use sex after a fight as a band-aid for their anger, but she does offer a great alternative: "The effect is strongest—meaning that people feel most affectionate and attracted to their partners—when the argument is successfully resolved," she says. So, you have to make up with words before you can have make-up sex. Plus, in healthy relationships, the communications skills needed to resolve a fight are the same ones you can use to have mind-blowing sex. (Read these 9 Ways to Sex Up Your Relationship.)

We're not saying you should pick a fight just to have amazing make-up sex—but it's not wrong to take advantage of the moment if it happens! And as long as you're still working through whatever started the fight, it could make your relationship even stronger.