Have you ever gone from arguing with your partner, thinking of all the reasons why you just can’t stand them… to embracing, thinking of all the reasons why you can’t keep your hands off them?

Welcome to makeup sex. It happens when intimate partners stop fighting and start having sex.

For some people, arguing with a partner is like verbal foreplay. The tension builds and builds until it gives way to sensual passion.

The argument itself may be stressful and uncomfortable, but once you get to that passionate sex at the end, you might feel like it was all worth it.

Sharing a passionate embrace with your partner might be the last thing on your mind when you’re mad at them, so why does makeup sex happen?

Here are a few possible reasons.

Arousal transfer

Once you’ve stopped fighting, what do you do with all of those feelings boiling inside you?

You may not exactly feel angry anymore, but the adrenaline rush still makes you feel something.

Arousal transfer is the psychological term for shifting that excitement from feeling angry to feeling horny.

You’re still aroused, in the sense that your emotions are running high — but now those emotions are more sensual.

Pent-up aggression

Ever feel like your conflict is technically resolved, but you’re still holding onto some frustration?

Maybe you’ve come to understand why your partner did something that upset you. You’re willing to forgive them, but you still don’t love that their misstep happened in the first place.

With makeup sex, you could get a chance to express your forgiveness and your frustration — a win-win!

If you do it in a healthy way, angry sex can be a safe, positive vehicle for releasing tension and aggression.

Biological attachment

From your body’s perspective, a fight with someone you’re close to feels like a threat to your sense of safety.

After all, conflict can threaten your bond. Instead of the bliss of feeling like you can’t get enough of each other, you’re speaking as if you can’t stand each other.

What if you never resolve your disagreement? What if you break up instead?

These fears can activate your biological attachment system, which is your body’s way of motivating you to get closer to your loved ones.

As it turns out, the hormones your body releases when you’re afraid — like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and testosterone — are the same ones that rush in when you’re turned on.

Closure

The end of a fight can bring a huge sense of relief.

You and your partner may have figured out how to tackle a problem as a team, instead of being at odds with each other.

You might have some things off your chest that you’d been holding onto for a while.

You may have even found a resolution for a problem that once seemed impossible to solve.

Makeup sex can seal the deal of your reconciliation, confirming that your argument, or at least this phase of it, has ended.

And if you worked through some tough stuff together, makeup sex can be a wonderful way celebrate.

Makeup sex can offer some great perks if you go about it in a healthy way.

Emotional intimacy

Intimacy isn’t just about the sex itself. You can also build emotional intimacy with a person, which is how you end up feeling safe and accepted around someone who cares about you.

Makeup sex can be a way to build and deepen that emotional intimacy.

During the fight, you may have just cried with your partner, shared some of your biggest fears, and confessed your deepest insecurities.

The sex that follows can be a way to express that you still accept and care for each other, ugly tears and all.

Reset

It can be hard for your relationship to come back down to your version of normal after an argument.

You and your partner may have said things that you both regret, or revealed a side of yourself that you’re not proud of.

Showing each other physical affection afterwards can bring you back down to earth. You get a chance to feel like you’ve got a clean slate moving forward as you reset back to the way things were before the fight.

Perspective

What were we fighting about again?

Once you’ve had makeup sex, you might not even remember — or, at least, you’ll forget why you were so angry about such petty issues in the first place.

That’s because makeup sex can remind you of what you love about each other. Often, what you love is way more important than what you were fighting about.

It doesn’t mean you have to completely dismiss any relationship problems you have. But it helps put in perspective what really matters, and why your bond can survive conflict.

Memories

Ever had an argument that you just can’t stop thinking about the next day?

What if your mind kept drifting back to the hot sex you just had instead?

A bad fight can ruin the memory of your whole day. But if you also have some good makeup sex to remember, then you can spend more time recalling that positive experience instead of your frustration.

Uninhibited

Once you’ve got that emotional intimacy building, your physical intimacy can heat up, too.

When you feel closer to your partner, you might be willing to try new things, like having sex in a different part of the house than usual.

Who has time to move to the bedroom when you’ve got all this sexual tension building in the kitchen?

And with passionate emotions running high, you might let down some of your inhibitions and try something like getting on top even though you ordinarily tend to be more passive.

Who knows? Maybe your makeup sex will help you discover new sex practices, positions, and roles that you never would’ve figured out you liked during an ordinary night of love-making.

Compensation

You know that moment when your partner realizes they were wrong and you were right? You might be able to get even more than an “I told you so” out of it.

Makeup sex can be one way of offering to make it up to you after your partner messes up. For some people, it’s just hard to stay mad at someone who worships you in bed and helps you reach an earth-shattering orgasm.

Some people would be thrilled by the idea that you could replace any relationship conflict with hot sex, but makeup sex does have its downsides.

So before you get too excited about hopping into bed after a fight, consider these.

It doesn’t replace a conversation about the issue

Makeup sex can be fun, but it’s also a relatively superficial approach to resolving your relationship problems.

If it happens instead of fully discussing your issues with your partner, then you’ve still got those issues to work out.

Or an apology

Sure, it’s fun to have your partner worship you in bed to make up for their wrongdoings. But makeup sex alone does not an apology make.

For example, if your partner violated your trust, they still need to apologize and take steps to do better.

A romp in bed can be a nice cherry on top, but the sex itself isn’t an apology.

It won’t make you forget about the fight entirely

While it’s nice to get a psychological reset, makeup sex doesn’t entirely erase the reason you were fighting.

In fact, if you’re having sex specifically to try to forget about the fight, you should know that that’s probably not going to happen.

It’s much more likely that the sex will give you a temporary reprieve from conflict and you’ll revisit the issue later.

It’s also much healthier to approach makeup sex this way, rather than as a way to avoid addressing the reasons for your argument.

Disappointing sex may make things worse

There’s nothing worse than pouring your frustration into passionate sex… only for the sex itself to leave you more frustrated.

Unsatisfying makeup sex may fail to take your mind off of your fight, and even worse, it might just bring up more reasons why you’re angry with your partner.

For example, if your partner doesn’t listen to what you like in bed, that might just be part of a larger pattern of failing to listen to your needs.

Having different expectations of what makeup sex means

You stop talking and start getting it on, but what if you need more words to establish what your makeup sex means?

This communication can be crucial, and if you get caught up in the moment and skip it, things might get confusing.

Maybe for you, makeup sex means you’re pausing your conflict to revisit it later — but your partner is under the impression that this means your problem is resolved.

So later, when you bring up the problem again and your partner says, “Oh, I thought we were over that,” that could start your fight up all over again.

It could overshadow signs of unhealthy or abusive patterns

Every couple has their arguments, even those in healthy, happy relationships.

But if your fighting is part of a larger pattern of toxic or abusive behavior, then makeup sex could be a way for one partner to maintain control over another.

The cycle of domestic violence often includes a “honeymoon stage.” This is when an abuser showers their partner with affection and encourages them to forget about the emotional or physical abuse that just happened.

It’s entirely possible for makeup sex to take place without involving abuse, of course.

But if you ever feel manipulated, coerced, or forced into sex after a fight, it’s a good idea to look out for other signs of abuse in your relationship and reach out for help.

So how, exactly, do you go from fighting to having sex? For a safe, healthy post-fight romp, keep these tips in mind.

Consent is essential

An argument might not be your usual foreplay, but that doesn’t mean you can forgo the usual guidelines around consent. Consent is crucial in every sexual encounter, regardless of how it started.

Check out this guide to consent for more details.

Don’t make assumptions

Your fight got you all hot and bothered, but don’t assume that your partner feels the same. Instead, ask questions.

Phrases like “Do you want me to…?” and “Is it OK if I…?” help establish what you both want without killing the mood.

Don’t use manipulation

It can be fun to play with the idea that your partner is pleasuring you so you won’t be mad at them anymore, but nobody should feel pressured to have sex unless they really want to.

Saying in all seriousness that you won’t forgive them unless they have sex with you is an example of coercion, not consent.

Set your expectations

What if you’re just taking a break from arguing, while your partner thinks all is resolved? It’s a good idea to set some expectations as you go into makeup sex.

Even saying something playful like “This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook” can help establish whether or not you still have issues to work out.

Keep communicating

Consent requires ongoing communication, and that’s especially important when you’ve had emotions running high in all different directions.

If you or your partner change your mind about having sex, realize you’re still too angry for this, or have any other unexpected feelings, keeping the lines of communication open can make sure that everyone is heard.

Check in later

You can avoid some of the potential drawbacks of makeup sex by talking about it later, once you and your partner have cooled off.

Share your feelings about what happened to make sure you’re both still on the same page and clear up any messages that got lost in translation.

If you want to gently reconcile with makeup sex that’s slower and more affectionate, consider these positions.

Spooning

Lay on your sides, facing the same direction with one partner behind the other, like two spoons.

This can be especially useful for feeling close to each other, and the partner in the back (big spoon) can focus on pleasuring the partner in front (little spoon).

Still too angry to gaze into your partner’s eyes during sex? Spooning might be your answer.

Lotus

With partner A sitting cross-legged or with legs extended, partner B straddles their lap and wraps their legs around partner A’s waist.

Then you can look into each other’s eyes, kiss, caress, and whisper sweet nothings as you get it on.

Missionary

Face each other with one partner laying on top of the other. This can keep things simple and straightforward so that you can focus on showing your affection for each other.

If arguing got you all riled up and you’d prefer something rougher and more aggressive, consider these positions.

Doggy

Partner A bends over or stands on all fours while partner B penetrates from behind. This position allows for deep thrusting, hair-pulling, and even consensual spanking if you’re feeling feisty.

Cowgirl

In spite of its name, the position commonly called “cowgirl” can be pleasurable for all genders.

Partner A straddles partner B, who is on their back and focusing on penetrating or pleasuring partner A from below.

Partner A can take control of the rhythm and even go hands-free by grabbing something like a headboard and letting their hips go wild.

Speed bump

Like a more intense version of spooning, this position has partner A laying on their stomach while partner B lays on top of them and penetrates or pleasures from rear entry.

This can give an “animalistic” feel of losing inhibitions and letting your guard down.

No, makeup sex isn’t the same as breakup sex.

While makeup sex often follows reconciliation or the understanding that you’re going to continue to work out your issues, breakup sex is more like one last “hurrah” before you part ways.

They each have their pros and cons.

For example, makeup sex can help strengthen your bond and reestablish your warm feelings for each other after going through a rough patch.

But on the other hand, makeup sex can also distract from real issues and act as a superficial bandage to conceal the deeper problems in a relationship.

Breakup sex can have value if the circumstances are right.

For example, if you make up on mutual terms or you still like each other and want to remain friends, you can physically express your warm feelings one last time.

But like makeup sex, it can also have its drawbacks. Breakup sex can confuse boundaries and postpone the inevitable separation.

For example, if someone dumps you and then initiates sex with you, the sex might increase your feelings of wanting to get back together — or make you second-guess whether or not you’re really broken up.

With both makeup sex and breakup sex, clear communication and consent are key.

If you just can’t seem to stay mad at your partner, that’s probably because you really care about them — and your passionate makeup sex might play a part in it, too.

The urge to be physically affectionate after arguing makes complete sense, both biologically and psychologically.

But make sure you’re clear about what’s happening and why, with both yourself and your partner.

There’s nothing wrong with getting caught up in the moment, and you might even have some of the best sex of your life after a fight.

Just don’t treat makeup sex like it’s the solution to all of your problems. Inevitably, you’ll find that those problems still exist, no matter how hot the sex is.


Maisha Z. Johnson is a writer and advocate for survivors of violence, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities. She lives with chronic illness and believes in honoring each person’s unique path to healing. Find Maisha on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.