The Dos & Don'ts Of Breakup Sex

by Pamela J. Hobart

People might not be talking about it very much, but they're definitely doing it: seriously, who amongst us doesn't have make-up and/or breakup sex experiences under her belt? The psychological reason lurking behind all this action is "arousal transferal": the tendency for us to become more easily excited by one stimulus when we've first become excited by another one. This arousal doesn't have to be positive, though — arousal transferal can happen following anger or sadness as well. Hence, the confusion sometimes accompanying these sexual experiences.

Make arousal transferal work to your advantage, instead of letting it lead you astray. Learn to differentiate between make-up and breakup sex you'll enjoy and sex that will actually just make you worse-off with Alternet's useful tips, distilled from research and anecdotal evidence.


  • Indulge in hot makeup sex to smooth over minor problems in a basically healthy relationship.
  • Allow breakup sex if you feel like it, when the breakup is mutual.
  • Keep the intense emotional experiences involved with a fight or a breakup and subsequent sex in perspective — now is not the time to be making important relationship decisions.
  • Allow breakup or "ex sex" to provide closure: strange as that might seem, there's evidence it can work.


  • Allow a genuinely abusive relationship to continue longer than it should because the makeup sex was good — no amount of sexual pleasure is worth your emotional or physical well-being!
  • Have breakup sex if you're uncertain about the breakup, or if it's not mutual — one or both of you might come to regret it (either the sex, or the breakup itself).
  • Become accustomed to picking minor fights just because the sex afterwards is super hot. Try another type of arousal instead, like doing a different activity together.
  • Attempt to solve serious relationship problems by distracting yourselves with sex over and over again. Eventually, you're going to have to talk about it, and probably the sooner the better.
  • Beat yourself up if you have breakup sex in a weak moment: just understand the experience for what it was, move on, and don't do it again!

Images: Andriy Bezuglov/ Fotolia