Having make-up sex sometimes seems like the best solution to a relationship tiff. If you have a huge blowout fight, then you can use it to reestablish that you care about each other, and it can help you feel reconnected. And sometimes there's just this awkwardness in the air even if you've resolved a fight — so having sex seems like the right way to clear the air and reset. But one of the times having make-up sex comes in really handy is when you're having the same fight over and over again and neither of you really know what to do about it any more. "Unresolved core issues initially manifest as small disagreements, but left unsolved, these have the potential to grow in size and intensity," Talia Wagner, Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "When arguments don't lead to resolution, people's frustration and dissatisfaction grows, breeding anger and resentment, and as such, a cyclical pattern of escalation develops very easily."
And if it's an issue that you can't really resolve, then having sex can seem like the perfect quick-fix. But if you're using it to avoid conflict or as a way of papering over the cracks, there can be some big consequences — and new research proves it.
"Men were more likely to think that make-up sex was the best way to get over a fight, while women thought that most important thing was to apologize and spend time together."
Researchers at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania looked at 74 men and women and asked them about their reconciliation practices after a fight with their partner. Now, it's a really small study, but what they found was interesting. Men were more likely to think that make-up sex was the best way to get over a fight, while women thought that most important thing was to apologize and spend time together. And those are two very different takes. That divide can have a huge impact on your relationship.
You Can't Have One Without The Other
Now, while I think make-up sex can be good after a fight sometimes, it was worrying that men thought it was the best way, rather than something you do after you apologize and talk it out. The real danger is if you skip right to the make-up sex and totally miss the apology.
“Women may find the act of their male partner apologizing to be an effective reconciliation tactic because it is viewed as an altruistic act,” Joel Wade, lead study author, said in a press release. "A man’s apology may redirect the cost of romantic conflict to himself rather than to his partner and thereby demonstrate his ability to provide emotional support and incur personal costs for his partner.”
But if you choose not to apologize and just skip to the sex, then those issues remain unresolved. So why wouldn't they come up again? In the long run, that sounds like more relationship stress.
Are We Having Make-up Sex Just To Show We're Still Interested?
Another worrying assessment from the study author was the idea that women may, knowing that their partners prefer sex as a make-up tactic, go along with it to show that they're still sexually available to their partner.
“Women may thereby use sexual favors as a way to reconcile with their male partner,” Wade said. “Doing so may communicate to their male partner that they are still sexually accessible and as such do not want to end the relationship.” Think about that. They're basically saying that, even if we don't want to, we may still have sex with our partner so they don't think that we'll stop — and, therefore, end the relationship. That is a horrifying precedent and can reinforce some awful relationship dynamics, so we need to be careful.
If you've had a big fight and you're struggling to clear the tension, make-up sex might make sense — but only after you've actually worked through what you need to. If you haven't resolved anything — or you're just doing it to act like you aren't upset — it may do more harm than good to your relationship. Plus, you deserve better.