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The Verdict Is In: Is Make-Up Sex Good Or Bad For Your Relationship? 

Hannah Frye
Author:
December 25, 2022
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Affectionate Couple In Bed
Image by Leah Flores / Stocksy
December 25, 2022
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Imagine this: You and your partner just got into a huge fight. Luckily, you've worked things out for the most part and (hopefully) reached some sort of resolution. Yet, you're still left feeling disconnected and maybe even insecure about where you stand. 

These emotions may lead to one common behavior: make-up sex. But is this the best way to "fix" that residual awkwardness? On a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, psychologists John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., authors of The Love Prescription and founders of the Gottman Institute, share their expert POV on the matter—here's a quick summary of what they said.

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What is make-up sex?

First things first, let's get very clear about what make-up sex actually means, also called "apology sex." As expected, the process begins with an argument. Julie notes that plenty of couples feel distant from one another after a big fight—something many people can relate to. 

"The distance creates fear, it creates insecurity, and it creates anxiety," she adds. These emotions can make either partner feel a need to immediately reconcile the lost connection, and sex is one way that couples tend to feel close and truly loved, Julie explains. 

Of course, sex isn't important to all relationships, but especially if you and your partner prioritize physical intimacy, it might seem like the one thing you two can agree on at the moment—but is it actually going to patch up the open wound?

Is it good or bad for the relationship?

Engaging in make-up sex is not inherently bad for the relationship—but it should be paired with at least one other form of reassurance. In fact, when talking about couples that engage in make-up sex, Julie says they may actually need verbal reassurance or some kind of physical touch reassurance that doesn't involve the bedroom. 

Long story short: Sex is not off the table entirely, but it shouldn't be the only form of apology or reassurance. So either before or after you hop in bed and start having sex, use other words and actions to remind your partner that you love them. 

For even more connection, cuddle afterward. John references one study that looked at 70,000 people across 24 countries (detailed in the book The Normal Bar) and identified common patterns between couples who self-reported great sex lives and those who didn't.

One of the findings? "Of the couples that didn't cuddle in all those countries, 96% of them had an awful sex life. Only 4% of the non-cuddlers had a great sex life," John notes. Suffice it to say, cuddling may be just as important to your sex life as the act itself, both for reconciliation and a healthy sex life in general. 

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The takeaway. 

All in all, make-up sex isn't necessarily good or bad for your relationship, but it shouldn't take the place of verbal reassurance or other forms of physical touch. Be sure to remind your partner that you love them in more ways than sex, and you should be good to go.

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Hannah Frye
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.