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The psychology behind break-up sex.

The Psychology Behind Break-up Sex.

“Going out with a bang,” explained.

One of the great, masochistic traditions of humankind is, counterintuitively, orgasmic: Break-up sex. 

Amidst all the flayed, raw, bitter sentiment that comes with welcoming the demise of a long-term relationship, there is also a nakedness, an intimacy, that can translate somewhat quickly from opposition to intercourse, whether the breakup is earnestly mutual, or firmly one-sided. On the one hand, most rom-coms will make a case for the efficacy of break-up sex in the euphoric, bed-shaking pleasure sense. The eroticism of tragedy is palpable. In the throes of the real world, however, just as many folks will tell you it’s a bit more like submerging a full-body wound in a pit of a coarse salt. 

Plenty of studies over the years have grasped at the psychology of break-up sex––which is typically defined as intercourse within two weeks of The Event. And there are some schools of thought that posit there are two primary rationales for post-splitting coitus: Psychologically, it either acts as an evolutionary tool to hold onto a partner (i.e convince them to stay by way of climax), or as a (hedonistic) way of coping with the dissolution of the relationship. 

That said, plenty of sex therapists stand by the fact that break-up sex can be a tender, even beneficial process. For couples breaking up for mutual reasons, it can stand as an event of closure––a final ceremony or celebration to commemorate the import or intimacy of a relationship. 

Nevertheless, when one partner is not on board with the break-up, sex can be thoroughly damaging to the recovery process. While sure, it might feel excellent in the moment, it can confuse your emotional response to an “ending”––it can reignite feelings of intimacy or make either party question the finality or validity of the so-called dumping. 

In any case, there is some logic to the whole break-up-sex-is-the-best-sex adage. For folks who sincerely believe that they are, in fact, boning for a final time, a “last hurrah” mentality will often take over. Like with the last day of school, or your final hours at a job, this is your sole moment to, well, get your kicks. And that last-ditch energy can often help couples relinquish their inhibitions. There’s no self-consciousness re: consequences all ends here. Consider the classic biblical mantra: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” 

Of course, these rules are neither hard nor fast (though the sex may be) ((sorry, couldn’t help myself)). There is no formula to be played out here. Relationships are nuanced and particular––as is intimacy––and nothing is written in stone. But as you navigate the heat of your relationships’ romantic demise, it might be worthwhile to consider who has the power, and whether or not it’s being exploited. Is the pleasure of the thing taking priority over someone’s emotional wellbeing? Is it a lovely final ceremony you’d like to share? Are you both aligned on the simple hedonism of “going out with a bang”? 

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