Unexpected, confusing, even alarming. But crying after sex is not always a bad thing.
You have just reached the end of a steamy, consensual romp. You roll off your sexual partner and flop back on the pillow, glistening and breathless. Then, you burst into tears.
Crying after sex can leave you and your sexual partner feeling confused and embarrassed. After all, how can something so pleasurable make you elicit such a ‘negative’ emotion? And should you be concerned?
Is it normal to cry after sex?
Whether you have known your sexual partner for ten minutes or ten years, sex can be an intensely vulnerable, and emotional act. There is no set criteria of what emotions you should feel during, before and after sex and how deeply you should feel them.
Instead of asking what is ‘normal’ (the scope of which is too vast and varied to be helpful anyway) try to assess your own experience of crying after sex without judgment. Consider whether it is happening more often than you would like, interfering with your relationship, or making you feel bad in general. If not, there is no real reason to worry.
Do many people cry after sex?
Crying after sex is more common than you might think. Scientists even have a name for it: postcoital dysphoria (PCD) or, for the more whimsical amongst us, postcoital tristesse ("tristesse" means sadness in French).
A 2015 study found that 46% of respondents had experienced PCD at least once in their lifetime. Another study published in 2018 found that between 3 to 4% of respondents experienced PCD on a regular basis.
So, if you are one of the people who have spent the moments after sex holding back tears instead of basking in the afterglow, do not worry - you are not alone.
Why do I cry after sex?
There are a number of reasons you might cry after sex. Here are a few:
Yes, it can be that simple. An orgasm can be overwhelming, particularly if it is shared with someone important to you. Even being overwhelmed with positive emotion can be enough to move you to tears. Crying after an intense orgasm may be a release of energy, tension, joy or gratitude at having had such a euphoric feeling. Compare it to the feeling of getting the giggles after a stressful situation.
Sex and orgasms cause a spike in the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones in you body, such as oxytocin, that make you feel good. But what goes up must come down. Sooner or later your body starts returning to a baseline state. This sudden drop in happy chemicals is thought to be one of the potential contributors to crying after sex.
The concept of “aftercare” is lauded by practitioners of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline/ Domination, Sadism/Submission, Masochism) as an essential way to heal wounds and prevent emotional and physical damage after sexual encounters. But anyone in a relationship, however kinky, can benefit from a post-sex cuddle.
Not receiving any physical contact once the euphoric feelings from sex wear off can make you feel neglected or alienated from your partner. An appropriate aftercare routine could help you to feel connected to your partner in a constructive way.
If you feel that you need more physical intimacy after sex, try having an open and honest discussion with your partner. Developing an aftercare routine will make you feel safe and secure and could alleviate your post coital blues.
Sometimes, sex is just sex. But more often than not, it’s part of a bigger picture.
Sex with a romantic partner is one part of an overall relationship dynamic. Sex with a tinder date can still be an emotionally and physically intimate and act. Even masturbation - sex with yourself - is an expression of your own relationship with your body and sexuality.
Whomever you share it with, sex can bring your feelings about intimacy and relationships to the surface. For example, sex may highlight that you do not feel as passionate about your romantic partner as you once did. Or, it could be a reminder of past infidelity, bringing up feelings of pain, guilt and fear about what is to come.
Guilt and shame
Many people have been brought up to believe that sex is bad, dirty, or evil. This is particularly true for people who have been told that their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual past is a source of shame.
Even if you reject them as an adult, having sex can bring these deep seated notions to the fore. If crying after sex leads causes you to acknowledge these feelings, it could be the first step towards letting go.
If you have experienced sexual trauma in the past, sexual encounters - even enjoyable and consensual ones - can be triggering. Particular details may evoke memories of a past traumatic encounter. Trauma can make you feel scared, sad, and disassociated after sex, causing you to display an emotional response.
If you suspect that past trauma is causing you to cry after sex, therapy could help. Understanding the root cause, knowing your triggers, and talking to your partner may make your sexual encounters less triggering and more enjoyable.
What should I do about it?
If you find yourself crying after sex, be honest with yourself about how you are feeling.
If the experience is not accompanied by any negative emotions, you probably have nothing to worry about.
However, if crying after sex is happening more frequently than you would like, is affecting your relationship, or is making you feel preoccupied or worried; or if you suspect it is part of a bigger issue, such as relationship dissatisfaction, feelings of guilt or shame, or past sexual trauma, consider delving deeper.
Alone, or with guidance from a medical or therapeutic professional, you may identify the underlying issue, learn healthy strategies for healing, and pave the way to a more satisfying - and perhaps, less teary - sex life.