Post-sex Blues
February 6, 2006 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal to occasionally feel bad after good sex with a loving partner?

I love my boyfriend, I love sex, and together we tend have pretty great sex. Yet sometimes, for what seems like no reason, I will feel a bit bad after even the best sex (by which I mean the most satisfying emotionally and physically). By "bad" I mean a bit dirty, ashamed, or a little uncared for. I get the sense that this feeling comes from someplace in my stomach, not someplace in my brain, although I don't expect that diagnosis to hold up in the face of actual biology. I feel pretty comfortable saying that the relationship I am currently in is about as good as it gets in this life and is not the source of these feelings (in other words, any comments aimed at the relationship will likely be unhelpful). Does anyone else ever feel this way? How "normal" is this?

If this is something that other people experience, is it more common for women than for men?

Also, I'm a woman, in case you couldn't tell.
posted by BathroomMonkey to Human Relations (18 answers total)

Well, it's common enough to have made it into Wikipedia.

Post-coital tristesse
posted by MsMolly at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2006

Well, many more questions about your life really need to be answereed...

What were the religious overtones of your upbringing? What were the reactions during your discovery of sex (by you, by them, by those around you?) Is this the first person you've experienced these feelings with? Do you feel "dirty" after bad sex? Who cums first? Do you have a vanilla or other type of sex life? Do you feel bad when you masturbate?

I think the answers to questions along those veins will help you find the actual answer you seek.
posted by nadawi at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2006

Something similar isn't uncommon (and Google for it; you'll find plenty more).

However, the feeling of dirtiness or shame seems to indicate something rather different. Have you talked to anyone about this? A therapist or counselor, I mean.
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2006

When I was younger, although I was in a LTR (I was about 18-21 while this relatioonship took place, as was the boyfriend) I occasionally had those feelings after sex. I grew up a little, had a couple of flings, met a great man and now we're married and I can't recall feeling that way since then.

Here's what I chalked it up to: I wasn't a vrigin at the time but I had come from a fairly conservative background. My family wasn't so much conservative but the place where I grew up was, and I had gone to a pretty wacky Southern Baptist church as a youngster. I think most of this was feelings of guilt, a.k.a. it's a sin because we aren't married, I'm too young, I'm not really in love, etc. etc.

I was also in college at the time and TERRIFIED of getting pregnant, so we ALWAYS used multiple forms of birth control. My mom had me very young so I think that was part of it.

After I got a little older, more comfortable with my body and my own personal philosophies about life, right and wrong and the like, I got over those feelings very fast, and it made already good sex so much better.

Perhaps you should look at what environmental forces are telling you is right and wrong. As I said, I didn't consider myself conservative, but there was for a long while a lingering voice in the back of my head making me feel like what I had done was "naughty."

I think getting over that is a big step in becoming an adult and learning to think for yourself.
posted by Brittanie at 5:44 PM on February 6, 2006

As you mentioned, there's a couple of different components to this kind of good sex. The very intimate, emotional side of good sex can take you to a level of intensity that can really amp up your feelings of vulnerability (hence the drive for holding/cuddling/etc. after sex). Similarly this kind of heightened vulnerability can also be engendered by really uninhibited, roger-me-senseless fucking. There's something about getting really dirty with someone that's both delightful but also a little scary -- when the heat of passion recedes, on some level you may be thinking "oh my god, he just saw me say/do/demand [X]!" Maybe that, in particular, is where some of your feelings of shame are coming from?

On preview: holy crap, there's a term for everything, isn't there?
posted by scody at 5:45 PM on February 6, 2006

I'm no relationship expert, but I wonder if you are consciously/unconsciously looking for more from your relationship. Are the two of you generally moving toward something more permanent, and if not, do you wish you were?

I don't mean to imply that you SHOULD have these feelings, just wondering if it's going on in the grey matter somewhere.
posted by dunderhead at 6:02 PM on February 6, 2006

It's a well documented phenomenon going pretty far back: "post coitum omne animal triste est" is a well-known phrase in Latin, although no one seems to know the original source of the phrase.

I had it happen frequently with my first sexual relationship, but the guy tended to fall asleep right after he came and at the time that left me feeling kind of abandoned and lonely. If everything else (especially the sex) is good, maybe it's a kind of crash - like coming down off any other high.
posted by dilettante at 6:05 PM on February 6, 2006

Some great emotional and psychological reasons are given above, but I suspect it may in part be physical - like coming down from a sugar high :) During sex (especially great sex), there are all these good-feeling hormones/endorphines/etc running through our brains. After it's over, there's a refractory period as the endorphins, etc get absorbed. We start "feeling down" and the brain interprets it how it will (depression, shame, anxiety, etc). I can't find any studies on this phenomenon as it relates to sex, but I'll keep looking. (I am not a biologist, btw. This is as much speculation as everyone else).
posted by muddgirl at 6:06 PM on February 6, 2006

I get that. Sometimes when I'm feeling tired and dragged out, a good orgasm will leave me feeling kind of overwhelmed and broken-hearted. It's kind of an empty feeling, too, like you got something but it wasn't what you were looking for, even if you didn't think you were really looking for something in the first place. A bit of an emotional anticlimax, if you will. That may be where the shame and disappointment come in for you.

And yeah, there's kind of a disconnect because you're having the physical response to strong emotion, but not really having the emotion itself. It reminds me a bit of waking up from a sad dream where you were crying; your brain realizes it's nothing, but it takes a minute or so for your body to readjust.

Also, it doesn't correlate with how dirty the sex is (for me, at least), and it only happens when I have an orgasm, not if I've just had non-orgasmic sex.

When I was younger, I used to think that feeling meant I was in love, which got me into more than one pickle, relationship-wise. Now I just shrug it off and make a note to get more rest.
posted by stefanie at 6:16 PM on February 6, 2006

I feel all sorts of crazy emotions; and they're all pretty well mixed up and jumbled together. And about 15 minutes afterwards I have come 'down' from the sex-high and things calm down emotionally. so none of them last. [ I am a guy]
posted by iurodivii at 8:36 PM on February 6, 2006

I think if these feelings are strong enough for you to seek help here, they're strong enough for you to seek some low-impact (i.e. no drugs) professional therapy. Clearly, you're not alone, given the range of reactions above. But feelings of shamefulness after sex can't be happy-happy and should be dealt with head-on.
posted by frogan at 8:49 PM on February 6, 2006

In my first relationship that was a pretty common feeling--I think stemming from a lot of negative aspects of our sexual interaction that I didn't recognize at the time. My partner was very into low-level objectification that some people are just fine with & I'm not, and it left me detatched from the sex, as though he was having sex with the idea of me and not the me actually there with him right then. I got so used to minor unhappiness after sex that I actually had to train myself out of it with my next partner ("just because it's been a common feeling in my life doesn't mean I have to pay attention to it NOW!")

Now the only times I really feel that way are when there's been a really intense pre-orgasmic buildup, and then the orgasm itself is very mediocre--as though all the energy amassed during sex wasn't properly released.
posted by soviet sleepover at 9:44 PM on February 6, 2006

"I get the sense that this feeling comes from someplace in my stomach, not someplace in my brain, although I don't expect that diagnosis to hold up in the face of actual biology."

Eh, you may be right about the biology.
posted by orthogonality at 10:21 PM on February 6, 2006

Do you think that the emotional feeling you're getting from the sex itself (that is, the good connection, not the sadness afterwards) is triggering a difficult or complicated memory of something else? I know that often when I'm feeling most emotional (good or bad), my mind kinda hijacks that open feeling and tries to force me to deal with other repressed emotions. Maybe the feelings of vulnerability you get from that emotional connection to your boyfriend are scaring you in some way?
posted by occhiblu at 10:55 PM on February 6, 2006

That is to say, not that your partner scares you or the relationship is bad, but just that there may be some deeper issues trying to surface (as happens with us all...)
posted by occhiblu at 10:56 PM on February 6, 2006

Is it normal to occasionally feel bad after good sex with a loving partner?

posted by semmi at 1:08 AM on February 7, 2006

dilettante -- I always thought it was a Claudius Galenus' quote
posted by matteo at 9:01 AM on February 7, 2006

Last night after love-making w/my boyfriend was one of the first times I DIDN'T feel that feeling immediately afterward. I think it was because I managed to stay relaxed throughout the experience which made it way better - some of the best sex (if not the best) we've ever had...

It's too easy to fall into that rushed physical pleasure while your mind is kinda racing, or sometimes thinking about something else entirely. Doing yoga really helps, plus last night was better probably because we each gave each other a half hour massage prior. I recommend these things highly...

I think that feeling of feeling immediately bad comes from feeling out of touch with my heart, basically. I think it comes from having had too much desire and tension built up, such that after the experience I feel like I overindulged in selfish pleasure instead of allowing it to come naturally. Last night I think we or I at least, let it come naturally and more slowly, rather than actively seeking/forcing orgasm to occur. Whenever I force it to happen (out of desire, tension or being low on time), I almost unfailingly feel that immediate slight revulsion/guilt toward what I just did. In those instances I wasn't focusing on our connection, but purely or almost entirely on my physical pleasure, which produces a bad, bad feeling.

I really think that I have these issues because I've developed a very strong guard around my heart for self-protection. This disallows me to feel the greatest connection I could feel, and I think that is why I feel guilty - here I am on top of my lover, barely even noticing he's there... That feels almost heartbreaking. There is so much more I could've been experiencing.

I share this experience in hopes of lending insight, not really a direct answer. I think the answer may come from your own self insight and self-healing/self-compassion/self-acceptance, whatever.

I think it is probably "normal" to feel bad afterwards on occasion, yes. But you know that teenage girls making slight cuts into their arms has become so common that many psychologists want to deem that as a "normal" behavior? Normal is relative. So in that sense, I wouldn't worry about it so much. But if you want to stop feeling that way... Well, I don't know what advice to give you exactly. What seems to propel me along the way is just a combination of everything I've mentioned above, plus a little Taoist & tantric philosophy.
posted by mojabunni at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2006

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