If you’ve ever found yourself crying after sex, know that you’re not alone. Many people, myself included, have broken down in tears after sex with no apparent reason why. This can be confusing for ourselves and our partners especially if the sex was really good. What I’ve come to learn is that this isn’t always a bad thing.
I recently read a couple of articles about “post-coital dysphoria” or PCD as it’s called in medical terms. According to psychology professor Dr. David Ludden “The standard model of the human sexual response cycle proposes four phases. The first three phases—excitement, plateau, and orgasm—are generally well understood by researchers. However, the resolution phase has been less studied, and what we know about it is generally based on anecdotal reports.”. He goes on to explain that “The resolution phase is often experienced as emotionally positive, with feelings ranging from elation to contentment in the wake of a satisfying sexual episode. It’s also the time when lovers bond, as they cuddle, kiss, and engage in pillow talk, basking in the afterglow of sex. However, not all consensual sex leads to a satisfying resolution.”. Understandably if the sex was especially disappointing, if someone was made to feel bad or the memory of past sexual abuse was triggered tears might be expected. But if the sex was good and both partners feel thoroughly satisfied, tears of sadness can be unexpected and troubling. If this happens more than occasionally it might be worth investigating deeper by seeking help from a counselor or therapist. But if you cry after sex every once in a while there’s nothing to be alarmed about.
Sex is a catharsis, a beautiful physical and emotional release. When we orgasm, our brains are flooded with “feel good” chemicals like oxytocin (bonding) and dopamine (pleasure). Along with this rush we can stir up other emotions that may be at the surface or deeper within. Maybe you’ve encountered recent stressors and haven’t had a chance to fully sort through those feelings. Perhaps deeply buried emotions of past trauma have been triggered somehow. Those feelings and memories are not just stored in your mind but in the cells of your body as well. After all, the brain and body can never be separated. There is an infinite, intricate connection between our thoughts, emotions and physical responses. Ever feel flushed in the face when you get angry? Does your heartbeat quicken when you see your lover? Does your stomach churn in knots when you’re worried or nervous? This is your body directly responding to your feelings.
Dr. Candace Pert, internationally recognized neuroscientist and author of “Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine” made significant discoveries in the areas of neuropeptides and the mind-body connection. In fact Dr. Pert declared there was no distinction between the two, that body was in fact the subconscious mind. Her scientific work received wide acclaim for its bridging of science and psychosomatic medicine. Dr. Pert’s paper ‘Neuropeptides and their receptors, a psychosomatic network’ (J Immunology, 1986.) concludes “Neuropeptides and their receptors thus join the brain, glands, and immune system in a network of communication between brain and body, probably representing the biochemical substrate of emotion.” This groundbreaking idea was widely incorporated and accepted by the massive community of therapists, movement educators, healers of all types and body workers that found that her research resonated with their work on a practical level.
When we engage in sex we are (hopefully!) very active. We burn calories with the exertion, our heart rate and breath quickens, we work up a sweat. That physical activity in essence stirs up the emotional memories stored in our cells. Things that we didn’t expect can come to the surface. When we surrender into orgasm, we give ourselves permission to fully feel...not only the ecstatic joy of orgasmic release but also the frustration, hurt, anger, fear or sadness we may have been experiencing recently. But that’s a good thing! We need that emotional release to feel whole again, to feel loved for the unique individual we are.
I used to think that I cried too easily at times, that I was too sensitive. As I’ve matured, I come to love and embrace the fact that I am easily moved to tears. A beautiful sunset, the sound of a violin, the love I feel for my husband when I look into his eyes can overwhelm me with a profound sense of joy. That feeling sometimes seeps out through my eyes. Depending on when and where this happens it can be embarrassing as tears are usually seen as sadness to an outsider. I see tears as a physical representation of an emotional state of feeling. So when we connect deeply with a partner (or ourselves) through sex, when we let ourselves be fully seen, adored and worshiped, when we trust someone’s touch, when we open ourselves to be vulnerable…. we feel safe enough in our partner’s presence to truly experience the entire spectrum of human emotion…the joy, the love, the raw sexiness and passionate desire as well as the sorrow and pain that are an inevitable part of life.