Sex is complicated; not just because of the relationship between the people having sex, but the act of sex itself. There is a lot of emotional and physical stuff happening there. A lot.
The truth is, as happy and desirable as we want to make sex seem, it’s loaded with feelings, both good and bad.
On the one hand, it can physically feel very wonderful—orgasms are pretty fantastic. But it can also physically feel uncomfortable or upsetting if your partner is selfish, doesn’t know where a clitoris is, you have a physical condition that is being ignored, or neither of you knows how to communicate.
Sex can feel emotionally very wonderful, too, if you’re with someone you love and trust—who takes care of your needs—or even with a casual sex partner with whom you trust to be open, communicative, and kind to you during and after the act. But again, it can also feel emotionally distressing if your partner isn’t nice to you, doesn’t take care of your needs, doesn’t communicate, or leaves the minute sex is over. (The list goes on and on.)
So it's no surprise that sex can often elicit an emotional and often tear-filled response.
And want to hear an even more confusing part? Sex can also cause tears for seemingly no reason. You might have a partner you love and trust with whom the sex is terrific and still cry after sex, whether due to sadness or overwhelming joy or just your body's hormones.
Here are some very normal reasons you might be crying after sex.
Post-coital dysphoria makes good sex seem sad.
Post-coital dysphoria (sometimes called sexual dysphoria or post-sex dysphoria) is a perfectly normal thing that happens after sex, even really good sex.
When we have orgasms (or even very emotionally raw, intimate sex that doesn’t involve orgasm), our brains are flooded with feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. While this usually produces the famous post-sex afterglow, where you bask in a puddle of good feelings, sometimes you feel sad instead. The rush of feelings washes away, leaving you despondent or even teary.
Research shows that about 50 percent of women and 41 percent of men have had PCD at some point in their lives. Some people also experience PCD regularly. Yes, it kind of sucks, but yes, it’s normal.
Shame around sex makes it feel wrong.
Other experts have thought that sex dysphoria may be connected to shame. We live in a culture that shames sexual freedom, exploration, or anything outside of monogamy and missionary. When you grow up in a culture that demonizes sexuality and expression, you might have an undercurrent of shame around your sexuality—without even knowing it.
Even when you’re with someone you love, trust, and who takes good care of you in bed, those feelings of shame that are hidden under the surface can rear their ugly head. It doesn’t matter if you’re following the social script around what we deem “acceptable expressions of sexuality,” sex and shame are linked together.
You may logically know what you’re doing is perfectly OK, and you feel desire and want to engage in sexual activity, only to feel gross and dirty afterwards due to your subconscious.
If you experience sadness (or crying) after sex regularly, it might have to do with your body. Perhaps you’re not sad at all, but you're so full of emotion that you cry. It can be happy crying or sad crying, but you’re crying nonetheless. Our hormonal balance can be thrown out of whack for a variety of reasons: your period, postpartum, pregnancy, PMS, etc.
If you’re noticing that crying after sex happens when you’re somewhere near your period, it’s likely due to a hormone imbalance. If you’re concerned, always speak to a doctor.
Pain during sex
If you’re crying during sex because of physical pain, do not clench your teeth and get through it. Stop immediately. If this is something you experience or have experienced regularly, speak to a doctor immediately. Even if this is a totally new thing, go talk to your doctor.
There are many reasons why you might be having physical pain during sex. All of these conditions should be discussed with your ob-gyn, therapist, and any other medical professionals you have in your arsenal. Seek assistance.
And if your doctor dismisses your pain: FIND A NEW DOCTOR.
The sex was overwhelming.
Crying after sex is also linked to extreme relaxation and comfort with a sexual partner. After very, very intense sex, sometimes you feel so close to someone and so amazed by your love for them that you can’t help crying.
Even though sex is often portrayed as a sexy, dirty, or naughty act, it can also offer soul-connecting intimacy that we may not be used to. The vulnerability of being naked with someone you adore, combined with all those feel-good chemicals post-orgasm could feel so beautiful that it moves you to tears. No, this doesn’t just happen in movies—it’s totally real!