You want a naked woman in your bed to be one of two things: horny or satisfied.
But what if she cries?
It’s a common experience, according to new Australian research. Nearly half of women have felt unexplainable sadness after sex, the study finds.
Researchers call the phenomenon “postcoital dysphoria.” It can involve bursting into tears or just feeling depressed or anxious.
The good news: Her crying may have nothing to do with you. The women in the study specified that their feelings were “inexplicable,” so it’s not like it could be traced back to, say, the guy’s tragically subpar skills in the sack.
It could just be a biological reflex to sex. A woman’s body—or a man’s, for that matter—goes through a laundry list of hormonal and neurological changes during sex, and it’s possible that one of them could trigger tears, says Lori Brotto, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of British Columbia.
Or it could be something heavy.
The researchers found that women who had been sexually abused as children were more likely to experience postcoital dysphoria. For these women, sex—even good, consensual sex—could unconsciously trigger fear.
There are countless other possibilities, Brotto says: She may feel lonely after the intimacy of sex is over, or she may feel vaguely guilty.
Even though the study participants’ depression was inexplicable, that’s not always the case. Maybe you accidentally rammed her cervix, or maybe she caught herself wanting to say the L word for the first time.
If your partner seems bummed after sex, give her a chance to talk about it, suggests Brotto.
This applies regardless of whether it’s your girlfriend, wife, or a hookup. It may seem awkward if you don’t know her well, but just be supportive.
Say: “You look really sad; what’s going on?”
If she doesn’t want to talk, just drop it. But rub her shoulder to reassure her that you’re there for her.
If you’re in a relationship, you can bring it up again later to help her make sense of it, says Brotto.
“It’s hard for a person to think rationally when they’re overcome with emotions,” she says. “But a few hours later or the next day, with some digging you may be able to figure out what is going on.”
Try asking when she started feeling sad or if she knows what spurred her feelings. Again, don’t demand an answer if she says it was nothing.
“Help her make sense of it in a gentle, careful, open-ended way,” Brotto says. “Don’t try to solve it; just give her a chance to explore it.”
You may find out that she hates a certain position or was just feeling weepy that day.
But if she seems to consistently get sad after sex and she can’t figure out why, then she might need more than your listening ear or comfort. She may have to seek a therapist’s help so she can work through the underlying problem—with your support.