Sex File: Why won’t she cuddle me after sex?

Sex File: Why won’t she cuddle me after sex?

My wife never wants to stay in bed after we’ve made love. I want to lie around cuddled up together, enjoying the afterglow. She wants to jump out of bed and get on with stuff. We usually have wonderful sex, but the speedy exit leaves me feeling a little abandoned.

Although a postcoital cuddle is indeed blissful, it can also be rather messy and washing sheets is a pain. 

With several years of marriage under her belt, your wife is not unusual if she chooses to visit the bathroom rather than add to the laundry pile. 

The trouble is, when a woman excuses herself from the sex cocoon, all the “stuff” she should be getting on with comes flooding back, and once duty calls it’s game over.

It’s all a far cry from those rose-coloured early days and nights. Back then, neither of you would have believed that one day in the dull and distant future laundry would be a bigger priority than the dreamy afterglow of sexual satiation.

That state is fundamental to pair bonding. At the University of Toronto, the psychologist Amy Muise investigated the importance of post-coital cuddles. 

Her research showed that couples who spend more time snuggling after sex experience greater sexual and relationship satisfaction. 

Duration proved to be relative, so the longer a couple spent hugging, the higher their levels of happiness.

At Florida State University Andrea Meltzer, another psychologist has been quantifying how long the effects of sexual afterglow last. 

Her research reveals that sexual satisfaction and relational happiness remain elevated for about 48 hours after sex, with the relationship being proportionate. 

Couples who experience a stronger afterglow report higher levels of marital satisfaction.

Meltzer’s study was relatively short, so she focused her research on newlyweds because she figured they could be relied on to have sex at least once during the two-week period. 

She was right. They had sex every other day, remaining bathed in a wonderful sexual afterglow.

This finding ties in with research suggesting the sexual afterglow is an evolutionary mechanism that promotes pair bonding. 

In prairie voles, mating activates dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin receptors in the reward circuitry in the brain. 

In humans, the same neurochemicals that make prairie voles monogamous have been linked to arousal, sexual satisfaction, and commitment.

There is, I suppose, a remote chance that your wife might be experiencing postcoital dysphoria, a condition that leaves people feeling sad, empty, annoyed, or fidgety after sex, which is thought to be a comedown from the neurochemical and hormonal high that occurs during intercourse.

Postcoital dysphoria seems to affect women more than men, but a comparable syndrome in males leaves men suffering from flu-like symptoms within seconds of ejaculation.

A much more likely explanation for your wife’s behaviour would be communication difficulties. 

Over the years a thousand tiny disappointments make it easier to take each other for granted and harder to be honest about how that makes you both feel. 

Sex is a space where your bodies are meant to do the talking, but sometimes not wanting sex or wanting to jump up out of bed immediately afterwards is a woman’s way of letting her partner know that she feels tired, stressed, sad, angry, aggrieved, or unappreciated.

Although you interpret your wife’s reluctance to engage in postcoital cuddles as abandonment, I think she is trying to tell you something important.

Next time she gets up after sex, get up with her and offer to help to lighten her load. 

You may well end up doing the laundry, but if you wash the sheets, she might be willing to spend more time between them.

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