Ever felt loved-up after sex? You’re not alone. Sex can be both an expression of love, but also, a way of creating love. If you’re looking for answers to the question “why does sex cause emotional attachment” – this is the piece for you.
Emotional Attachment & Sex
It has to do with hormones.
Often dubbed as the love or cuddle hormone, oxytocin, is the hormone responsible for connection and bonding. It’s released through touch – both the non-sexual and sexual kind. Because of this, sex, even with a complete stranger, can lead to feelings of attachment and connection from the get-go.
However, for this to happen, the sex has to be satisfying. An unpleasurable experience, or sex that we haven’t consented to, doesn’t equal attachment.
And even if we did enjoy ourselves, oxytocin doesn’t automatically mean we bond and form an emotional attachment.
In my job a sex therapist and sex coach, I’ve found that a lot of sexual and relationship phenomenon are deeply rooted in psychology and culture. And these factors may play a bigger role when answering the question “why does sex cause emotional attachment?”.
It has to do with culture
Western culture has an immense focus on romantic relationships and, especially, the monogamous kind.
We talk about:
- finding “the one”,
- saving sex for marriage,
- and that sex is better when there’s an emotional attachment.
Even when explaining sex to children, it’s referred to as an activity that’s part of a romantic relationship or marriage.
Put simply, our culture talks about sex as a part of love, and perhaps this is one of the reasons sex can cause emotional attachment. We expect it too.
Feelings of pleasantness and satisfaction after good sex might sometimes be mistaken for something deeper. Possibly believed to be a sign of true connection and compatibility all-round, instead of just sexual compatibility.
In turn this might lead us to invest time in a new-found relationship, spurring us to get to know the other person and exploring opportunities to create a long-lasting bond.
It has to do with psychology, too
There are 237 reasons we have sex. One of these, is to express the love we feel for someone. Another, is to get close to someone – to form an emotional connection and experience closeness.
Sex offers a way to connect with another person and can help you feel that emotional intimacy (as well as enjoy sexual pleasure together).
So, not only does our culture kind of expect sex to lead to attachment – sex can also be used as a means of forming attachment.
But beyond the sexual act itself, there are other things we often do that can spur on an emotional connection.
Cuddling or laying close together after sex can lead to a more loving mood. In some ways, this intimate embrace can feel even more vulnerable and attachment-building than the sex itself.
There’s something special about just holding someone and being held – even if you don’t know them that well.
Sex doesn’t always cause emotional attachment
When trying to answer the question ‘why does sex cause emotional attachment’, it’s important to remember that sex and love aren’t one and the same thing. The experience of sex can certainly be worthy of the expression ‘making love’, but sex isn’t always about deep connection.
Sometimes, sex is more of fun activity. It can be a way of releasing stress or satiating instant attraction or a strong sexual appetite; enter, casual sex.
Lots of people have sex that doesn’t lead to a lasting bond – or even a second sexual experience together.
This doesn’t, however, mean that casual sex is void of emotions. We experience lots of feelings during a hook-up, and more on this can be found in my blog post on how sex and lack of emotions doesn’t really exist.
We’re all different
Sex can be the beginning of a deep-seated emotional connection, and the reasons for this span culture, psychology and biology.
- If we’ve been taught that sex leads to attachment, we might be on the subconscious prowl for signs of it – and put in the effort to turn sexual relationships into romantic ones.
- Of the 237 reasons we have sex, one of these, is to form an emotional bond and get close.
- Sex releases oxytocin (“the love hormone”), which is responsible for bonding and can explain why we feel attached after sex.
The thing is though – whether or not sex does lead to attachment – there is no right or wrong here.
Our relationships with sex differ depending on who we are.
For some, sex leads to love, and for others, it doesn’t or only does on occasion.
The answer to the question: why does sex cause emotional attachment, isn’t a simple, clear-cut one. As with most sexual phenomenon, feeling close after sex isn’t just a biological, evolutionary thing: it also depends on who you are, the sex you’re having and what meaning you ascribe to sex. What’s it like for you?
Originally published on Therapy by Leigh.