Sex has numerous physiological and psychological effects, including supporting immune function, lowering blood pressure and easing stress. It also tends to inspire pillow talk, the exchange of deeply personal information with the person we’ve just been physically intimate with.
But if you’ve ever kicked yourself for opening up too much with your new squeeze post-sex, don’t be so hard on yourself: science has found there’s a reason we do this.
In a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers from the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya in Israel found that people were more apt to self-disclosure with a prospective romantic partner after being exposed to sexual stimuli.
Through a series of studies that placed heterosexual people in situations where they were subliminally or explicitly exposed to stimuli like erotic pictures and movie scenes, or non-sexual material, and then asked to divulge a personal event to an opposite-sex stranger via Instant Messenger or face-to-face, those exposed to sexual stimuli were more prone to sharing.
“These findings suggest that activation of the sexual system encourages the use of strategies that allow people to become closer to potential partners,” researchers concluded.
This supports what we already know about human sexual proclivities and how they affect intimacy. For example, as opposed to animals, humans typically have sex in private and tend to favour sexual positions that involve face-to-face contact. All this points to a desire to establish a connection with the person we’re having sex with. And what better way to connect than by disclosing intimate information about ourselves?
“After humans orgasm, we release a hormone called oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘attachment hormone,’” says Nicole McCance, a psychologist and relationship expert. “We feel more attached and more likely to trust the person we’ve just been intimate with.”
We’re also inherently more relaxed and less inhibited after sex, so we’re more likely to flap our gums. Plus, we’re vulnerable, both literally and figuratively.
“Our brain likes to match the circumstance — we are literally naked after sex and our brain equates that with emotional nakedness, which could lead you to unleash private details about yourself,”
McCance says. Interestingly, she’s come across more men in her practice who are prone to saying “I love you” immediately after sex than women.
“I think that’s honestly how they feel in the moment,” she says. “They feel bonded to the person they’ve been with and laying in bed naked gives them permission to be vulnerable in ways that the real world doesn’t give them.”
To those who tend to fall into the overshare trap after sex and regret it afterwards, McCance offers this piece of advice: “Ask yourself how you feel in this person’s presence on a regular basis. Is this sense of wanting to share your heart and your feelings consistent, or does it only come up when you’re in bed?”