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Is Arguing Really A Turn On?

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Anonymous asks:

I've never been a conflictual person, but I discovered my temper when I met this guy. We tried to have a casual relationship, but we are too alike or too different cause we argue/discuss/debate constantly; but we haven't been able to stop having sex. Its like arguing with each other is a turn on. Is this normal?

Stephanie replies:

What you’re describing here comes down to a word that many people interested in psychology would term “displacement.”

The theory of displacement was first brought about by the well known Sigmund Freud to describe the idea that when a person is upset, they shift their impulses from an unacceptable target to a more acceptable one – or a less threatening one. For instance if you’re upset with your teacher for a bad grade that you received on a test and feel that the reason for this was their grading being unfair, while you may be upset with them you really can’t hit them or act out on this anger with them and so you go home and punch your little brother or sister in the arm and yell at your mother for an unknown reason. It’s not something that you consciously choose to do – rather an unconscious change mentally of what’s making you angry.

More recently being connected to this theory is the idea behind how “make-up sex” really works. The connection comes down to being similarities in the ways in which the body reacts to anger and arousal being so closely related. For instance, when you’re aroused – as detailed in the first article below - your blood pressure rises, your heartbeat and breathing both quicken, your body (and indeed your mind) become more receptive. You’ll often feel heated when aroused (which is attributed to the increase in blood flowing). When you’re angry you have the same increase in blood pressure, your breathing and heartbeat will quicken, and you may also feel that “heated” feeling from increased blood flow. All of these factors add together and rather than the brain receiving these signals as being extremely angered by the other person, the information is “displaced” or making you feel that you’re very aroused by the other person.

So to the question of whether or not it’s normal. It is normal for your brain to misplace information from time to time, just as it’s normal that information can be confused when the responses are so closely related. Perhaps the more important question though would be whether or not this relationship is a healthy relationship. Have you talked to him about how it makes you feel that you fight so often? It’s one thing to discuss topics and debate every once in a while as everyone is entitled to their own opinion and not everyone’s opinions will be exactly the same. It’s a different matter, however, when you are saying that rather than once in a while having times when you argue or debate over different things that it’s a constant between the two of you then it really can’t be considered healthy.

It would be a good idea to sit down and talk with him about the way in which you argue and debate. Are you both really comfortable with the way that things are? A big part of being in any relationship with another person, especially a sexual relationship, is being able to fully trust the other person and also having some type of compatibility between the two of you. There’s also a level of respect both of boundaries and feelings of one another that could very easily be crossed or forgotten in the transition from the argument.

Below I’ve linked you to some articles from the site that may help give some perspective as well.

written 13 May 2008 . updated 31 Jan 2014

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