Experiments on Drosophila suggest that genetic recombination may result in lowered fitness of progeny (a 'recombination load'). This has been interpreted as evidence either for a direct effect of recombination on fitness, or for the maintenance of linkage disequilibria by epistatic selection. Here we show that such a recombination load is to be expected even if selection favours increased genetic recombination. This is because of the fact that, although a modifier may suffer an immediate loss of fitness if it increases recombination, it eventually becomes associated with a higher additive genetic variance in fitness, which allows a faster response to direction selection. This argument applies to mutation-selection balance with synergistic epistasis, directional selection on quantitative traits, and ectopic exchange among transposable elements. Further experiments are needed to determine whether the selection against recombination due to the immediate load is outweighed by the increased additive variance in fitness produced by recombination.