Considering Sex With An Ex? Read This First.
Having sex with an ex is like slipping on that old pair of shoes that you can’t quite get rid of. They’re borderline falling apart, so you know you should donate them. But they’re also amazingly broken in—no blisters or chafing to worry about. Ah, do you just give in and put them on again? Or kick them to the curb?
If you are thinking about slipping back into things with an old flame, there are a few things you should keep in mind first.
“My clients have sex with their exes for a number of reasons,” says sexologist Jessica O’Reilly, PhD, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast. “Some say it feels good to be wanted by someone who abandoned or rejected them. Others like that it is familiar and convenient. And others are hoping that sex will lead to a rekindling of the relationship.”
Ultimately, how sex with an ex will affect you differs from person to person. For some, they feel satisfied and can easily move on, while others, not so much, O’Reilly says. For this reason, everyone should consider the positives and negatives before getting in bed with a former flame—not to deter you, but so that you’re prepared for every possible outcome.
If you’re thinking about giving this a shot and trying on your old kicks, er, hitting up your ex, here’s everything you should consider first.
1. It can soothe hard feelings.
“If the sex goes well, it may soothe hard feelings that remained from the breakup,” says Joel Block, PhD, relationship psychologist and author of The 15-Minute Relationship Fix. “Rather than feeling harshly toward each other, the post-relationship sexual contact may remind a couple of the warm, sexual attitudes they had toward each other.”
2. It can be a total rush.
“It’s tempting, of course: Humans naturally crave comfort and predictability as well as excitement and novelty—and sex with an ex offers both,” says O’Reilly. “You get the thrill of having sex with someone casually alongside the security of knowing one another intimately.”
3. It can be comforting.
Breakups can leave you feeling extremely lonely, especially if you and your partner were co-habitating. So sex with an ex can bring on a sense of comfort, especially if you’ve been feeling lonely since the split.
Even if you two called it quits over irreconcilable differences outside the bedroom, Block explains, you might be able to put those frustrations and issues aside for the physical stuff that you know will make you feel good.
4. It can change how you view yourself.
“A breakup can create a crash in one’s self regard. In that case, sex with an ex can counter the feeling of failure,” says Block. “The sexual relationship may lend itself to viewing the breakup having more to do with incompatibility than inferiority.”
5. It can be ‘safe’.
Sex with an ex is the ultimate safety move because you share a past and know each other well. Compared to a new relationship, your ex already knows every part of you—your history, your body, and what you like in bed. This isn’t an automatic thing when you’re with someone new.
When you know “the relationship isn’t going anywhere, there may not be any tension, and it is a comfortable and a sexy, safe familiar,” says Block.
1. It can lead to emotional attachment again.
“Sex can occur without a lot of emotional attachment, but [oftentimes] that is not what occurs,” says Block. “For some women, continuing a sexual relationship with an ex can bring back the hurt and anguish of the broken relationship creating a painful déjà vu.”
2. It may lead to a cycle of break-ups.
“A few couples may reconnect,” O’Reilly says. But usually, couples who reconcile after having sex with each other will end up breaking up again. “Sex with an ex leads to a cycle of break-ups and disappointments. For many, it’s a band-aid solution that delays that prevents you from moving on,” she adds. “Research shows that time heals heartbreak and rejection and the chemical process involved in sex can counteract this process—particularly for those for whom sex is a bonding experience.”
3. It can reopen old wounds.
“Getting together sexually with an ex is risky,” says Block. Being together again can force old issues and old pain to resurface just when you were starting to move forward.
“For example, what if the only part of a previous relationship that worked, and worked well, was the sex?” he asks. If one of you wanted children and the other wasn’t ready, you might find yourself having those tough and heated conversations all over again and feeling down about how you could never work it out.
4. It may complicate other relationships you’re involved in.
“While we may view sex with an ex occurring when neither is in a new relationship, my experience suggests that more often it’s more complicated,” says Block. Usually, one or both exes are in new relationships and, though sex with an ex might feel good in the moment, they have to deal with the guilt of cheating on someone or even run the risk of their new partners finding out.
5. It may make you miss having a relationship.
“The continuation of the sexual relationship may be a longing for something that is no longer available,” says Block. Every time you’re with your ex, you might end up feeling nostalgic for what used to be. And as keeping things strictly physical gets tougher, you mind find yourself wanting a fuller relationship, which, you’ve already determined cannot happen with your ex.
The toss-up: It may lead to a new beginning with your ex.
Sex with an ex might help you realize you want to give things another go. While it might have started out as just sex, both of you or maybe just on of you might start imagining a reconciliation, says Block. Now, since both of you might not be up for it, you can take this as a negative, but if you talk it out and both find you can work through the things that separated you in the first place, sex with an ex might have been a great idea, after all.
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