7 Things No One Tells You About Sex With Your Ex
Depending on how long it's been since you broke up, sex with an ex can seem like a fantastic idea. You already have the intimacy part down, you know each other's bodies in ways you wouldn't know the body of a one-night stand, and you have all that history. So. Much. History. Which, honestly, might be a bad thing.
Although a 2015 survey of 1,000 people by online sex retail shop Adam and Eve found that most people, at 56%, haven't slept with an ex, there's still that 44% who have decided to dip their toes in familiar waters again. If you happen to be in that percentage, isn't it good to know you're in great company, right?
But while many will say that sleeping with an ex can be bad for you, it's not all dark and gloomy territory. For some, sleeping with an ex can actually be a good and, in some cases, fulfilling thing. That is, if you're ready for the emotions, possible confusion, and the questions that are to come with it.
"Revisiting the sexual side of the relationship can help resolve some of that past hurt," Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and the creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, tells Bustle. But, then again, sex with an ex isn't entirely a good thing either.
Here are seven things that no one tells you about sleeping with your ex.
1. Positive: Over-Idealization
When relationships comes to an end, it's easy to romanticize your former partner. It's as if selective memory kicks in and refuses to let you see the truth. When enough time has passed, it's almost an automatic reaction to idealize the past: both the relationship and your former partner. But sex with an ex can help get rid of that deluded notion and shake reality back into your bones.
"Sometimes we allow our past relationships to disallow our future relationships and happiness," Silva says. "When that is the case, going back to move forward can sometimes make us see that we've idealized the relationship."
Although it may not be totally clear in the moment, while you and your ex are rolling around in the sheets, there's likely to be something that will come up and remind you of a very important fact: you broke up for a reason.
2. Negative: Denial
If you're still thinking about your ex and have feelings for them, hoping that it will all work out, then sex with an ex is a bad idea. Bad-bad, not good-bad — like, so bad that you can kiss any hope of getting over your ex goodbye if you sleep with them.
"Hoping that sex with your ex will rekindle your relationship is setting you up for false hope," Silva says. "Chances are that the issues in the relationship that caused the breakup weren’t sexual."
All it takes is one night of sex with an ex to put you back at square one in your recovery process. Your heart is worth more than a roll in the hay, especially if it's someone you're unable to get over.
3. Positive: Security
As much as people may want to turn their head away from this reality, sleeping with an ex does offer security that sex with a one-night stand does not. There's safety, comfort, and the feeling that you're going home again.
"A breakup creates self-doubt, anger, rumination, and lowered self-esteem which makes us feel less desirable to others," Silva says. "Sometimes sex with an ex helps to provide some sense of security because of the familiarity and mutual growth you both developed over time."
As Silva explains, because it's your ex and the breakup that created those feelings of doubt and anger, that familiarity of having sex with an ex can become a moment of empowerment for some. As if you've conquered the negativity that came with the loss and made it to the other side.
"As you heal and become strengthened, you see very clearly why the relationship wasn’t ideal and what you need in your future partner," Silva says.
4. Negative: Settling
When a relationship comes to an end, there's usually a good reason for it, because happy relationships don't just dissolve. It's with this breakup, no matter how much it hurts, that you're supposed to move onward and upward, as they say. When you don't, you can fall back into patterns with an ex. And when it comes to exes, patterns are not a good thing, because they prevent you from moving forward.
"[When you sleep with an ex] you're seeking happiness, but wind up settling with what is familiar to you," says Silva. "Deep down inside when you’re settling, you know it."
While some people might try to convince themselves otherwise, the truth is that people can only settle for so long before they need to break free and find a challenge again.
"Sometimes people convince themselves that it is OK [to settle]," Silva says. "Other times they realize that they want more, but don’t think they can get it."
As they say, dust settles, not you. Remind yourself of this if you find yourself back in bed with an ex.
5. Positive: Orgasms
With familiarity comes knowledge and with knowledge comes, well, good sex. Actually, scratch that: with it comes great sex. Because practice and longevity goes a long way.
When you've known someone so intimately and physically, there's a better chance you'll be able to climax because you're at ease. You're with someone who knows all your money spots, so to speak, and exactly what's going to make your toes curl. But with this fantastic sex comes the need to understand the difference between sex and love.
As long as you keep it to "just looking for an orgasm," Silva says, then sex with an ex can be a lot of fun and even fulfilling. But this only works if you're not in the category of wanting to get back together with your ex. If you're hoping those orgasms will lead to something more, like trying to make the relationship work again, then it's best to steer clear.
6. Negative: Self-Esteem Issues
It's important to realize that having sex with your ex could lead to emotional turmoil again if you're not both on the same page. If you think the sex is one thing, while your ex thinks it's something completely different, it's going to cause more harm — to both of you — than good.
"While [sex with an ex] might seem like a harmless idea in the beginning, as time goes on your ex may find someone else and leave you again," Silva says. "If it is hard to resist ex sex, mentally prepare yourself for the detachment and have a conversation about being on the same page about the encounters."
In other words, accept that the rug could be pulled out from under you at any given moment. If you can't accept this and know you're not strong enough to face another round of disappointment, stay away from sleeping with your ex. Instead, get a vibrator — a vibrator is never going to disappointment you.
7. Positive: Closure
Similar to offering an end to idealization, sex with an ex, either once or multiple times, can help you get the closure you might be looking for. It is, in some ways, like tying up loose ends, emphasizing that even if you still have feelings for each other, you were right to part ways.
"Sometimes we idealize our exes because we haven’t found a replacement or don’t want to go through the dating process," Silva says. "It’s easier to romanticize your ex and the relationship in those moments. Sex with your ex can help reveal why you chose to remain apart."
It's also important, especially for the romantics out there, to realize that just because you and your ex don't make sense at the moment, you never know what the future holds. But, even more important to realize, is that sex with an ex isn't going to make the future arrive any faster either.
When it comes to having sex with an ex, it's essential to tread lightly. It can be a slippery slope so make sure you know how you feel about them, the expectations you have for the situation, and, ideally, have an end point in mind. You can't go on sleeping with your ex forever because even if you're over them, you could end up getting stuck in a routine. Such a scenario can hold you back from finding another relationship, one that's the full package and not just sex. Unless, of course, you just want sex at this point in your life. It's completely up to you.
Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach
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