Samantha Jones once said, “Sex with an ex can be depressing. If it’s good, you can’t get it anymore. If it’s bad, you just had sex with an ex.” Even the fictional queen of casual sex knew that sex with an ex is complicated, yet surveys report that even 44% of people have sex with their ex.
In another recent survey conducted by LELO, even 37% of single people answered that they have reached out to an ex since the beginning of lockdown.
What’s even more amazing is that a further 50% of single people admit to reigniting a spark with an ex, and even 68% had a virtual date with an ex.
Clearly, people have been craving more intimacy. And what better way to get some than by rekindling a spark with someone you already know well in bed?
But before you send that thirst trap to your ex to try and reignite the spark, let’s talk about the actual pros and cons of sex with an ex and what the science says.
The Pros of Having Sex with an Ex
The good news is that recently, science has been telling us that sex with an ex might not be as bad of an idea as we might think. In fact, there are quite a few pros of why you might want to indulge in some ex-sex.
Exploring Without the Pressure
Research shows that people are willing to try new things when they have sex with an ex after a breakup.
When people engage in sexual activity with an ex-partner, they might be willing to explore new things as a way to show their ex-partners their value or get back together with them, social psychologist and sex researcher Justin Lehmiller says.
This is a very valid reason, knowing how many people are ashamed of their sexuality and sexual needs as well as lack the communication skills to communicate their needs to their partner, even in a committed relationship.
“There are many reasons people don’t talk about sex with their partners, including fear of being shamed, they were socialized to perceive talking about sex as taboo, and, for some, there is a lack of socio-cultural scripts surrounding sex, to name a few,” social psychologist and sex researcher David W. Wahl, Ph.D. explains.
When you take away the pressure of your partner breaking up with you for having weird sexual fantasies, you can truly open yourself up for new sexual explorations.
And because it’s easier to explore with a partner you already know, then an ex is a perfect candidate for some casual exploration without fear of losing them.
If they say no or call you a freak, then who cares? They’re already an ex!
A Little Bit of Hedonism Never Hurt Anybody
Men report using sex with an ex for hedonistic reasons more often than women. Lehmiller writes, “In terms of gender differences, men were more likely to say they’d had breakup sex for hedonistic and ambivalent motives.”
Men might be onto something here.
“People find it easier to have a sexual relationship with an ex-lover than with someone new, as friendship and shared history facilitate such activity,” Aaron Ben-Zeev, Ph.D. explains. You already know the gist of it, what you like and what your ex-partner likes, what turns you both on, and which position to use to get you to the finish line fastest.
So why not take advantage of that and ex-sex to get in those few orgasms without much effort until you find somebody new?
Show Them What They’re Missing
There are many different reasons why people choose to have sex with an ex-partner. One of the reasons, though, is to show them what they’re missing out.
Maybe you’re feeling a little bit bitter about the way your relationship ended; maybe you feel like you want to give them a show one last time before you can move on to better things.
Whatever your reasoning might be, it’s a valid reason to have ex-sex.
In the study conducted in 2020, people were given 52 different reasons why they had engaged in breakup sex, and they had to nominate which reasons were important to them.
While the top three answers were “sex is fun,” “want to get back together,” and “miss sex,” reasons like “closure,” “show them what they will be missing,” and “final goodbye” was in the top 15 as well.
So, it’s not a rare occurrence for people to have sex with an ex to get over them or show them that it’s their loss.
And honestly, if a little bit of hate sex will help you get over the ex, why not give in and get over it while orgasming on your way to the door?
Ex-sex might actually be good for breakup recovery as well. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand why the breakup happened or to keep your self-esteem high after it. Sex with an ex can help deal with those emotions.
“In the post-breakup stage of a relationship, maintaining one’s self-esteem is paramount. Sex with an ex can facilitate this healthy stance by enhancing the feeling that the breakup has more to do with incompatibility than inferiority,” Aaron Ben-Zeev, Ph.D. writes.
It Will Help You Land a New Relationship
Yes, it might sound controversial, but having sex with an ex might be beneficial to land you a new relationship and get more people interested in you.
“Breakup sex may also be beneficial to the extent that it enhances one’s status and, in turn, increases one’s attractiveness to other potential partners via mate-choice copying (Hill & Buss, 2008),” the study claims.
Truly, being unavailable can increase your worth and value in other people’s eyes. And it’s true for all genders, but it is stronger when it comes to women.
The same study explains, “When a man is paired with a woman who is labeled as their romantic partner, other women tend to rate that man as more attractive, an effect also known as the desirability enhancement effect (Rodeheffer et al., 2016).”
Why You Should Skip on Having Sex With an Ex
As with everything else in life, there are also some (quite a few *cough*) negatives to having sex with your ex.
It Might Hurt Your Next Relationship
If you’re caught in having sex with an ex for a long period of time after a breakup, it might affect your ability to start a new relationship or keep the current one from thriving.
“Sex with the ex in the long term often takes place when at least one of the partners is in a different relationship; the sex here has a greater, typically negative, impact on this relationship,” Ben-Zeev explains.
He then further explains his point by saying, “the current partner might be considered as a romantic compromise not merely because of future available opportunities, but also because the romantic past, which is highly emotional, is not dead—as it is possible to revive old loves.”
So, while it’s true that sleeping with your ex might make you look more interesting to other people around you, the complex human emotions and being stuck between the past and the present can truly hurt your current or next relationship.
If you’re unable to move on emotionally from your ex, you might find yourself in a situation where sex with an ex had become a burden. And this is why a lot of relationship experts advise against seeking comfort in your ex-partner’s arms.
It Might Distort Your Reality of Why You Broke Up
Nostalgia is a very powerful feeling that all of us experience. And it can truly distort the true reality of the past, making people miss toxic people and relationships in their present life.
There is probably a good reason why you broke up with your ex in the first place. And the ongoing sexual relationship with an ex, mixed with the feeling of nostalgia, might confuse you, and you’ll forget why you are not together anymore.
“From the distance of time, our memory can enhance our love for our exes, making the relationship seem better than it probably was. We thus feel justified in our romantic search and optimistic about its success,” Ben-Zeev writes.
You might want to rekindle your relationship, even if it’s not the best thing to do for you both. This is even more difficult if you jumped into the sheets with your ex while the emotions and feelings are still raw and alive.
Then, nostalgia and your current feelings for that person will even further cloud your judgment, which all can result in you ending up in a less than desirable situation, where you keep coming back to your ex, even though you two are incompatible as partners.
Sex With an Ex Might Benefit Men More Than Women
Studies show that men tend to have more positive feelings towards sex with an ex, and they get better satisfaction from it overall.
One reason for it is that women tend to get shamed more than men when it comes to having casual sex in general. So, of course, this could have an impact on their feelings towards ex-sex.
“It could be a function of the sexual double standard, or the idea that women tend to be judged more harshly than men for their sexual behaviors; this may partly explain why women are more likely to regret casual sex in general,” Lehmiller explains.
Another reason is our biological differences.
From an evolutionary point, women benefit from being more choosy with their partners because they have greater consequences of sexual activity. If women end up having sex with multiple men who are not fit to be long-term partners and end up pregnant, it’s a burden on their shoulders.
Men don’t have such troubles to consider when considering short-term mating. Researchers explain, “Men having a smaller amount of time investment, differences exist in preferences for short-term mating behaviors such that men express more favorable attitudes toward uncommitted sexual encounters—a difference, according to sexual strategies theory, that emerged due to sex differences in minimum obligatory parental investment.”
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that women can’t benefit and enjoy the casualness of ex-sex, biology and societal expectations make it harder in some cases.
Be Honest with Why You’re Seeking Out Sex With an Ex
Before you jump into the sheets with your old flame, have an honest conversation and ask yourself why you’re considering having sex with your past love:
Are you doing it out of fear of being alone?
Are you doing it because you’re lonely?
Do you need security?
Are you secretly hoping you would come back together?
Are you avoiding moving forward because it’s easier to fall into old habits?
For the longest time, articles in the media claimed that people should stay clear from sex with an ex because it can further traumatize and hurt their emotions. However, the recent study conducted by Stephanie S. Spielmann, Ph.D., shows that to be far away from the truth.
Spielmann had found that sex with an ex might not be as harmful as believed before and didn’t hinder the breakup recovery in people.
“Rather, sex with an ex is most eagerly pursued by those having difficulty moving on, suggesting that we should perhaps instead more critically evaluate people’s motivations behind pursuing sex with an ex,” Spielmann concludes in her study.
Only after an honest conversation with yourself and answering these (and other) questions truthfully can you decide if sex with an ex is something you should pursue.
Only You Know What’s Best for You
The amount of research that scientists have on relationships and sex with an ex is still limited. So, only you yourself can answer whether it’s worth going for sex with an ex or not.
If you decide to have some fun, then remember to tread lightly and set rules and boundaries that will help you both enjoy having sex without the negative emotional impact on your lives.