Sex with an ex does not stand in the way of subsequent recovery and doesn’t seem to hinder moving on from a breakup according to the findings of a study in Springer’s journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
“This research suggests that societal handwringing regarding trying to have sex with an ex may not be warranted,” says Stephanie Spielmann of Wayne State University in the US.
The findings challenge common beliefs that sex with an ex is a sign that on is having difficulty moving on. The study underlines the multifaceted nature of how different people recover from breakups.
“We should perhaps instead more critically evaluate people’s motivations behind pursuing sex with an ex and study the nature of breakups over a longer period of time.” says Spielmann.
In one study, the researchers analysed the daily experiences of 113 participants who had recently experienced a breakup. Two months later these participants completed a further online survey. The survey questions asked whether participants had tried to have any physical contact with their former partners, how emotionally attached they still were, and how they felt after each day.
In a second study, 372 participants reported their actual and attempted sexual engagement with their ex-partner, as well as whether they were still emotionally tied to them.
The researchers found that most participants who pursued sex did end up in bed with their ex, but this did not influence how someone managed to get over the end of their relationship. Those pining after their ex-partner more often sought out sexual activity, potentially as a way of fostering closeness and connection. However, doing this did not leave them distressed or feeling depressed. In fact, it left them feeling more positive in everyday life.