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Should You Have Sex with Your Ex?

A new study finds that having sex with your ex may not be so bad after all.

February 3rd, 2012

Tags: Attraction, Love, Sex
Everett
Should You Have Sex with Your Ex?

If you think friends with benefits sounds complicated, imagine being divorced...with benefits.  

Having sex with your ex—a la the 2009 movie “It’s Complicated” starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin as exes who start sleeping together years after they divorce—can rehash a whole mess of mixed feelings. (At least that’s what a host of self-help authors say.)  

Now, a new study coming out in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology suggests that sex with your ex may not be as bad as you think.

Researchers at the University of Arizona looked at post-breakup psychological adjustment and ongoing contact among 137 married adults who had recently separated. As you’d expect, people who accepted the breakup were generally better adjusted while those who still pined for it weren’t.  

MORE: Beauty Your Way Through a Breakup

But that’s not all: for those who didn’t accept the breakup, making a clean break (the advice everyone gives after a breakup) didn’t leave them any happier than trying to keep up a friendship. And if they stayed in touch with their exes, they were actually doing better if they kept having sex with their partner. 

“Sexual contact with an ex-partner seems to be associated with better wellbeing for those who aren’t over the relationship,” says lead author Ashley Mason, a clinical psychology PhD candidate. (YouBeauty Relationship Expert David Sbarra is a co-author on this study as well.) 

Why? Most likely, it’s simply that their actions match their feelings. 

MORE: Can "Friends With Benefits" Work?

“Their psychological attachment to their ex-partners may still be that of a lover,” says Mason. “So if they’re still having sex with their partners—a type of contact we usually only have with lovers—then their attachment to and behavior toward their ex-partners are in line with each other.” In other words, if you want to be in a relationship but you’ve settled for sex, then at least one part of your wish has come true. 

Of course, having sex with your ex shouldn’t be seen as a cure-all. 

“I would not suggest that people run out and start having sex with their ex-partners,” says Mason. “Continuing to sleep with an ex could be preventing one from starting a new relationship that might be beneficial.” (Feeling used comes to mind as a probable downside as well.)

But if you've unwillingly untied the knot and you decide to keep it carnal, you may actually find you're doing better—at least for a little while.  

MORE: Put Your Breakup Behind You

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