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Sex with your ex: helpful or harmful?

Does sleeping with a past partner make it more difficult to get over them? Sex with your ex might not be so bad after all, recent research shows.

If you’re going through a break-up, at some point you may well have been tempted to have sex with your ex. But is this a good idea? After all, there’s a reason the two of you broke up. Sleeping with each other can only make the healing process more difficult, right?

Not necessarily, according to research presented at the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) conference. In fact, sex with your ex could even be good for you.

In the research, led by Dr Stephanie Spielmann, just over 100 newly single participants revealed their attempts to sleep with their former sweetheart. They kept a diary for about a month, and each day also filled in questionnaires about the effects the attempts had on healing and moving on.

Feel-good factor

Wanting sex with an ex is not uncommon, the results showed. One in four participants made a move on their former lover at least once during the study.

Did trying to get into bed with him or her make the already difficult process of breaking up tougher? It turns out that the participants didn’t feel awful as a result. They weren’t more distressed or depressed, and attempting to have sex wasn’t about their longing to get back together with their ex, the study found.

Instead, trying to sleep with a past partner was actually linked to feeling good. Participants reported being more cheerful and happy in their diary entries on days they made a move on their former sweetheart, the study found.


Of course, attempting to sleep with an ex is one thing, and actually doing it as another. So in a second study of about 180 participants, Dr Spielmann looked at what happens ex-lovers actually climb between the sheets.

Fifteen per cent of the participants slept with a partner after they’d broken up, the study found. When they were the ones who initiated the sex, it wasn’t linked to misery about the break-up or feeling they were still in love with their ex.

So if you've been pining for sex with your ex – or if you've been having it – there’s no need to feel guilty or ashamed. It might come as a surprise, but research shows you're probably not harming your chances of getting over him or her and getting on with your life.

Presentation at the IARR conference 2016: Sex with an Ex: Does it Hinder Breakup Recovery?

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