If there is any one bit of accepted wisdom about healing from a breakup it’s that you don’t sleep with you ex. YOU. DO. NOT. SLEEP. WITH. AN. EX. Clean breaks and all that. But the researchers behind a new study suggest that, hey, it’s actually not that big of a deal. Go right ahead, they guess.
The study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, analyzed people’s self-reported post-breakup experiences and found that having sex with an ex didn’t stop them from moving on. Which is to say, the researchers found zero proof to back up all of those nuggets of wisdom that I spent the vast majority of my twenties vainly trying to impart upon recently-broken-up friends—but, also, mostly myself. Which is great. Really. I can be wrong.
As lead author Stephanie Spielmann put it in a press release, “This research suggests that societal handwringing regarding trying to have sex with an ex may not be warranted.”
In the first of two surveys, researchers questioned 113 participants who had recently ended a relationship. Then they followed up two months later, asking “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,” according to the release. In the second survey, they questioned 372 participants about their experiences with ex sex and their emotional ties to said exes.
The researchers found that “pursuing sex with an ex did not seem to stand in the way of people’s subsequent recovery from a breakup on a daily basis or over the course of two months,” according to the release. But two months is quite a lot like no time at all when it comes to recovering from a breakup. If memory serves, it’s just short of the amount of time post-breakup that it takes to realize that said ex sex is actually kind of fucking you up.
Also, they found that “those pining after their ex-partner” more often sought out ex sex, “potentially as a way of fostering closeness and connection,” says the release. This didn’t cause them distress, though. In fact, it made them feel “more positive in everyday life.” Because, you know, sex. It’s fun. Spielmann added, “The fact that sex with an ex is found to be most eagerly pursued by those having difficulty moving on, suggests that we should perhaps instead more critically evaluate people’s motivations behind pursuing sex with an ex.”
This is the best kind of advice: Go ahead and do said thing, but continue to feel weird about it and question your own motives the whole entire time. In other words, as you were. Enjoy!