You’re single (perhaps) and every now and then you hook up with your ex boyfriend, ex husband, ex girlfriend, ex fiance, ex somebody for a little intimacy. You figure the devil you know is better than someone random and new. Plus, maybe you’ll rekindle something. Is this a good idea? Let’s talk!
Lately, I have received several advice questions about people continuing intimate relationships with an ex. Is this ever wise?
This week on my Essence Magazine advice column, I selected one reader’s email to answer. Her ex left her house while he was living with her to marry another woman and now she has taken him back again. Find my advice to this beautiful soul in need (we’ve all been there) here about sleeping with her ex.
Other recent questions about co-dependent copulating with exes after the jump…
1. Why do hookups with exes happen so often, Abiola?
As human beings we are creatures of habit. It’s natural that the known and familiar are more comfortable to us than someone new. However, your ex is your ex for a reason. To put it bluntly, being intimate with an ex is like eating your vomit. It might have tasted great or been nourishing at one time but now it can just make you ill.
Hooking up with an ex is never a good idea because people lie to themselves and each other about how healed they are or how much over a relationship they are. Breakups are difficult. It’s akin to a death. So if a major relationship is dead it is much healthier to grieve than to play with the ghost of what could or should have been.
When we are intimate our brains blast us with feel good chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins. Your adrenaline starts going. You can find yourself deluded about the prospects of a defunct relationship because you have recharged your attachment bond with your ex.
2. Okay fine. What are some red flags in these kinds of ex hookups if we insist?
In situations where one person has dumped another, the dumped party gets a charge out of feeling like, “See, I can still have him or her.” It can be an act of revenge. Several women have contacted my advice column who were cheated on, broke up and are now “the other woman” with the ex. This faux revenge gives them a false sense of power. I call it PTLD, Post Traumatic Love Disorder.
Your sexuality should never be wielded as a weapon. There is no way to ensnare someone else in a web without being caught in it yourself.
Another red flag is that because it’s comfortable and familiar, people may find themselves having unsafe relations with an ex. However, if you two are no longer in a monogamous relationship, you don’t know where this person has been anymore. A woman contacted me in tears because she caught herpes from her ex husband!
3. What about when the parties in play are recently divorced?
It is common for recently divorced partners who have to continue to interact with each other because of children, a joint business venture or finances to find themselves back in each other’s arms. This is not healthy. The healthiest breakups are where partners wish each other well but make a clean break. Remember, if you were married you were spiritually corded to that person. You’ve been sharing and swapping energy for years. Moving forward is challenging enough without igniting a flame.
Don’t fool yourself. This is not a goodbye handshake. No matter what people say you give a piece of yourself when you are naked with somebody.
4. Does it matter how long they dated or how long they’ve been broken up?
Of course if you decide to become adult friends with some long lost high school or college ex that is a very different thing than a person that you have had a recent meaningful adult relationship with.
Nonetheless, continuing intimacy with your ex is never a good a idea. There’s a natural bit of backsliding that happens when a couple breaks apart. That’s why it takes so long for a breakup to stick sometimes. If you are trying to move forward, having horizontal relations with an ex keeps you both stuck in the same place. It’s a matter of physics and inertia. You can’t evolve while still actively engaged with your ex. You may be stunting your personal growth and prospects for new love.
5. Do men and women experience “ex intimacy” differently?
For women it is very jarring to reenter the world of single love and dating after the demise of a long term love relationship. Having relations with a new person after that time can emotionally feel like losing virginity all over again. I tell women if they are considering resorting to intimate quickies with a ex because they have “needs” to buy a personal masager instead!
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Whoo hoo! This week’s Essence Advice column was also syndicated on the Huffington Post: Abiola Abrams’ Intimacy Intervention: ‘Help! I Can’t Stop Sleeping With My No-Good Ex.‘