Should I Have Sex With My Ex?

December 18, 2008

hooking up with your exDear Aunt Sue,

I just got home for the holidays and I know there’s going to be drama with my ex over the break. Everyone always says DO NOT hook up with your ex, so I figure it’s probably a stupid idea, but I’ve been thinking about him. We broke up at the end of the summer, and I’ve hooked up with a few guys at school, but I’m not over him. We hooked up over Thanksgiving and I was glad. I’m not really sure what he thinks right now. We talk sometimes but we don’t really talk about seeing other people. I want to see him, but I don’t want to start up something that will make me miserable later. I feel like no matter what I decide it’s gonna suck one way or the other. Tell me what to do!



Dear Katie,

It’s true that ‘ex sex’ is usually treated as potentially disastrous, or at the very least, unwise. Magazines are full of articles at this time of year cautioning girls not to get stuck in the past by hooking up with their ex over Thanksgiving or winter breaks. That’s because the experience can be very emotionally stressful; it occurs after a separation, and old feelings resurface. It can be difficult to sort out old feelings from new ones, and to figure out what it all means. And there are obviously times when sex with your ex is a really, really bad idea. Like if one of you has moved on emotionally but the other hasn’t. Or if he has treated you poorly; you don’t want to make yourself vulnerable with someone who isn’t careful with your feelings.

From your note, it sounds like you two broke up when it was time to head off to college. If that was the only reason you ended things, it’s not surprising that both of you would still feel emotionally invested. Even if there were other reasons for splitting, you’ve been through a major life transition this semester, and seeing your ex over break is part of going home. It’s the familiar, comfortable routine, like slipping on an old bathrobe and curling up with a good book. But it’s also new; you’ve both been away and had new experiences. When you see each other now, there are things about your being together that will feel really different than before.  

There are no hard and fast rules about this in my view. Ideally, the two of you will talk about it and what it means, and decide together. But let’s face it, lots of ‘ex sex’ happens on impulse, against better judgment. Once, in a fit of sulking after being dumped, I called an old boyfriend and invited him over. He was psyched to be booty called, but right in the middle of the action, I burst into tears over the loss of the guy I really liked. Whoa. I have never seen an erection fall down in two seconds like that! He grabbed his pants and hightailed it outta there, and we never spoke again. Not a success. 

Here are Aunt Sue’s Guidelines for when to pounce on your ex:

Go For It

  • You both still have strong feelings for each other. You know there is no future for the two of you right now, but neither of you is dating anyone else, and you want to spend time together.
  • Your breakup was amicable, and you are content to be ‘just friends’. Some intimacy with a loving friend sounds like something you can handle. He will always be special to you, and you know he feels the same way.
  • You’ve been miserable apart, and you think maybe it really could work long-distance. You’re willing to try and see how it goes.

What the Hell

  • You really want to have sex with him, but you are not hung up on what it means. Even if it’s just for old-times sake, you’re fine with that.
  • You’ve both been hooking up with other people (so awkward), and you would just love to bed down with the guy who knows all the right moves, and who you know how to please in return.
  • When you left for school, you were kind of tired of his annoying little habits, but you haven’t seen him in four months and he looks hot. You feel really attracted to him. 


  • You’re not that into it, but it’s a good winter break distraction, and it just makes everything easier with all your mutual friends.
  • You promised yourself you wouldn’t do this; you know it’s just going to cause problems, but you’re five beers in and he looks cute with longer hair.
  • You know he’s the one. You wish you could marry him right now. But he’s not as sure about you.

Bad Idea

  • You know or suspect he has been doing a lot of hooking up with other people. He seems really different toward you, less invested, but he’s down for sex.
  • He was not such a great boyfriend toward the end. He acted like a dick after you two broke up, hooking up with someone else within days. Now you’re home and he sees you’ve been missing him. 
  • You’re sort of involved with someone new at school. It’s not serious, but he asked you before break if you were going to hook up with your ex, and you said, “No, don’t worry.”


Katie, you have to think about which of these scenarios might apply in your case. Or maybe your particular situation isn’t described above. It doesn’t matter, the principles are the same:

  1. Are both of you are on the same page?  Go For It
  2. Do both of you have realistic but relatively low expectations for what it means? Then What the Hell?
  3. Does one of you feel more invested than the other? Does neither of you feel a thing? It’s definitely Questionable.
  4. Do you feel vulnerable? Have you been previously hurt by your ex? Is there someone new in your life who would be hurt by this? If so, then hooking up now is a Bad Idea


No easy answers here. Hope you get what you want. 


Aunt Sue

  • M. R. S.

    I have to say, Aunt Sue, I somewhat disagree with your contention that it is sometimes okay to have sex with an ex (if neither of you have feelings for each other at all). To me, there is a saying on the backs of all the cookies at my school “never ever shake a baby” well that applies to sex with an ex as well, just replace the verb “shake” with “sex” and “baby” with ex”: “never ever sex an ex” no questions asked. there is always a yucky aftermath whether it is your feelings his feelings or the rage of your friends who just helped you through the break up (which was probably a difficult one if you still was to have sex with the boy). Anyway to sum up, never ever sex and ex…
    making out is okay!

    • susanawalsh

      Haha, well M.R.S. I’m glad making out is okay! I know where you’re coming from–sex with an ex can get very, very complicated. Sounds like you’ve learned the hard way. I’d be curious to know if there’s anyone out there who was fine with it?

  • John

    I say fuck the guy. Literally. 😉

  • BreckRoy

    I love the idea of seeing this on a sliding scale with a bunch of different variables, but from personal experience and many years of people crying on my shoulder or venting about bad situations, I’ve come to believe ex-sex is pretty much a bad idea. Here’s why:

    – None of the above factors in lying. Self-delusion is rampant when you’re horny, particularly if you’re under 25 or so. The questions above are good, but it’s easy to lie to yourself or others and minimize the extent of how much you’re still feeling or how emotionally vulnerable or invested you are…or accurately assess how good or honorable your ex is, was, or will be. When you really want to do something, and there is biological internia, you aren’t in the best place to assess risk or avert complications. And both guys and girls will say what their ex needs to hear if they are emotionally attached. Many will agree “its just sex” knowing if they said anything different, the opportunity to be close to their ex (and maybe get something back) would be lost.

    2 – There’s a real value in learning how to manage being horny. Its not always a choice between hooking up with a stranger or acquaintance vs. an ex. Young adulthood is a good opportunity to learn how to live without sex when reasonable circumstances leave a relationship off the table. In life, you may have to have no sex during a problematic pregnancy, when a spouse is hurt or ill, or when a boyfriend or girlfriend is away for an extended period (like military deployment). I hear about infidelity all the time because “I just needed it so bad and no one can go without that long” Yes, they can. And masturbating (get buck wild!) and managing periods of horniness is a skill that should be developed anyway for a happy life. This girl says she’s had sex in college with a few guys and just had sex at Thanksgiving…it’s Christmas…why not go without? Learning the need is often just a strong want is a beneficial lesson.

    3 – No sex is without potential consequence. Pregnancy, STD, or emotional connection

  • BreckRoy

    3 (cont.) – …and those things are complicated within even strong relationships. They are unpleasant and harrowing with strangers, but they are a huge rollercoaster ride with someone you’ve already broken up with and a surefire way to complicate life beyond belief.

    4 – new boyfriends and girlfriends are understanding about past hookups but sensitive about exes…do they still have an emotional hold? Are they better in bed than me? Having an ex you regularly hook up with every time you go home is a recipe for jealousy and insecurity and stupid fights with your current love whenever you go home…and if they are the one who knows you that well sexually, theres a legitimate potential for cheating when one of you is home, away from your squeeze, and feeling lonely or nostalgic.
    at? Having an ex you tend to

  • Hi

    My ex and are seperated for 6 months now, i had a boyfriend and he has a girlfriend. we were married for a year and 3 months when we divorced. but have been dating for 8 years before that. We had a ugly break up and never really talked about it. Now he is telling me that he is sexually attractracted tome, and what to have sex talks with me. But when i asked him if he still loves me he said he doesnt know and that he thinks to much has happened betrween us! but he is telling me of his sex fantasies….. i am so confused and afraid because i know im not iver him and scared that i mught get hurt again by getting my hopes up.

    Please help.

  • My boyfriend and I broke up a month ago. I am the cause of the break up. I did some poor judgment and spoke to an ex who owed me money. I did not tell my man. He broke it off. We do talk and text and see each other from time to time. I know he cares but has a lot of anger. I want to know how to get him back or at least see if it will work.

  • Hannah

    Thanks for this article. I agree with you on mostly everything. I am 20 and my ex is 27. We are co workers but never work the same times so we rarely see eachother. We have been on and off dating since January, but I am the one who broke it off all 3 times. Why? I am not sure. Sometimes I feel like I like him, and sometimes I feel like he expected more out of the relationship ten I did, and that is why I ended it. We still continue to have sex and hang out regularly all the time. He knows I see other people and I know he does too. But when he told he he had sex with another woman, I was so jealous! As still am when I think about it. I know this is not good but I am not sure what to do. We are such good friends, we see eachother almost daily and talk/text all the time. I mean we are both single. Guess what I am trying to say is…girlies be careful because you can get your emotions in a rut. It may be fun and harmless til you know he is with someone else. Then you are stuck and it really sucks!