Dear 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!
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.
- 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:
- Are both of you are on the same page? Go For It.
- Do both of you have realistic but relatively low expectations for what it means? Then What the Hell?
- Does one of you feel more invested than the other? Does neither of you feel a thing? It’s definitely Questionable.
- 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.