Many of us have been there. After the breakdown of a long or serious relationship, the temptation to slip back into bed with an ex for comfort, closure or simply out of boredom and horniness is a very common occurrence.
However, a new study purports to show that getting intimate with recent exes is actually beneficial for helping the relationship finally end.
image via pinterest
It’s been touted by New York Magazine, Glamour and The Daily Mail as meaning that intimacy with exes is ‘OK’ or even to be encouraged – but does the science really hold up?
Here are the basics of the study, by the University of Arizona. Its sample was 137 recently divorced adults, and it tracked their sexual activity after the formal declaration of separation. 21.9% of the adults ended up back in bed with their exes, and over 82% at least remained in contact.
They then surveyed the adults who’d gotten intimate, and found that overall they said it seemed to help – to solidify the break or to reaffirm their bond despite the breakdown of the relationship. Those who said they were ‘over’ the relationship (probably those who initiated the divorce in the first place) said it made ‘no difference’ to their feelings about the divorce – it certainly didn’t make them regret it.
This is certainly pretty interesting, and kudos to all these divorced people for talking to scientists about their sex lives – but it doesn’t mean we can all decide rapidly that getting intimate with an ex in general might be a good idea. Why? Read on.
What’s Up With The Science?
To start, notice that all the couples were recently divorced. That means that they were in a very specific sort of relationship, the kind solidified legally and more likely to be of a long duration, with significant investment on both sides.
This means that getting intimate has a very different meaning than it would to a couple who had been less serious, had less cemented bonds or were generally not as advanced on the relationship scale.
So, from the start, the study is skewed towards divorced couples, which means that its advice is less applicable if you’ve just been dumped by your boyf of six months. Sorry about that.
Also, there’s a big problem within sex studies about lying – even if people don’t mean to. They could be absolutely convinced that they’re emotionally unbothered or helped by intimacy with an ex when the result is different – or, conversely, feel ashamed of it when it’s actually rather comforting.
So what they actually feel and what they reveal to the researcher could be entirely different things. Plus we don’t know how the now-over relationship dynamics worked, who initiated the divorces and how that affected the outcome, who usually started intimacy, whose libido was generally higher – a huge amount of control factors aren’t on the table. All these could affect their feelings.
Intimacy With Exes In General
Our ideas about ex sex are changing rapidly because of a set of core assumptions that are now being challenged. The whole idea that, for women, sex is a bonding exercise while men use it as exercise or ‘sport’ is increasingly being disproven by new science.
Intimacy is actually a highly socially oriented activity through which all kinds of bonds and relationships can be forged or asserted – and not just for women. Bonobo monkeys use it for everything from calming conflict to making new friends, just like humans.
It’s all turning out to be very complicated indeed.
And that old chestnut that having sex will only stop women ‘getting over’ an ex because it forms emotional bonds in the brain is actually based on flawed science.
The bonding chemicals are oxycotin and vasopressin, and they do exist, but they’re released in both male and female brains during sex, so it’s dangerous for both of you.
And we’re still in the dark about how much they produce in what circumstances, and why.
Overall, the jury’s still out on ex sex in general – but it’s undeniably sensible that for divorced couples who’ve had long intimate relationships and invested huge amounts of bonding chemicals, having the occasional jaunt would be good for the neurons.
However, if you’re like the famous exes in Casablanca (above)- full of traumatic memories and complicated pasts – possibly steer clear. Even if he looks like Humphrey Bogart.
Lady Friday xx
Taking the pillow talk out of the bedroom, every Friday…