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The weird, psychological reason we crave sex with our exes

The weird, psychological reason we crave sex with our exes

Sleeping with your ex is tempting — it's familiar and less daunting than having sex with someone new — but sometimes our desires are confusing and also unreasonable.

In case you were wondering why you want to get with your ex again, Lori Beth Bisbey at YourTango can give you an in-depth explanation.


We know it isn't healthy, but we want to do it anyway.

Jennifer came in late to the office looking like she had little sleep. She stumbled over to the coffee pot, poured a cup adding lots of cream and sugar and then sat down heavily at her desk. The first thing I heard was a deep sigh.

"Bad night?" I asked quietly.

She couldn't even speak and just nodded "yes".

"Want to talk about it?" I asked.

She came into my office and closed the door. "I slept at Mike's house last night," she said, looking ashamed.

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Mike is Jennifer's ex-husband. Their relationship ended when the police had to be called to her home after he hit her hard enough to break her nose.

"How did you end up at Mike's house?" I asked.

"He asked me to come over to go over financial stuff. First, I said 'no' and said we could go over stuff on the phone. He pushed and so I said we could meet at a coffee shop and he said that there wasn't enough privacy. After arguing for almost 10 minutes, I just gave in," she said.

"How did you end up spending the night?" I asked.

Jennifer blushed crimson and said, "I am really not sure. We were sitting close together and the next thing I knew he was kissing me. Suddenly, we were back in bed."

I hear this story from friends and clients all the time. They come in feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and angry at themselves for sleeping with their exes. Often, sleeping with their exes causes lots of confusion and emotional turmoil.

Sometimes, it causes ongoing problems with their exes. Sometimes it leads to a short-term reunion but 90 percent of the time, the couple breaks up again with more animosity than the first time. And yet, when I talk with people, they often talk about craving sex with their exes.

Many talk about being lonely and not wanting to have to get to know a new person. Some talk about simply craving good sex and saying that the sex wasn't the issue in their relationship break down.

Research highlights the reasons why you might find yourself drawn to sex with your ex:

1. You have a desire for sexual contact with someone.

This is the main reason for many. Though for some it is a desire for simple physical touch. Touch is essential to our well-being and sexual intimacy increases overall life satisfaction and happiness.

We release small amounts of oxytocin which is the bonding/love hormone when we touch someone. Touch is the first sense to develop and one of the primary ways a baby learns that they are loved and safe.

2. You desire closure.

This happens for a lot of people when their relationships were 'complicated' and ended amidst a storm of confusion. The desire for closure is the need for certainty rather than ambiguity at the end of a relationship.

For some, breakup sex brings a sense of closure. For others, it simply confuses things further. It is often impossible to gain closure as relationships end for a variety of different reasons and the people involved don't always agree as to why things have ended.

3. It's the way to have a less harsh breakup.

This is particularly in cases of a long relationship. We often want a slower, more gentle separation. It feels too strange to have someone who has been part of our lives for years suddenly disappear.


4. You're simply lonely.

Exes feel familiar and safe. Creating new relationships takes time. It takes time for someone to get to know you — emotionally and physically. Often it feels easier to simply go back to our old familiar people. It feels like less effort.

Though this may assuage our loneliness for a short period time, in the long run, it just delays the inevitable. Eventually, we have to move on and face being on our own, even if only for a short time.

Research in 2013 found that people are likely to have rebound sex to cope with a breakup. When they have this type of sex they are emotionally vulnerable, often angry and feeling lower self-esteem.

Sometimes they choose to have sex with their exes and occasionally this brings closure but, usually, it brings more pain and makes it harder to move on.


5. You have a biochemical reaction to ex sex.

Here comes oxytocin again. This bonding hormone accompanies good sex and women produce more oxytocin than men. They are more susceptible to ex sex as a result.

6. Because the relationship is over, you fool yourself into believing it's stable.

After all, the story has already been written and we know the ending. We know the ups, the downs, the plot twists so it seems like we can predict everything about the present as well.

We can't. If it feels good, people often feel a need to re-write the past and start to believe that the relationship was better than it was or that they have made a mistake by ending the relationship.


While we all do make mistakes, we tend to err on the side of staying too long rather than leaving too soon.

Is it ever healthy to have ex sex? It certainly isn't, if you don't look clearly at what you are both doing. You need to be clear on the motives behind the sex and make explicit any expectations. If you aren't careful, you can drift back into a relationship that didn't suit you in the first place.

Also, if you are still tied up in your relationship with your ex, you are not properly available for new relationships. In fact, the only time it is really healthy to have ex sex is if you are emotionally stable and over the breakup and you find yourself still interested in each other.

If you can wait this long and you are still into each other, then be clear about what you are doing and what you want and go for it.


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