When we start dating someone, we slowly work our way into their life. Yet when we breakup we often try to quickly rip ourselves out completely, and this can create even more pain and unneeded discomfort. We think that we need to act on our current pain and focus only on making it stop right away — disregarding the possibility of keeping that person in our lives. One way to maintain a healthy relationship is through sex with an ex.
If you don’t trust your ex or if they are abusive, you should completely terminate the relationship. But what about those with healthy exes who realize a longer-term romantic relationship just isn’t right?
The success of a relationship is not determined by its length of time but by how you acted as a partner. Healthy and happy relationships are sometimes only meant to exist for a short time. Life changes, we change and we do not always grow in the same, compatible directions.
For those feeling trapped and unable to get over their ex, the best course of action is to allow space physically and psychologically, which means not only not seeing them or having sex with them, but also not spending time together emotionally and avoiding their social media, too.
But for those not leaving a bad situation behind them, sex with an ex can be a soothing way to slowly work your way back out of relational commitment, and to lovingly utilize each other for support as you learn to fly more solo.
The goal in this isn’t to “get over” someone. It’s to learn how to have them in your life in an alternative way. It’s a good sign when you are friends with your exes because it means you don’t burn things down as you leave commitments. It also leaves room to establish a new ongoing relationship with your ex.
Dating should be a way to expand your social and sexual network, with those who enter your life in various ways sticking around. There are so many colorful ways to relate to people that don’t have labels or names, and because of that many don’t see these ways as healthy or possible.
Having sex with an ex also allows for you to re-enter the dating world still feeling dateable and desirable, which isn’t always the case in a bad breakup. The resentment, loneliness and pain created can leave many feeling damaged and not confident enough to return to dating.
The comfort and familiarity of sex with an ex is a valuable bridge back out into singledom, while keeping each other company and enjoying many of the things that brought you together.
“Breakups” are for bad relationships between people full of anger and resentment, so it’s important to work towards more living relationships that can continue with sex and friendship when exclusivity or romance ends.
This is the gift of dating with care and compassion, and not being a dick.
Dr. Chris Donaghue is a lecturer, therapist and host of the LoveLine podcast, a weekly expert on The Amber Rose Show, and a frequent co-host on TV series The Doctors. He previously hosted WE tv’s Sex Box and Logo’s Bad Sex. He authored the book Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture and has been published in various professional journals and top magazines, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Cosmo andNational Geographic. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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This story was originally published on May 2, 2018.