When you’re newly single, or simply going through a dry spell, your basic human needs can override your common sense. Once your guard is down and you’re feeling vulnerable, you’re more likely to make big personal mistakes, like having sex with your ex. Here’s how to keep it from happening.
How it Happens
On paper, practically everyone knows it’s not a good idea to go back to the source of your pain. You split up from your ex for a reason. Maybe they cheated on you, treated you badly, or perhaps your personalities and aspirations were completely out of sync. You know what you don’t like about them, and you’re fairly certain it hasn’t a chance of working out. However, that’s on paper, out in the flesh-and-blood world, it’s far easier to gloss over the facts.
The problems can start when you get a little distance from the relationship. Suddenly the details of your split become something of a blur. You can remember a vague dissatisfaction, maybe even some specific events, but was it really that bad? Did you give them enough of a chance? Were you in some way to blame yourself? Perhaps you’d have been tempted to have an affair with your best friend under the circumstances too?
Of course you wouldn’t, but when you’ve created distance from your ex, it’s easy to start rewriting the past. Suddenly, the idea of having sex with them again seems comforting. Add in a hint of loneliness and you have the beginnings of a recipe that when fully cooked is going to be nothing but bad for you. Suddenly you’re short of a partner to see that new blockbuster with, or you’ve no one to try out that romantic new restaurant or spend the holidays with. It’s when you’re at your most vulnerable that intimacy with an ex doesn’t seem that bad.
Perhaps you’ve moved on to a newfound love and you’re just not feeling it, you’re not clicking like you did with your ex. Maybe you haven’t found your rhythm together. It can be enough to make you want to reach out for the familiar, who knows what you like and don’t like.
It’s all completely understandable, and it’s in these moments of weakness that we’re most likely to hit the redial button on a number we should have deleted. After all, it can’t be that bad, can it?
Why it’s Bad
Actually, it can be that bad. While it’s not unheard of for couples to reconcile after taking a break, more often than not it leads to a cycle of break-ups and get-back-togethers that delay the inevitable – and it often starts with sex.
Maybe you’ll convince yourself you’re not getting back together again, that it’s “just” sex – you can handle that. You’re a person with needs, desires, and the quick fix you’re looking for is just a phone call away. Why shouldn’t you?
Well, for former couples, sex is rarely that uncomplicated. It’s loaded with issues, promises, hopes, fears, and a first step back into a relationship you were once clear you no longer wanted. Having sex with someone is an incredibly intimate thing, and it’s bound to open up the wounds of your relationship. Maybe you can handle it and they can’t. Maybe it’s the other way round. Either way, it can lead to a breeding ground of anxiety.
It will also stop you from genuinely being able to move on. While you’ve still got such intimate links to your ex, how are you expecting to make a real connection with someone new? It just doesn’t leave you emotionally available.
And what message does it send to your ex? That you’re willing to accept their bad behavior? That you’re sorry you broke up? That they’re your only option? You’re worth more than that. Before you waste all of your good years backsliding, you’ll need to find a way to move forward.
How to Prevent It
First of all, you need a healthy cooling off period. When a relationship ends, with each passing week there’s a little more peace and hopefully more clarity. Of course you’re going to miss them when it’s raw and when the dynamic you’ve created is broken. This is when you need to be strong. Set yourself goals. Mark in a calendar the very earliest that you’ll be OK to contact them. Make it at least two months, enough time to at least have begun establishing a new life without them.
Then think about changing the scenery. You know the places you went together, or the places they’re likely to go on their own. Make a strong and determined effort to go elsewhere. If you need some support, round up some old friends. Yes, they may be put out that you didn’t get in touch as much when you were dating, but that’s life … they’ll get over it.
Throw yourself into distracting activities. Take that language class you promised yourself. Head out to Europe like you always wanted to. Break your patterns, and delete their number from your phones. Plan the “event” holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving in advance and spend them with friends and family.
And if you’re not clicking intimately with your new love, work on it rather that running back to your ex, and give it the time to find its own rhythm.