Sex with an ex?

Hooking up with an ex: It’s undeniably one of the great eternal debates relating to life, love, and the human libido. We all know of the stigma associated with “hooking up” with your ex, but plenty do it anyway. Some argue that it leads to pain and suffering, while others insist that it’s only a harmless diversion. Either way, what does it really mean to “hook up”? And when, if ever, is it healthy to get involved with an ex?

“It’s tough enough to stay as friends after a breakup. It’s not worth it to jeopardize a good thing on something like a hookup,” said André Tartar, an H&SS sophomore majoring in economics and creative writing. After being so close to another person, a breakup usually places a divide between two people; conversations that were once filled with personal tidbits transform into mere formalities — embraces turn into awkward “ass-out hugs” (straight out of Wedding Crashers).

This problem is especially prominent for first-years. Whether high school relationships end abruptly or drag on, there’s rarely a chance to figure things out before going off to college. The result? A double life where having sex with an ex from home is acceptable as long as the distance keeps the two worlds, school and home, apart. But such distinction is hard to maintain. For those who want to separate the ex from the sex, it’s probably better to make things clear; draw the line and keep things uncomplicated by never stepping over it. That is, if you want to separate them. For some, hooking up with an ex creates an ideal relationship: being intimate with someone you know and trust can provide the perfect mix of pleasure and security. You’re not treading on any new ground; you know what to expect, and you like that. At the same time, be sure to remember that this is your ex; there’s a reason the relationship didn’t work out the first time around. It takes a certain amount of control to judge a hookup as something purely physical and nothing more. To begin investing in the relationship can transform the ex into a potential love interest, and the results can be heartbreaking. Cue the vicious cycle.

The issue is compounded when we look at hooking up while dating another person. If the ex wasn’t worth dating and this new love interest is, then why keep the ex on speed dial? “When you break up with someone, you’re trying to take a step forward and move on in life. To me, going back into the arms of another guy is just taking 20 steps in the wrong direction,” said Deena Zytnick, a senior majoring in psychology. “Being ‘friends with benefits’ just doesn’t seem possible with an ex,” Zytnick said. “There’s a history you share, and with it an emotional attachment. You can’t have a fling when you’ve invested so much into it before.”

Still, it’s not always so simple. After all, plenty of relationships end without someone feeling wronged and needing to move forward. What if it ended in misunderstanding? “I suppose having sex with an ex is a great catalyst for reviving the relationship,” Zytnick said, “but who really knows what they want?” Let’s not forget, this is college; emotions, the whole coming-of-age craziness, and the carpe diem of youth can make some bad options more appealing than they should be. Probably the worst excuse for poor decisions is alcohol. A few rounds will help knock down some reservations, but the underlying feeling had to exist in the first place. We’re quick to call it a lapse in judgment, but we never bother to consider the “hookup” as some sort of unconscious want, allowing a few beers to break the ice. It might very well be your inner self paging you, “I think you might still like the person.”

What if there’s really no interest in getting back together with the ex? Many believe it’s acceptable when you’re desperate for sex, when you really don’t care for that person anymore in any shape or form. If that’s the case, it can be an ex, but never someone you see as a friend. With friendship comes subtext, creating the potential for misunderstandings. If you’re going to go for a “no strings attached” mentality, make sure that your intentions are clear.

Maybe it’s the chemicals released during sex, or maybe it’s the symbolic meaning of it, but having sex with an ex rarely ends with just sex. An attachment or expectation is likely to form, and you’re left with mixed emotions. Inevitably, the scale has to tip one way or the other, based on how bad the breakup was, how you feel about each other, and where the relationship is intended to go. After all, you can only keep moving to a new city so many times; at some point, it might be good to figure out what you really want from a friend, an ex, and yourself. It’s probably best you do that kind of thinking out of bed.