Kiss him to the kerb: Sex with an ex is a healthy shag-and-go
A post-break-up hook-up does not seem to stop people from moving on, researchers say
A new study about sex with your ex reads like a page out of Bridget Jones’s Diary: it could brighten your day (or night).
Contrary to popular advice, hooking up with an ex-partner after a break-up does not seem to stop people from moving on, said Stephanie Spielmann of Wayne State University, who conducted this research.
“This is true even for those who continue to pine after their ex,” said Spielmann, who did online surveys with almost 500 participants.
Sexual experiences with ex-partners are quite common across all age groups and relationship types, said Spielmann.
Survey questions to the first group of 113, who had experienced a break-up in the past two months, analysed their daily experiences of “whether they had tried to have any physical contact with their former partners, how emotionally attached they still were, and how they felt after each day”. Two months later, the participants did a follow up online survey that showed people pining after their ex pursued sexual activity "as a way of fostering closeness and connection".
In a separate study, 372 participants reported on actual and attempted sexual engagement with ex-partners and their emotional attachments to each other.
Most people who wanted sex with their ex ended up doing it, “but this did not influence how [they] managed to get over the end of their relationship”.
Even people who were pining for their former partners and ended up in bed together with them did not feel more depressed or distressed after the connection.
“In fact, it left them feeling more positive in everyday life,” said Spielmann. “This research suggests that societal handwringing regarding trying to have sex with an ex may not be warranted.”
Recovering from the end of relationships is multifaceted and requires research over a longer time, she suggested.
“Pursuing Sex with an Ex: Does it Hinder Breakup Recovery?” was published on Wednesday in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Another study on men’s sexual and emotional behaviour, published on Tuesday, found that a hormone called kisspeptin played a role in regulating this by altering men’s brains.
The recently discovered hormone plays a key role in sperm (and egg) production and may also boost “reproductive behaviours”.
To investigate this, scientists looked at how kisspeptin affects the brain “at rest … like a car ticking over in neutral”.
Researcher Professor Waljit Dhillo, from the Imperial medicine department, found the hormone increased the brain activity linked to sexual arousal and boosted networks associated with mood and depression in the 29 healthy volunteers.
Dhillo said: “Although we have previously investigated how this hormone affects the brain when it is in an active state. This is the first time we’ve demonstrated it also affects the brain in its baseline, resting state.”
First author Dr Alexander Comninos said: “Psychosexual problems, such as low sex drive, affect up to one in three people, and can have a devastating effect on a person’s, and a couple’s, wellbeing. These findings open avenues for kisspeptin as a future treatment for these problems, although there is a lot of work still to be done.”
The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight.