First, admit that you didn't just end up doing this again. You made a choice. Maybe a choice that feels great at the time, but leaves you confused and possibly hurt afterward. It doesn't even have to be out-and-out sex to have a strong effect.
Ex sex raises a lot of questions, most of which you should have answered before getting into this situation. The website http://www.mental-health-matters.com lists a few helpful considerations:
How will having sex with my ex cause me to feel afterwards?
Will my ex use the sex to try to resurrect the relationship?
Will I be breaking any promises to myself by allowing this person into my life again?
Are my motives purely physical, or is there something more?
One junior woman who wrote to me offered: "Unless you can do so with an open mind, then I wouldn't suggest hooking up with the ex-boyfriend or girlfriend." After all, if you're attempting friendship, why confuse things by adding sex to the mix?
You end up in bed for any number of reasons. "We did it out of habit, out of pity and, yes, out of drunkenness," one senior man wrote. Remember, you broke up for a reason. Does having sex erase these reasons? Probably not. Then temptation takes hold.
"We broke up thinking about all the bad that had happened between us, but then we would see each other a few days later, and think, oh, she/he looks good," one senior woman wrote.
"But you have to know where the indulgence will lead you. For some, you'll want to forget everything that went wrong."
"I guess it's not the best idea, since the first couple of times (well, every time), I get these ridiculous fantasies in my head, 'Oh, he'll change,'" one woman wrote. Another senior agreed, "The first time we did it after breaking up, I immediately felt love for him again."
Or maybe you're more pessimistic, and you'll end up dwelling on all the plans you made with this person that can no longer be. Is the sex worth all the trouble?
If the break up wasn't your choice, you shouldn't try to manipulate the other person sexually. You should respect your partner's decision. If one of you is willing to try to change, fine, then talk about it. Getting into bed is not going to prove your personal growth in other areas.
Sex can be comforting and fun with an ex. But if you don't want the relationship back, you're delaying the inevitable: You deserve to move on and get involved with other people, if you want to, because ex sex can keep you from having a future with people that you don't have a past with. One senior man wrote, "The ex sex even crept in and ended the sensitive beginnings of a relationship I was having with someone else, nullifying my efforts to escape the tyranny of the urge."
If sex with your ex becomes habitual and no longer seems like a mutual act, but a goal of your partner's, talk to him/her. If he/she won't quit pursuing sex, you might need to sacrifice a relationship with that person to save yourself. On the other hand, you might be able to mutually agree to stop messing around with each other and continue a relationship as platonic friends.
"The time that my ex and I had spent together, even the post-expiration-date sex, was cast in a warm blameless light. My ex and I now value each other as close sibling-like friends," one senior man wrote. Don't beat yourself up if you have indulged.
"The ex sex can be fun and mutually rewarding if you've talked about it and agreed to it. If you keep your expectations at the door," one senior woman wrote, "why not?" But it's likely that sooner or later, one of you will want to move on to something more satisfying, something that has a future with some commitment. How will that make you feel? I'm not saying it's easy to go cold turkey with someone who meant a lot to you, or at least knew your sexual hot spots. But your relationship is over, and you need to watch out for yourself. Don't worry, there are other people out there. You'll meet someone new - - don't waste the socially fluid years of college out of fear, clinging to something that's over. You just have to get out of bed with your ex to find them.
Talk sex: What's the best place on the Hill to get intimate? In Northfield? At Carleton? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.