Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sex with an Ex: Distressed, or Progress?

Over an extremely rare burger and extremely good beer out with friends tonight, I got a text from one of my exes. He was not, shall we say, one of the prominent exes in my life; rather, a guy I was with for the last month of my freshman year of college, just before he graduated and fell off the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again, until the next time he happened to come back to Burlington, and every time he stopped in again after that. He is, of course, the resident ghost of "Night of the Living Undead Relationship", and since I wrote that, has re-orbited around from the wild blue yonder twice, neither of which time did I see him. We'll see if we really meet up to discuss life post Firenze this Saturday or not. One way or another, it's still a bit shocking every time it happens.

But it got me thinking, as I pulled a surprised face when I saw his name on my phone's screen and showed it to my incredulous roommate beside me, about your relationships with your exes. Some of them I like to pretend don't exist anymore. Some of them are perfectly nice people with whom we both had bad judgement in dating and it just didn't work out, and we still are friends are periodically hang out in large groups with our mutual friends or chat for a good 15 minutes when we run into each other on the street and part with a hug, no harm, and no foul. And some of them are still around, (or, at least, cycle around periodically like this Space Cowboy) and defy both definition or a close to a relationship.

While I may not be doing anything other than having coffee and speaking Italian with this ex, there are other things you can be doing with your exes than meeting up with the crew for brews or occasionally catching up via Facebook chat or Skype or when you go home for the holidays. How bad is sex with an ex, really? Cosmo seems to want us to believe that after re-joining your genitals, you promptly go up in flames of shame and defeat. "It's hot, it's naughty...oh yeah, and it's a really stupid idea. You know it's unhealthy, and that's precisely what makes it so damn good."

I can get behind this state of mind, and I have in the past: It's basically admitting you haven't met any better men, which is depressing at best, and degrading at worst. I even used to think that "you could always do better than yesterday's old news." Believe me. Some of my past "issues" are more fit to line hamster cages than anything else, and I still feel this same way about them. But not all of them are equally horrendous.

78% of Glamour readers also say that sex with an ex is a bad idea. Shanna Moakler, otherwise known as Travis Barker of Blink-182's on-again, off-again wife stands as the one lone vocal supporter of it: "As long as you go into it with a clear mind-set—knowing it’s complicated, knowing you have issues and knowing the relationship can’t go forward—I say yes! Do it! All of the pressure is off, and you can just enjoy each other as friends and lovers. [We’re] exes, but there’s still that substance there, that history."

Sure, this is still someone who you care a lot about. That's perfectly fine. You've spent a lot of time together. You know each other intimately. It's only right that you want to see the best for them. What I've come to realize is that you don't ever "get over" someone you were at one time in love with-- you just fall back out of love with them, gradually and almost unknowingly. The history and comfort that you have with each other can gleam in high contrast to the awkwardness of the mornings after or the futility of trying to meet new people who you like as much, if not more. But only if you have moved on enough in your own life that you don't still want to "be" with them can sleeping with them again really be called "safe." And even then, we can be back-stabbed by our very own brains, who believe that the release of oxytocin released during orgasm means LuV 4EvA, hehehe! So do yourself a favor so you don't find yourself back-sliding: DISAPPEAR.

Take a few days, a week-- whatever-- after the event and go all Witness Protection Program. There should be, at this point, nothing else that you need to talk about, so don't. Don't make excuses for it, and don't hang around. Go, enjoy your post-orgasmic bliss, and invest your energy and happiness somewhere else. (I hope by now you've learned that you can't depend on them as your sole source of happiness. It's all about YOU, sister.) Wait until you actually DO have a reason to talk to them to reappear. And no, "I'm horny again" is not a valid reason. Something like, "Hey, can I pick up the shoe I left there, and have you happened to find my car keys?" is. But then again, you have more than that one pair of shoes (I SINCERELY hope,) and you don't really need to drive anywhere for a few days. So give it some chill time. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep yourself balanced-- when I get lonely at night, I borrow my neighbor's amiable huge mutt Mason, who likes to spoon just like a human man (something I may or may not be coming around to), and give of just as much, if not more, heat. Mason, however, doesn't snore. As much.

Also, I find it really handy, when you are feeling a little weak, to remind yourself of all the hugely dickish moves they made. This is especially helpful in keeping you clear-headed if they're STILL occasionally slipping up and making the dickish move. In that case, I would almost be inclined to say thank them for making your life easier.

But strangely, it was Marie Claire's male blogger Rich Santos who encapsulated the whole ex-mystique thing so fully: "These days, I'm undecided on whether it's best to take someone back or swear them off after they've messed up. A lot of it depends on why they left your life or how they messed up... If you take someone back, they may think they can get away with treating you badly and they'll take advantage of you. When you have that familiarity with each other, it's so easy to fall into bad habits. For example, I've gotten back together with many women as a temporary Band-Aid for our mutual loneliness (which usually plays itself out in the form of sex with no real relationship). Usually, your heart is wrong and your head is right, but your heart wins out. Sometimes it's impossible to say "no," and that's OK." Or, as he then points out, it could be better than it ever was. Not being fully together anymore takes a lot of the pressure of a bona-fide relationship off-- my favorite part is that I am no longer obligated to answer to my exes. Problem is, that also means that they are no longer obligated to answer to you. See? Even out of a relationship, you can never win.

All in all, there's something to be said about your exes who are still current in your life. Whether or not you're into sex with an ex or not, get on with your bad self. Seeing my orbiting ex again always makes me realize how much I've matured and changed from when I was in love with him, and carrying on other relationships with exes teaches a delicate sort of teeter-totter between intimacy and friendship that you'll never learn any other way. I really think that the relationships you have with your exes AFTER the end of your "relationship" is the NEW relationship of the 21st century. It's your grown-up "we're all people here who have issues and needs" relationship. So embrace the ex. It's just up to you how full you decide you want that embrace to be.

So, what do you think? Ever been burned (a second time) by the same person? Are you one of the 78% against knocking some familiar boots, or are you one of the cool 22 who think there's something to be said for it? (Namely being, y'all know the bells and whistles {and emotional hang-ups} already.)



  1. Not a good time for me and the exes. One just got engaged to a woman who told him that she would leave him if he ever spoke to me again. My mother called me a few weeks ago to tell me that she was Facebook creeping and thinks the new girlfriend of another ex looks a lot like me. The third ex apparently feels obligated to drink heavily when stuck in the same place as me and is fleeing across the country this weekend on the vacation we were supposed to take together.

    I guess I burn bridges to the point where sex with my exes isn't even an option.

    I guess I burn bridges with my exes to the point where sex with them isn't even an option.

  2. Well, if they're dating girls who look like you, you can always be assured that none of them will ever be quite as good as you! And I feel you on the "drinking heavily" bit-- if it makes you feel better, it renders them useless for anything other than passing out, even if they did have other designs on you, anyway. Not fun, all around.
    I hope it gets better and you find someone who does want to stick around for the friendship after the relationship ends, sweetheart, regardless of bitchy fiancees or not! (I sincerely hope he told her where to shove it. No woman has the right to make demands like that.)

  3. sex with the ex is a bad idea. End of story. Yes, they will text you suddenly and oh how your heart will jump but you kno what it is Im gonna say 90% of the time? A bootay call. Seriously. All it ever is. It's not bitterness, its the truth and we alllll know it but think its special. NOPE.