Sex with ex can hinder new relationships
Research shows that on-and-off again relationships and sex with an ex-partner can have a negative impact on future relationships
For a lonely single on campus, today could be the most dreaded day of the year. After spending the day watching couples bombard each other with love and affection, one might be tempted to text their ex in search of a valentine. But research suggests that going after an ex could be a damaging decision.
A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Research concluded that nearly half of the “emerging adults” studied have gotten back together with a former partner, and many continued to remain sexually involved after breaking up, with negative results.
On-and-off again relationships could develop into negative patterns for relationship formation, while sex with an ex could be a major roadblock to moving on and developing a relationship with someone new.
Researchers studied data on 792 young adults, ages 17 to 24. They found that 44 percent of emerging adults who had been in a relationship in the past two years reported they had gotten back together with a former romantic partner at least once. Of this group, 53 percent reported having sex as part of the reconciliation process.
One factor that could contribute to the high number of reconciliations is the possibility that these adults have not had many significant others. Young adults generally do not have a lot of dating experience, according to Mike Strangstalien, a licensed professional counselor at Counseling and Psych Services at Campus Health Service.
“When people have fewer experiences with somebody … it becomes that much more salient,” Strangstalien said. “This is why people have so much trouble breaking up from the first one.”
Strangstalien said he believes about 90 percent of those who attempt to reconcile with a former partner left a relationship prematurely, primarily because it’s easy to break up. When a breakup does occur, people need to think about what they did to contribute to that breakup so that their next relationship can be better, he added.
Nick Donig, a senior studying nutrition and dietetics, said he was sexually active with a former girlfriend for three or four months after they broke up.
“Sometimes relationships are strictly physical and other times you just don’t want it to work out … the lust is still there,” Donig said. “That’s pretty much it to be honest.”
However, some students said that sex with an ex is wrong no matter what the situation.
“I think that means that you only like him physically … if you’re not with him and you’re on and off trying to [reconcile] but just by having sex, that means you don’t want something about him,” said Camila Kottmann, a veterinary sophomore from Chile. “Maybe that’s his attitude or his personality, and that’s the base of a relationship, so you need to be concerned about it.”
Some people may have a hard time forming a new relationship because they are trying to look for the same person as their ex, but without the defects, or for a perfect partner, Kottmann added.
When a person continues to have sex with an ex-partner, they are not dealing with the underlying problem, said Bill White, a love relationship coach at Healthy Couples, a relationship coaching program for singles and couples.
“Relationships are complex,” White said. “We think that they’re not, we hope they’re not, but they are.”
Because of loneliness and sexual desires, as well as the need to be loved and have a social companion, people choose to go back to their former partners. However, by not figuring out what is not working, there will continue to be problems, he added.
Although the UA has a large population, it can be a lonely place if a person does not interact even casually with others, Strangstalien said.
Kottmann said she gets over an old relationship by socializing with her friends, talking to her mom and most importantly, not talking to her former partner. In her culture, sex is a very important thing, she added. Having sex with an ex-partner is like having sex with a complete stranger.
“You don’t trust him anymore, why are you having sex with him?” Kottmann said.