The Science of Sex with the Ex

Ex sex, long regarded as the forbidden fruit of failed relationships, is now being heralded for its restorative properties. Sort of. 

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Long regarded as the forbidden fruit of failed relationships, ex sex is now being heralded for its unrecognized restorative properties—by science! Sort of.

The news comes by way of the Daily Mail, which reports on a recent University of Arizona study examining the traditionally taboo late-night encounters between extinguished flames. No scorned lovers were harmed in their lab. Instead, taking 137 newly divorced adults, researchers found that 82.5 remained in touch with their exes—and a whopping 21.9 percent pursued, err, conjugal visits. Surprisingly, those who made the beast with two backs after severing marital bonds found that it actually helped matters, at least from an emotional perspective:

Partners who hadn't accepted the break-up found the intimate encounters actually helped lessen the pain of divorce.

Meanwhile, partners who had accepted the break-up found sex made no difference at all to how they dealt with it, indicating that 'ex-sex' may not be quite as emotionally detrimental as we had previously thought, and that it can, in fact, have benefits for those who are not-quite over their relationship. 

Tracey Cox, a sex and relationship expert, told the Mail that "women benefited from having sex with their ex because it ultimately gave them 'closure' on the relationship"—a theory that seems to flip the conventional wisdom regarding ex sex squarely on its back head.

But your reservations, if they exist, are not without warrant. If you're still pining for a former lover and they're just in it for nostalgia's sake—or to remember why they dumped you in the first place—you're sailing rocky waters, Cox warns. And science isn't nearly as good of a divorce counselor.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.