We have all been there. After a difficult, dramatic break-up, you did everything your best friend, your family, Google and your therapist told you to do to recover. You deleted your ex-lover’s number. You unfollowed them on every last social media account. You packed away all of their items far away in the back of your closet—and you put your cracked heart there, too. But then on a Saturday night, when you’re nursing your wounds with a cocktail (or three), they text you. And one ‘how are you doing?’ drink leads to many. Somehow, despite all of your best efforts, you wake up the next morning, shaming yourself for—yet again—falling back into bed with your ex.
Many people would rather sleep with someone they’ve slept with in the past for many reasons, including the fact that their former partner already knows what they like in bed, so they don’t have to waste time teaching someone new
This all-too-common pattern is one that your closest groups of pals will lecture you over, but perhaps shacking up with your former flame isn’t all that bad. Or at least, a new study suggests as much. Researchers at Wayne University analyzed the daily routines of 113 people who recently ended a relationship. They asked them a slew of questions about how they interact with their once-lover, and how strongly their emotional connection lingered. Then in a second study of 372 people, participants fessed up to how often they slept with their ex—and perhaps more poignantly, how they felt afterwards. Their findings? Regardless if they answered a late-night invitation or not, they were still able to move forward. They might have reached out to their former boyfriend or girlfriend when they were lonely, but it didn’t impact their mood. Rather, researchers concluded it actually made them more positive.
Relationship expert Lori Bizzoco explains many people turn to ex partners as a way of ending a slow period of dating. Not only of course, is it obvious, but it feels more comfortable and safe since there is already a foundation of trust. “Sleeping with a former lover is a lot more common than we may realize and could actually make you feel better while you are going through a dry spell,” she explains. “Many people would rather sleep with someone they’ve slept with in the past for many reasons, including the fact that their former partner already knows what they like in bed, so they don’t have to waste time teaching someone new.”
But even if science sings the praises of going backwards in the bedroom, Bizzoco says the mindset of both individuals must match for a successful shag. If you’re pining to get back together, and your ex has already moved on or isn’t interesting in renewing your relationship—tread carefully. If your heart becomes as inter-tangled as your legs, you could create a vicious cycle that makes it less likely you’ll meet someone new who seeks the same connection you do.
However, if you feel like you’re in a healthy place with the demise of your couplehood, but you want to continue to sleep together, Bizzoco suggests setting smart boundaries.
After all, it’s easy enough to fall into old habits when you’re sharing a bed again: watching the Netflix series you both adore, bickering about the same habits that irked you when you were together, and the list goes on. These are ‘couple things’, and they shouldn’t be explored as part of your hooking up routine, according to Bizzoco. She provides some examples like not sleeping over and not leaving your personal items at each other’s homes, to name a few. “Make sure that what you want is defined ahead of time,” she adds. If you don’t set these limits, you could get into an emotionally-unhealthy cycle that could result in yet another heartbreak.
And on the same note, don’t get too cozy. As Bizzoco puts it, sexual relationships won’t last forever, and at some point one or both you will decide you are ready to be committed to someone else. “It’s okay to have this ‘friends with benefits’ relationship temporarily,” she shares. “But don’t get so comfortable that you forget you are single and ready to move on.”