When It’s Okay To Hook Up With Your Ex

You’ve probably been there: a couple of vodka sodas deep, contemplating leaving the bar, when you get that familiar “wyd?” text. Or maybe you’re alone on your couch watching your favorite Netflix show and scrolling through memes, when you come across a meme you know your ex would find hilarious… so then you’re the one who’s tempted to send that “wyd?” text. When it comes to the question of hooking up with your ex, the answer that immediately comes to mind is “no”. Or to be more precise, “hell no!” Whether you’re asking your friends for advice, talking to your therapist, or doing your nightly internet search for the very specific problems that only affect you, the general consensus seems to be that it’s best to steer clear of hooking up with an ex. Which is totally valid, considering they’re your ex for a reason. While I never advocate for backsliding, dating is not black and white—one could even say that when it comes to relationships there are, well, 50 shades of grey (sorry, couldn’t resist). 

Like pretty much every girl ever, I hooked up with an ex. Let’s call him Jake, because that’s his name. (Sorry dude, but you have a really common name, I’m not changing it). Jake and I reconnected, aka Jake slid into my DMs. We broke up forever ago and stayed friends, meaning that I don’t currently have a Voodoo doll of him and didn’t burn all his pictures. Curious enough, I went, and four drinks and some serious eye contact later, we were “reconnecting’” in the backseat of his car. I’ll stop the story there, because, like, TMI. In the wake of judgmental stares and a barrage of “No, tell me you didn’t!” from friends, I figured that I could A) turn this hookup into an article and fulfill my lifelong dream of being Carrie Bradshaw, B) make my friends calm the F down, and C) do my part to eliminate the shame that is associated with hooking up with an ex. I researched, and then researched again (bravo, Jake), and discovered that hooking up with an ex doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. While a majority of the time the case for sleeping with an ex can be made to be a horrible-no-good-very-bad idea, I dared to wonder, could there be an upside? And if you’re going to do it, is there a healthy way to go about it, rather than shadily sneaking off from the bar and not telling your friends where you’re going? In order to answer that question, I spoke with dating expert Judge Lauren Lake of Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, about the right way to hook up with your ex.

First things first, a big disclaimer: If your ex was a toxic, abusive, and/or a negative influence in your life, then do not go back to them in any way. You should keep that door locked, fly to a foreign country, and throw that key into the bottom of an ocean. Lake echoes this: “If you feel like the person will be able to manipulate you or play on your emotions, stay away. You should only interact with exes when there is mutual respect,” she says. This so-called “mutual respect” between exes may seem like a myth, but if you have experienced it and are considering diving back into those familiar waters, read on for some advice.

Be Realistic With Expectations

First and foremost, you should be honest with yourself. Figure out why you have the sudden urge to slide back into your ex’s DMs or to answer that “I miss you” text. Go ahead and check all that apply: Are you bored? Lonely? Horny? Do you actually miss them? Actually miss their genitalia? There are no wrong answers, but it’s important to know yourself. According to Lauren Lake, “Hookups with exes are common. Sometimes it’s about unresolved feelings and sometimes it’s just about missing the physical connection.” 

With that foundation set, you then need to be realistic about what you’re expecting from these (probably) two minutes of passion. Do you want to rekindle the relationship and get back together? If that’s the case, then I highly suggest that you communicate this to your ex beforehand, because sex will not fix a broken relationship. Lake advises, “If things are heating up, it’s best to pause and make sure you are on the same page. If not, one person may think it is the first step to getting back together, or that it may be an ongoing hookup, while the other may have no intentions to ever hookup again.” To put it bluntly, just because your ex has sex with you doesn’t necessarily mean that they will want to get back together—they probably just wanted to have sex. Sorry, but it’s true. Best to save yourself the back-and-forth and figure that sh*t out beforehand.

On the flip side, if you’re just a human with urges and want someone that feels familiar, comfortable, and who knows what you like, then sex with your ex can be a positive thing. If both of you are on the same page of your soap opera romance, then you can relieve any pressures about pursuing an emotional connection and just enjoy your carnal lovemaking (no details pls). Lake puts it best: “Just because the relationship went bad, doesn’t mean the sex did.” She’s got a point.

But, before you book an Uber to their place, remember that communication is always key. It’s pretty much impossible to have a one-night stand with someone that you have a history with, typically because a one-night stand does not come with an entire matching bedroom set (i.e. your past and baggage). “Since you’ve already had a relationship with the person, it wouldn’t be a one-night stand, but it could be a one-more night stand,” says Judge Lauren Lake. So like, just be clear as to why you want this and what you want out of it.

Caution: Mixing Business With Pleasure

Once you’ve established your intentions, at least within your own mind, you should then consider the implications of jumping back into old roles. This mainly applies to those of us who would like to explore a strictly physical reunion. If you want to avoid any mixed signals or catching feelings, then it would be wise to avoid slipping back into the original dynamics of your relationship, like going on dates. Groundbreaking, I know. Sure, you can go to their place for a glass of boxed wine or a casual night of “Netflix and chill” (do the kids still do this?), but be wary of going out to dinner, a movie, the bowling alley (I don’t know what you do in your free time). Basically, don’t do things that can, by any measure, be considered a formal date. I know that going out to brunch the morning after and letting your ex pay sounds tempting (and like a good way to save money), but if you do that, you risk blurring the lines of what is just a hookup and what is the beginning of a relationship. Do you know what they call two people who go out for a night on the town and then have sex later? A couple. Sorry, but you’re dating. 

It can be easy for both of you to revert to how you were when you were in a relationship, holding hands and packing on the acceptable amount of PDA. But if you’re just looking for a casual hookup, then this isn’t the foreplay you should be doing. Lake explains, “‘Playing house’ for a few days may allow you to feel the euphoria of the honeymoon phase in your relationship without remembering all the problems and issues that drove you apart. You may begin to feel attached again, only to realize later that the relationship still doesn’t serve you.” Even if you aren’t planning on continuing this pattern, having a one, two, three day, whatever-it-may-be relationship with your ex isn’t any better than getting back together and breaking up again. You’re still doing it, just not officially, leaving more room for confusion and (ugh gross) feelings.

Well, Is there An Upside?

Ultimately only you can decide if hooking up with your ex is a good idea or not. Every relationship is different, and what may be right for you may be totally wrong for your friend’s roommate’s cousin or whoever. That said, if you and your ex parted ways mutually, respectfully, and otherwise amicably, then getting with an ex can be fun and something to chat about at brunch with your friends appropriately named Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Judge Lauren Lake says, “The upside would be that you already know one another, care for one another, and have mutual respect. All of these things can lead to an enhanced sexual experience, and the opportunity to experience the connection again, even if it’s just for one night.” In other words, it doesn’t have to be an automatic no… just be smart about it.

So there we have it. Go ahead and take the shame out of going back for seconds and feel free to engage in a super-hot moment in the backseat with someone that knows you (emotionally and physically-wink, wink), respects you, and has the same intentions. Provided they do respect you and have the same intentions. When all that is accounted for, hooking up with an ex can be great, and possibly worth a standing ‘O’vation

When contemplating your next move, just ask yourself, is the box of condoms half empty or half full? 

Images:  Sky Cinema / Shutterstock.com; @marybethbarone, @Rubyyyyy23, / Twitter, Giphy (2)