You know… I’ve done it. I’ve had breakup sex.
It was just the one time, actually. I was lonely — went to hang out with this ex. I didn’t even go there hoping to hook up. It was a rough period of my life where I just really didn’t have much of a support system. Had lost touch with a lot of long-term friends. I was lonely, and I missed him. And it just kind of happened.
He wanted to have sex, and I just kind of slipped into our old dance.
It wasn’t the worst mistake I’ve ever made or anything. But it’s not exactly a pleasant memory. Because once it was over, it was awkward. Everything felt wrong between us.
I left — and the memory of it lingered for a few days.
I’d visit him again just a few more times total before we never saw one another again. We never did have sex again. I did hear of him in passing, as he ended up getting a job at the same place the next person I dated seriously (fixing computers).
I always kind of presumed that the breakup sex was just as disappointing for him as it was for me — although it’s tough to tell. We never talked about it. And the next time I saw him, I specifically avoided being alone with him. (He and I once upon a time lived with 5 other people — and the second and third times, I was more visiting my former roommates than him.)
But the study I stumbled onto makes me wonder.
Here’s a link to the full study. Feel free to read through it. Today, however, I wanted to share the conclusion section:
Breakup sex has recently been publicized by the popular media as a beneficial behavior. However, understanding this postbreakup behavior scientifically is important and opens up several avenues for further research. Researchers interested in romantic relationships and postbreakup behavior should begin to further examine breakup sex. Due to its popularity in the media, individuals may believe that breakup sex is something they should participate in. However, the present results suggest otherwise. Deciding to engage in breakup sex involves a complicated stage in one’s relationship and may disproportionately benefit men. Future research should further to investigate the nuances of how and why this postbreakup behavior occurs.
It’s the bit of breakup sex disproportionately benefitting men that gives me some pause. Leads me to wonder if that happened in this circumstance.
Was it a better experience for him? Was it something he was glad that happened — where to me, it remains a minor regret? Nothing I lose any sleep over, mind you. But definitely something I wish hadn’t happened.
Note about presumed monogamous context: It’s clear to me that this study presumes a more monogamous, relationship escalator-style context. And this story that I shared in today’s post is linked to a time before I found the polyamorous or kink communities.
These days I have had considerably more fluid connections — ones where breakups weren’t even part of the script (which is a little head-scratching to some, but it is what it is), but there are more natural deescalations, ebbs and flows. I don’t think that’s the kind of breakup sex they’re talking about in this study.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.