Ex-Etiquette Column

Articles on dealing with the "ex" in your life--anyone's ex--yours, their's, even "ex"tended family.

Is Sex with the Ex a Good Idea?

Q. Last night my ex came over—just to talk. Well, one thing lead to another and we ended up in bed. The kids weren’t around, it was just us again and now I’m thinking I made a mistake when we split up. It’s been two years, though, and our marriage was so volatile. The thought of going back is really frightening. But, we certainly had fun. I could tell he felt it, too. Is sex with the ex a good idea? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. Depends on what you are really asking. If you are asking if casual sex with your ex a good idea, my blanket answer would be no. Too much water under the bridge and rarely can you just casually walk away.  However, if you are considering reconciliation, then the answer might be yes–but then it’s not casual, and there are lots of things to consider before you go forward, beginning with your kids. You are certainly not alone in your dilemma. A survey once taken through the Bonus Families website told us that most who have broken up sleep together at least once more after the break-up. And, the “fun” aspect is certainly distracting. But, there’s more at risk when you’re sleeping with an ex than “fun”—especially if you have children together. There’s the danger of hurting THE KIDS again when you realize this isn’t what you expected. And, it’s a big hurt, it’s not a skinned knee that you can bandage and then tell them to go out and play. The wounds will go deep and impact their outlook on life and relationships. So, fun or no fun, know you are taking a huge chance when you entertain the kind of relationship you are proposing. People don’t break up without a reason and they certainly don’t face lengthy divorce proceedings merely because they are mad at each other. You’ve already mentioned your relationship was “volatile.”  This implies short fuses and lots of arguments–with lots of passion clouding your reason. If you feel you can better face issues now, then reconciliation is always a consideration. But, if you are proposing that you start sleeping together and it will just be your little secret–a word of warning–that who-will-it-really-hurt sort of attitude often backfires. If this goes on for a while, it’s usually because one of the participants is more emotionally invested than the other, and he or she continues the relationship just to keep the other around. That means eventually one of you will be faced with the decision to again move on. Then visitation might get sticky and now the kids are involved. If you don’t have kids, then you just have to acknowledge that this could merely be a paper fire—burns hot and fast and turns to ashes very quickly. As adults you have had enough experience to know that’s a possibility, so it’s your decision to go forward. Bottom line? If you are looking for a clear cut rule of good ex-eitquette concerning sex with the ex, I would say this: When you share kids, no casual sex with an ex. All moral concerns aside, its just plain too risky emotionally and could color your parenting judgment if the relationship once again becomes volatile. But, if you think there is truly a chance for reconciliation, then sex is part of any healthy relationship. Figure it out before you go forward–in the best interest of you children who have already experienced one divorce.

Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. She is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, Ex-Etiquette for Weddings, and Ex-Etiquette for Holidays. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.

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