If you’ve seen any rom-com ever, you know breakup sex is the hottest sex. The idea of doing it just one last time, and leaving it all in the bedroom, is pretty much as steamy as it gets.
It goes without saying, though, that breakup sex can be messy. If one partner was just dumped, for example, they could be hoping that sex will make their ex rethink the breakup. But Holly Richmond, a certified sex therapist in New York City, says breakup sex won’t save the relationship, and if it does, it’ll likely only last a few weeks.
So why do we have a burning desire to have breakup sex, and is it ever a good idea? We asked sex therapists for the facts.
Why do we want to have breakup sex?
Breakup sex means something different for everyone. “Having sex one last time can be about celebrating everything that was good in the relationship,” Richmond says. “Relationships usually end for emotional reasons, not sexual ones, so it’s like that last connection to something that was really amazing for the period of time that you were together.”
If both people understand why they can’t be together and are comfortable with the breakup (say, for example, they’re moving to different cities or one wants to have kids and the other doesn’t), sex can be purely about connecting one last time, Richmond says. “It’s like saying, ‘This just isn’t going to work, but I really do love you.’”
On the other hand, if one person doesn’t want the relationship to end, “they might want to have sex as a way to say, ‘Look how great this is. Are you sure you want to leave this?’” Richmond says. It’s probably no surprise that this is when things can get messy…
How does breakup sex affect us emotionally?
If one person is still holding onto a relationship while the other is ready to say so long, having breakup sex can actually prolong the emotional rollercoaster for the partner who hasn’t yet moved on, Richmond says. “The question becomes, ‘Am I wanted? Am I not?’”
Sure, sex might make you feel good temporarily, but when you put your clothes back on and go your separate ways, you’ll probably be more confused than you were before. There’s also a chance you could feel ashamed or even used by your ex, adding onto to the pain. “You might feel good in the moment, but oftentimes, that feeling doesn’t last,” Rachel Needle, PsyD, co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes in Palm Beach, Florida, tells Health.
Is breakup sex ever a good idea?
For breakups that end in a completely mutual understanding, having sex can be a “beautiful, connected ending,” Richmond says. She explains that in cases where both partners are truly resolved (we know, it sounds too good to be true, but it really does happen!), breakup sex can be a good idea.
The “I want to get you back” kind of sex, however, is not a good idea. Accepting a breakup takes time, and trying to ease the pain with sex will only prolong the process, Richmond says. Breakup sex unfortunately isn’t going to give you the closure you’re craving. Closure comes from putting the relationship behind you and prioritizing yourself. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not easy, but holding onto something that isn’t there will only hold you back.