Why are *so* many singles having sex with an ex? A new study says 70% of us are guilty

A dating expert dishes on the phenomenon

Man and woman lying in bed beneath sheets after sex; sex with an ex
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're in the midst of a sex boom, but don't you find it odd that singles are opting for sex with an ex instead of attempting to make new romantic connections? 

Yes, dating burnout is a real thing, but a staggering 70% of millennials are dismissing introductions entirely and resorting to familiarity, according to eharmony findings. It's almost as if they're putting the breakup out of their minds. 

"There's comfort with an ex. They know you, and it feels easy to fold back into each other," says eharmony's dating expert, Laurel  House. "Even after a breakup, the door isn’t always closed."

Reconnecting with an ex isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, but why is there a sudden surge in this potentially problematic behavior? Let's dig in.

eharmony logo
Laurel House

Laurel House is a relationship expert at eharmony, a dating site devoted to helping singles find real love, and more than two million subscribers have been matched.

Why are so many singles having sex with an ex?

Despite parting ways, singles find intimate moments with a familiar partner to be easy and without complications. They'd rather resort to old habits than spend time getting to know someone new and face awkward moments. 

"So many singles are looking for easy, uncomplicated comfort. With an ex, you can quickly be vulnerable, feel safe, have fun, and bask in the sexy excitement of the renewed relationship," she says. "When you are getting back with an ex, you already likely know the issues. You know what you are signing up for and what to do in order to make it work this time around."

Plus, House insists that the no-strings-attach sentiment makes things easier and just might open the door for a moving conversation since there's no need for fear; the unthinkable has already happened, and couples are back together...to an extent. 

"For couples who broke up for certain reasons, real and honest conversation can begin after the first magnetically intense sex session that releases that built-up sexual tension and mix of emotions," Laurel notes. "That first post-sex conversation can often be the first real and honest conversation that re-new couples have because at this point they have nothing to lose."

Is having sex with an ex a bad idea?

Every situation is different, but reconnecting with an old flame doesn't always have to spell disaster. It could be an acknowledgment of two people growing and making changes. Perhaps they're in a better place now to deal with past issues.

"Whether it is a positive or a negative all depends on each couple, the reason for the breakup, the work and realizations made while apart, and the reasons for getting back together," House says. "But overall, recycling exes can definitely be a good thing, because we all evolve, grow, and change over time, and oftentimes it isn’t the wrong person,” but instead the right person/wrong time."

To give naysayers a little hope, eharmony's research finds that 43% of rekindled relationships are more likely to improve rather than worsen after getting back together.

Tips for when you're sleeping with an ex

While you're definitely entering murky territory, it could either be a positive or negative experience, as House suggests. Figure out what you want from the relationship moving forward, and then be prepared to heal the connection. House suggests the following:

  • Acknowledge and attempt to first fix the root of the problem
  • Acknowledge the damage that leaving may have done
  • Be empathetic
  • Re-build trust
  • Create new healthy habits as a couple

Exes don't always have to be the villains—sometimes there are ways for relationships to pull through. 

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.