Giddy Presents The Naked Truth: Should I Be FWB With My Ex?
I'm an AASECT-certified sex therapist and licensed professional counselor-supervisor, based in Austin, Texas. I've been in practice for 14 years, including working in corporate settings, higher education and private practice.
If you have questions you want to be answered in future columns, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Privacy in all matters of intimacy is very important to me and any questions answered in this column will be entirely anonymous.
Enough about me, let's talk sex.
I've been broken up with my ex for months now, but I've not found anyone new and neither have they. We're still friends and see each other all the time. It wasn't working before but I enjoyed the sex. I've heard of a friends-with-benefits relationship, but could it work between exes?
Breakups can be a painful experience, and the transition, regardless of how long you were together, can be difficult to navigate since each of us has our own style of expressing and processing feelings. I've seen sex used as a comfort, a temporary fix, a toxic thread and a means to manipulate.
I've personally experienced sex between exes—now friends—as a poorly communicated difference in attachment styles.
To weigh out the benefits of the deficits, consider your intentions.
I hate that as humans there are dumb variables we cannot control or predict, such as "baggage" or big feelings we don't have the time or the tools to navigate.
So what do we do? We go back to what feels safe, secure and familiar.
This is probably the most prominent reason we try to remain friends with exes and also why we'd consider having a sexual relationship with them, now without the confinement of commitment.
It's important to discuss how each of you is processing the breakup and what barriers there are for you moving forward as individuals. Some barriers are tied to grief and are widespread. Feelings are complicated and need a lot of attention. A wound that has not healed scars far worse without time for recovery.
Any sexual partnership, especially with an ex, should be well negotiated. I would start with sexual safety. If you have trust in each other, then perhaps agree to have sex exclusively. Then, if either of you finds another partner, be upfront and decide if you want to continue your sexual connection.
Rules around protection and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and—if applicable—pregnancy prevention should be clear. If either of you carries betrayal from your relationship or previous ones, be cautious. In a weak moment, you can get caught up in sexual chemistry or simple loneliness. Don't let emotions trump safety and logic.
Most importantly, as exes, discuss how and when trust may have been fractured. This can help with healing and clarity, but can also remind you of how safe you really are having sex with this person again.
I know, so far, it sounds like I'm preaching "Don't do it." Let me clarify by saying casual sex or well-negotiated friendships with sexual connections can be wonderful and fun. However, in this particular scenario, I cannot emphasize enough the difference in context here. The original intention was to be in a romantic commitment together and now you're contemplating a loose and casual friendship with some perks of occasional orgasms. This is a different relationship. Be sure about your intentions.
I have to say it: Approach with caution. The original relationship ended and there were probably some definable reasons. Don't ignore those reasons and slip back to how it was just because you're in a vulnerable state. Time will heal.
Again, I'm not shy, so feel free to ask me anything. Remember, this will always be anonymous. If you have any questions about relationships, sexual activities or your partners, let me know. Tell me your first name and the state you live in so I can attribute your question. Please send me an email at email@example.com. We will always respect your privacy.