Sometimes, you miss your ex. Other times, you just miss the sex—or think you do. It can be enticing to reach out to someone you already know matches your vibes in the sheets, knows what you like, and generally does it for you physically, but it’s not always the best idea. The standard advice here is usually to masturbate and see how you feel afterward before texting your old flame. You should, and here’s why.
Is masturbating the answer?
You can try to rub one out, J.O., flick the bean—whatever. At the conclusion of that event, you’ll have a few answers about what’s really going on.
“Hooking up with an ex is rarely just about sexual desire,” said Dr. Maggie Vaughan of Happy Apple psychotherapy in New York City. She said that what you’re chalking up to horniness could really be a subconscious desire to rekindle an emotional connection, determine whether your ex has moved on, or somehow obtain a kind of closure. But, she cautioned, “whatever it is you’re seeking is unlikely to manifest.”
If, after masturbating, you do feel at ease and like you don’t need to hit up your ex, it probably really was just randiness. If not, you have to talk seriously with yourself before you talk to them.
What if you still want to reach out?
If a vibe or your hand didn’t curb the urge this time around, you’re not really alone in seeking out your old partner for a roll in the hay. In 2013, researchers studied nearly 800 young adults and found that over half continued to have a sexual relationship with their exes following a breakup. A study in 2018 revealed that it’s actually not always that bad of a thing to do: There can be fulfillment, happiness, and even reconciliation that follow hookups with a one-time love. Sex does not have to hinder your breakup recovery, but you must be clear about what you want. You just have to be ready for whatever might happen.
“Ask yourself not only do you want to hook up, but also, ‘What am I opening up emotionally for myself by doing this?’” said Matt Lachman, a certified sex therapist and owner of Cleveland Sex Therapy. “If you ended a relationship with someone and are on good terms, you are definitely capable of having a hookup if you are someone who understands the difference between love and sex, but if you find that it is hard to separate those two things, maybe don’t follow through.”
Vaughan suggested asking yourself what you expect to happen—but also how likely that outcome really is. If you’re not, as Lachman said, someone who is really good at differentiating between love and sex, you should decipher what you are truly calling them for. You might be better off trying to find someone else to date—and bone—altogether. If you go to your ex looking for comfort or romance and only find physical encounters, you could end up getting hurt all over again.
“Any contact with an ex, even Instagram stalking, will pull you emotionally back into the relationship and reverse at least some of the healing you’ve done,” Vaughan cautioned. “If it’s been a painful separation, it’s not a good idea to have any interaction whatsoever until you feel virtually unaffected by thoughts of your ex and anything they might be doing.”
So, yes, masturbate. If that doesn’t stop you from wanting to hook up with them, it’s probably deeper than that—but at least now you have some answers and can decide whether to pursue them (under the guise of a hookup or not) or just sit this one out.