The present research used longitudinal methods to test whether pursuing sex with an ex-partner hinders breakup recovery. Participants completed a month-long daily diary immediately following a breakup, as well as a two-month follow-up (Study 1). Daily analyses revealed positive associations between trying to have sex with an ex-partner and emotional attachment to the ex-partner, but not other aspects of breakup recovery, such as distress, intrusive thoughts, or negative affect. Longitudinal changes from day to day, and over 2 months, revealed that pursuing sex with an ex was not a predictor of breakup recovery over time. To address the limitation that Study 1 only assessed attempted sexual pursuits, Study 2 explored associations between pursuit of, and actual engagement in, sexual activities with ex-partners. Results revealed that most sexual pursuits were successful, and success rates were not associated with breakup recovery. Findings challenge common beliefs about potential harm of pursuing sex with an ex.
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Participants also indicated whether their ex-partner attempted these activities. However, issues of multicollinearity between own- and ex-partner’s sexual attempts limited our ability to analyze them together.
Analyses in which this aggregated Level-2 variable reflected the number of times a participant pursued sex with an ex throughout the study yielded similar results as effects coding.
It is likely that “yes” responses to attempted sexual activities were lower than reports of actual engagement in sexual activities because actual engagement would take into account both one’s own and one’s ex-partners’ attempts.
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This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through an Insight Grant awarded to E. A. Impett and Doctoral Fellowships awarded to S. S. Spielmann and S. Joel.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Spielmann, S.S., Joel, S. & Impett, E.A. Pursuing Sex with an Ex: Does It Hinder Breakup Recovery?. Arch Sex Behav 48, 691–702 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1268-6
- Longitudinal methods