The EX Files Vol 3: Integrating the Ex

Most guys won't burn the bridge with their ex right after a break-up. They might put up a "bridge closed" sign, or leap off the bridge to drown for a bit in the chaos of single life, but such distractions only delay arrival at an inevitable crossroads.

And while it may be tempting to cut her out of your life and torch the bridge for good, reconnecting with your ex in the context of a secure and fulfilling single life can often serve greater closure. Turn to forgiveness, acceptance and appreciation. I recommend these basic attitudes and simple choices - not as pie-in-the-sky or love-dovey self help, but as practical measures toward a satisfying conclusion and renewal of the relationship.

You don't have to like your ex to forgive and accept her. Forgiveness and acceptance can even be of selfish intent: a way of taking out your own emotional trash.

She is not today who she was the day you met, and the new feelings you now associate with her clash with the old ones. If you stop viewing her as a walking personal history and let go of your paradoxical emotions, you'll be free of the baggage and open to new kinds of relationships, with her and others.

And once you've done that, you can begin to appreciate her for who she has become with you and without you. Here is a girl who brought value to your life for a time and shaped who you are today. Take that for what it's worth, appreciate her as her own person, and don't resent the fact that she no longer fills the niche. When you come from a perspective of appreciation, without harboring resentment or being manipulative, you can let her back into your life in whatever role comes naturally.

Maybe you become platonic friends, but by a genuine enjoyment of each other's company rather than a secret plot to get her back. Or maybe you do get her back, but by starting a new relationship rather than picking up where the old one left off.

Either way, if you can't feel comfortable giving your ex a hug when you see her in public, try the uncommon approaches of forgiveness, acceptance and appreciation. It will put your mind at ease, your new relationship on good terms, and your life on a more positive and empowering track.

Should it be consistent with your pre-breakup moral, religious and personal viewpoints, sex with an ex is a perfectly acceptable, even healthy outlet if you have the urge for physical intimacy.

If you subscribe to either ideal of sex as strictly reproductive or strictly emotional, I advise you to stop reading. If, however, you're possessed by the idea of "sleeping around" or "one-night-stands" post-breakup, consider doing so with your ex instead. If you're interested in physical intimacy for its own sake, you're clearly not doing so with your ex specifically in mind.

Too often female sexuality is typed as inseparable from reproduction. In the same vein, the "double standard" of male promiscuity versus female chastity often leads to the equation of female sexuality and emotional attachment. Certainly, emotional attachment is both a biological (consider the release of oxytocin, the "attachment" hormone, upon orgasm) and a moral (don't sleep with people who you don't like) factor in sex; it doesn't have to be the defining factor, however. Sleeping with your ex doesn't have to result in getting entangled in their lives at the expense of your own.

When you're emotionally mature enough to recognize when you have post-breakup sexual urges and intend to act on them, it's fine to do so with a partner with whom you're already comfortable. Use your best judgment, though; don't sleep with someone for whom you have unresolved feelings - be they negative or positive.

Successful post-breakup sex often demonstrates that you're past the negativity that ended your relationship. If the situation seems appropriate and you avoid sleeping with your ex only by virtue of them being your ex, you're clearly indicating that you're not over the relationship. Physical intimacy can be just that: physical.

Pragmatically, it may be more comfortable to have sex with an ex: as you've been emotionally intimate in the past, it may be easier to have an open communication about what you want. It's a "safe bet" - you don't risk as grievous complications as you would with a random one-night-stand, for example. With a familiar ex, assuming that they're honest with you about any interim partners, you're less likely to expose yourself to an unknown background and, by extension, unknown dangers-be they physical or emotional.

Be aware that, no matter how unemotional you are, sex does trigger the release of "attachment hormones." If you channel these into warm, intimate feelings rather than rabid attachment, you may find a different sort of deep, friendly partnership with your ex-love.

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