The best way to get over someone may or may not actually be to get under someone else, but that’s what we’re doing, says a new study from the University of Missouri. Of course it is — have we learned nothing from Gossip Girl?
Researchers had 170 undergrads who’d recently gone through breakups keep track of their mating habits for 10-12 weeks. Over the course of the study, published last month in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a full 35 percent of participants reported having sex with someone else with the express purpose of getting over their ex, and 25 percent said they’d hooked up as a “form of revenge” against their former beloved. Unsurprisingly, the initial stats were higher among the dumpees than among the dumpers — the urge to reaffirm your own desirability is stronger, researchers found/everyone knows, if you’re the one who got axed. Similarly unsurprising: people who’d been dumped were more likely to have “sex with a stranger” — or a parade of strangers — than people who’d been in control of ending the relationship.
Over time, though, the difference between the sexual practices of the dumped and the dumpers waned. By about five months post-breakup, people who’d been dumped were no more likely to use sex as a coping mechanism than the people who’d done the dumping. Eventually, it seems, everyone goes back to having sex for more or less the usual reasons.
But does rebound sex actually, you know, help you rebound? Unclear. While researchers say that “both logic and empirical evidence” (previous studies, tear-stained pillows) suggest having distressed sex with people you just met “imposes excessive risk of negative outcomes,” they’re willing to concede it’s “possible” that a few choice encounters “could become part of the healing process.” Since the jury’s still out — more research is forthcoming — you’ve got science’s interim approval to do what feels right to you. It’ll all be the same in five months, anyway.