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Sex with the Ex

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A night with an old flame is Elektra-fying.
"It was just ex-sex. It's a totally normal thing that everyone does after they break up."
Xiomara, Jane the Virgin
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Two characters that used to be a couple broke up. They got bored of each other or argued too much, he just wouldn't put the seat down, she used too much toilet paper, whatever. Emotionally or mentally they didn't think they were right for each other. Sexually, however, they still get along just fine.

They may only get to kissing each other or get further than that, but as long as they're reinitiating a physical relationship it's fair game. It can naturally take on a variety of forms, as people are complicated; it may just be sex and friendship, it may be a pattern of hooking up, swearing to never see each other again, and hooking up again, or they could go back into a relationship.

May lead to getting back together, particularly if it starts after a separation or after they've moved on to other people for added drama/comedy. Naturally, a common sitcom trope.

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Subtrope of Amicable Exes, where they're really amiable. Supertrope to New Old Flame. May lead to a Relationship Revolving Door situation.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Pilar walks in on her parents Jerrica and Rio after this in the Jem fic Starlight Is For Always, confirming that they're back together. Pilar is more happy than unnerved because they've been broken up since before her birth.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Wedding Singer, Adam Sandler's ex-girlfriend takes advantage of his drunken blackout to have a one-night stand with him. He rejects her once he sobers up the next morning.
  • In Hatchet II, two of the hunters hunting Crowley used to be married, causing tension between them. Eventually, they end up alone together and decide to have a shag in the middle of the woods.
  • In Plan B, Laura regularly has sex with her ex-boyfriend Bruno despite dating another man. Bruno also wants them to rekindle their romantic relationship, but she refuses because she knows he's sleeping with her only out of jealousy at her seeing someone else.
  • Girls Like Magic: Jamie is introduced after having had sex with her ex Casey, thinking this means they're getting back together. However, it means nothing to Casey, which infuriates her.

    Joke 
  • There is an old joke about a woman who visits a friend she didn't see for years and sees several children who look just like the husband their mother divorced years ago. When questioned, said mother says "He sometimes visits in order to apologise".

    Literature 
  • The Book of Joe has Joe and his former high school girlfriend Carly reconnect when he revisits town. It is implied that they'll rekindle their relationship following their night together.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used as a plot device in the Pilot Episode of Cheers, where Diane's fiance jilts her so he can run off on their planned honeymoon with his ex-wife, thus forcing her to work at Sam Malone's bar for several years' worth of UST.
  • Friends: Ross and Rachel were guilty of this, several times, during break-ups, and when Monica and Richard break up the second time she offers him one last night together.
    • Chandler once got tricked into going on a blind date with Janice shortly after they broke up. Despite their initial anger they end up sleeping together. Janice thought this meant they were getting back together forcing Chandler to dump her again.
    • After breaking up with Mike, Phoebe enlists Monica to keep an eye on her so she doesn't hook up with him again. Mike apparently asked one of his own friends to do the same for him but gave the guy the slip. When Manny catches up to him he and Monica get into an argument that allows Mike and Phoebe to sneak off to her bedroom.
  • In The Wire, Jimmy McNulty's estranged wife Elena propositions him after a make-peace date. This leads him to think they can get together again; however, it proves to be a one-time occasion.
  • The Golden Girls had an entire arc of it with Dorothy and Stan, leading up to the intended, but called off, re-marriage.
  • Used to definitely break up Rachel's relationship at the end of the first season of How to Make It in America. She ponders over breaking up with her boyfriend, gets drunk, sleeps with her ex Ben, then tells her current boyfriend it's over and underlines how over it is by mentioning she slept with Ben.
  • Scrubs: Dr. Cox started sleeping with his ex-wife Jordan, who is one of the few people with a strong enough personality to keep up with him. After about a season and a half of this just loathing himself and sabotaging any attempt at a new relationship, they get back together officially when Jordan becomes pregnant and remain together officially unmarried the rest of the series.
    • Subverted in a later episode, when it's revealed that, due to a legal mix-up, they were never actually divorced (they signed the wrong papers). This ends up ruining their relationship until Cox gets on one knee at the end of the episode and asks Jordan to divorce him. She happily accepts, and they have a divorce ceremony. The witnesses just look at Cox and Jordan's kid and Carla tells him that he'll never be normal.
  • My Name Is Earl: Earl's wife Joy divorced him in the first episode and those early episodes had a very rocky relationship. When Earl accidentally ruined Joy's marriage to Darnell he set out to make it up to her, which managed to get them back together as friends and accidentally sparked a night together, forcing Earl to need to make things up to Darnell.
    • Darnell actually wasn't pissed off at Earl for sleeping with Joy. After all, Darnell did it to Earl first.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Leonard and Penny broke up late in the third season and in the season finale, Penny started dating again, only to find herself unable to go back to stupid guys after dating Leonard (a physicist). Coming home drunk and depressed she took Leonard to bed, which he misinterpreted as Penny wanting to get back together. She was very embarrassed because that was not the intention (she gets very loose when she drinks) and Leonard was upset over being used for sex.
  • Castle: Richard Castle and his second ex-wife briefly remember why they got married and spent the summer in the Hamptons together, which reminds them why they got divorced.
    • He also has sex with his first ex-wife (Alexis's mother) about twice a year. They realize they're not right for each other, but the sex is too intense to avoid.
  • How I Met Your Mother had an episode revolving around Ted and Robin having sex in order to avoid arguments (they had broken up but had recently become roommates because Robin lost her job). Interestingly enough, their activities did not end because of romantic complications, but because Barney was secretly in love with Robin at the time, and when Ted figured this out (due to Barney's not-so-subtle attempts to stop them from fighting and therefore having sex) he immediately called off his arrangement with Robin and allowed her to believe it was because he was afraid he'd redevelop feelings for her.
  • Frasier does it at least once, with his ex Lillith Sternin. Later in the series, Lillith breaks up with her second husband and shows up attempting to seduce Frasier who struggles to resist but ultimately doesn't sleep with her. She ends up in bed with Niles instead.
  • In one episode, Blossom catches her divorced parents fooling around. They hadn't had sex but may have if they weren't caught.
  • Seinfeld did this, with Jerry and Elaine.
  • Cougar Town: Jules and Bobby hooked up after having been divorced for a while. Grayson and Andy wrote a song about it, which they called (appropriately), "Sex with Your Ex." It went:
    Sex with your ex is really great/but sex with your ex is a big mistake/oh no no/sex with your ex.
  • Happened in Pan Am when Bridgett came back, screwed up Dean and Collette's relationship.
  • The fourth season of Breaking Bad has Walter having sex with his wife again after they split.
  • Raylan Givens in Justified has slept with his ex-wife several times, even though she's now married to another man. They briefly get back together but she soon realizes that he has not really changed and they will never work out.
  • Bones has it a lot.
    • Booth has had a couple of "one time only" sleepovers with his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his son.
    • Similarly, Bones herself slept with her former boyfriend (and thesis supervisor) when he came into town.
    • Angela and Hodgins had sex right after they broke up in season 4.
    • Sweets and Daisy couldn’t stay away from each other during both break-up periods. The second time ended with her pregnant and them marrying just before his death.
  • Bosch: At the start of season 4, while recuperating from getting shot, Jerry Edgar is regularly having sex with his ex-wife. The sex ends when LaTonya finds a new boyfriend, but they stick to being amicable exes.
  • Gilmore Girls: Lorelai and her baby daddy/High School Sweatheart Christopher have sex in the first season when he comes to town and they have an emotional argument with their parents. In a classic example, he takes it as a sign that they should get together for good, but Lorelai (rightly) insists that he's still too immature and naive to be a good father or husband.
    • Over the course of the series, Lorelai and Chris do this several times, showing how she has trouble letting him go.
  • Parenthood - Crosby and Jasmine end up in bed together after discussing (over copious amounts of wine) the heartbreak they both felt trying to explain to their son, Jabar, that they wouldn't be getting married.
  • In That '70s Show episode "The Relapse" after her mother leaves, Donna is distraught and ends up having sex with her ex-boyfriend, Eric. Eric believes that this means that they're back together, and is quite upset when he learns that it doesn't.
  • Hou$e of Lie$ opens with Marty regretting a night spent with his ex-wife. Doesn't stop him from doing it again in other episodes.
  • Every. Single. Time. Zoe shows up on Lie to Me, she and Cal get busy.
  • The pros and cons are discussed often on Sex and the City. Carrie, Samantha, and Miranda all hook up with ex-boyfriends, to varying degrees of success.
    Samantha: (while discussing whether or not Carrie should have one last hook-up with Big before he leaves New York) Fuck you once, shame on you. Fuck you twice, shame on me.
  • Mad Men: Betty and Don Season 6 Episode 9 "The Better Half."
  • Happened a lot between House and Cuddy. They had a Vicious Cycle of being an Official Couple, breaking up, sleeping together, being friends with benefits, deciding to start dating again, ad nauseum until finally deciding they were Better as Friends.
    • Also with Taub and his ex-wife.
  • Interesting variation on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Worf was married to Jadzia Dax, Dax being a symbiont passed between hosts. Jadzia dies and Dax is placed in Ezri. When Worf sleeps with Ezri, it's primarily him trying to be with Jadzia again.
  • In Psych this happens between Shawn's divorced parents, and he is traumatized when he walks in on a Primal Scene. They don't get back together but are still good friends.
  • An episode of Grey's Anatomy has a woman getting stuck in a compromising position on top of her ex-husband when his new penis ring gets snagged on her IUD. The doctors have to use expensive machinery to help them navigate their way out of the situation. It gets worse when their daughter finds out her mother is in the hospital and walks in. The daughter is extremely upset at her mother cheating on her new husband, not to mention the hours of therapy that she'll have to go through.
  • A seventh season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has Xander and Anya sleep together after their break-up. They wonder if it means that they should get back together but decide that it didn't really feel like "getting back together" sex; it felt like "one last time."
  • The Affair: Neither Noah nor Cole seems to be able to stay away from their exes for good, even if they're in other relationships.
  • Third Watch. Jimmy and Kim can't stop sleeping together despite their divorce, which was due to his frequent infidelity. They actually do reconcile by the series end, after he legitimately gets his act together.
  • Knots Landing:
    • After he sues her for custody of Brian and Olivia in the Season Two episode "A State of Mind", Abby sleeps with her ex-husband Jeff and leads him to believe that they have a chance of reconciling. However, the morning after the night before, she tells him that it was a one-off and he realises that she's manipulating him to drop the suit.
    • While dealing with the emotional pressure of Lilimae deliberately running over Chip, a distraught Valene had sex with Gary in the Season Five episode "... And Never Brought to Mind". As a result, their twins Bobby and Betsy were conceived.
    • Gary and Valene had sex again in the Season Nine episode "Weak Moment" as Valene was upset about Ben's continued absence.
  • Happily Divorced: In the penultimate episode of season 1, Fran and Peter get drunk and sleep together, resulting in a Pregnancy Scare (she wasn't).
  • Badger: In "Flight", Liam is bullied at school and Ralph's genuine concern makes his ex-wife Steph warm to him. When he takes on the bully's parents and gets beaten up himself, she is touched and they end up in bed together. This fling later puts considerable strain on her relationship with her current boyfriend Tom.
  • Teresa: When Teresa visits her ex Mariano to confront him the day before her wedding, she catches him half-naked as he's wearing only a Modesty Towel. After a lot of Eating the Eye Candy and Slap-Slap-Kiss they end up sleeping together.
  • Daredevil (2015): Devastated by learning the truth about Matt's secret double life, Foggy Nelson goes to his ex-girlfriend Marci Stahl, who's opposing Nelson & Murdock in an ongoing case, and has a one night stand with her. He eventually appeals to the fact that she used to "have a soul" get the better of her and she helps Foggy to expose the criminal dealings Wilson Fisk is involved in at Marci's law firm. By season 2, Marci has mellowed out in her new job at Hogarth Chao & Benowitz. Foggy eventually takes a job at the firm after Nelson & Murdock, and by the start of season 3, they've moved in together.
  • Cobra Kai: A non-sexual variant. Samantha LaRusso breaks up with Miguel Diaz at the end of season 1 after he becomes a jackass under the Cobra Kai teachings of Johnny Lawrence. In season 2, Sam hooks up with her dad's karate student, Johnny's son Robby Keene, but she still carries a torch for Miguel, and a fair number of her friends (Moon especially) notice it. Meanwhile, Miguel hooks up with new Cobra Kai student Tory Nichols, but the whole time he's with her, he holds a torch for Sam. At Moon's party in the ninth episode of season 2, Miguel catches Sam alone by the poolside, only wanting to check on her after she beat Tory in a drinking contest earlier that afternoon. Sam, who has learned that Robby withheld from her that Miguel returned Miyagi's Medal of Honornote  to the LaRussos' house, trips into Miguel's arms, and after several seconds of staring at each other's lips, they kiss. The kiss happens to be seen by Tory, who responds by picking a fight with Sam on the first day of school.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Midge and Joel on three occasions: in the season 1 finale, in the season 2 finale (with Midge cheating on Benjamin), and in the fourth episode of season 3 (where Joel could be considered to be cheating on Mei). A lot of this has to do with the fact that Midge frequently turns to Joel for comfort and emotional support, whether or not he's in a good position to give it, and Joel, out of a combination of love and continued remorse for his initial abandonment of her, is willing to provide her with that even when it's not in his best interest to do so.
  • Roswell, New Mexico:
    • Liz and Kyle dated in high school, and hook up again upon Liz’s return to Roswell. They both seem clear on the fact that it’s just sex and not getting back together.
    • Alex and Michael also hook up after having been a thing in high school, but there are way more complicated feelings for them.
  • The L Word: After they'd broken up, moving on into relationships with other people, Bette and Tina began an affair together again in Season 5.
  • Conversations With Friends: In the series finale, Frances and Bobbi sleep together again, rekindling their relationship afterward.
  • Women's Murder Club: Ater being forced by a case to relive the memory that they lost a baby, Lindsay and her ex-husband Tom sleep together despite him being engaged. Both of them agree the next day that it was a mistake the next day.

    Memoir 
  • In Suzanne Finnamore's 'Split,' she admits to having sex with her ex in the midst of their messy divorce, even though he's theoretically with The Other Woman (the same one he left Suzanne for) and she claims that sex is The Best. Ever.

    Music 
  • Warned against in E-ROTIC's aptly-titled "Max Don't Have Sex With Your Ex".
  • The subject of Childish Gambino's "Heartbeat" is the narrator having hooking up with his ex while both of them have moved on to other people, and the emotional dynamics of their relationship.
  • "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs" by Fall Out Boy is, per Word of God, about two people who have broken up but continue to sleep together to sate their physical and mental desires.
  • Georgian-Greek singer Tamta (best known for representing Cyprus in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest) released a song called "Sex with Your Ex", in which she sings about sleeping with an ex for fun while not really wanting to get back together ("I just want you, I don't miss you", she sings at one point).
  • The last verse of Cole Swindell's "Break Up in the End" is about the narrator's ex coming over to have sex with him because she's drunk and lonely, not for the first time.

    Theatre 
  • In Mary Mary, Tiffany accuses Bob of having slept with his ex-wife Mary, whom he obviously remains attracted to, though he insists that he's the sort of Nice Guy who just wouldn't do such a thing. What actually happened is that he ran out on her after she gratuitously insulted him when he was trying to talk about his feelings for her.

    Video Games 
  • In Fahrenheit, Lucas can bed his ex-GF Tiffany when she comes to pick up the last bits of her stuff from his apartment mid-game, complete with an interactive sex scene (that was eventually cut from the American release).
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: Harry is talked into having sex with Dahlia (who claims to be his wife, and that they've done it plenty of times before). Of course, given The Reveal, it's doubtful that this has ever actually happened.

    Visual Novels 
  • This is a clear possibility in Double Homework, since the protagonist’s ex-girlfriend, Rachel, is a romantic option. And even better, they might even get back together.
  • The obscure H-Game that Nightwalker is based on has a separate continuity, in which the vampire detective lead Shido and his main client Yayoi used to date, and continue to work together despite mutual exasperation with each other. Their Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic eventually leads to a sex scene.

    Webcomics 

    Web Video 
  • Sam & Mickey had Barbie and Ken break up sometime before the events of their first video, but begin an affair in "New Year's Eve". Barbie claims in The Real Housewives of Toys 'R' Us episode #3 that they had to end this affair after the events of "Sex Tape", in which Barbie finally told Ken's girlfriend Yasmin about it. After that confession, Yasmin revealed that she already knew about the affair, removing any enjoyment Barbie got out of trying to keep it a secret.

    Western Animation 
  • One example of this trope with a happy ending is in the Futurama episode "Bendless Love". When Bender gets a job as a "scab" in a factory that is experiencing a worker's strike, he finds his not-so-evil twin Flexo working there too, and also a pretty female robot named Anglelyne who he develops a crush on. When Bender finds out that Anglelyne is Flexo's ex-wife (but still apparently has feelings for him), he decides to see just how far the feelings go, disguising himself as Flexo (easy to do, needing only a small fake beard) and taking Anglelyne out for a night on the town. Unfortunately, this does indeed make Anglelyne remember how much she loved Flexo — but even more unfortunate, this gets the real Flexo in trouble, as the Robot Mafia - who is supporting the strikers - drops an unbendable girder on Flexo to punish him for flaunting his success. Bender starts to feel sympathy for both of them, and he decides to try and bend the girder off of Flexo ("Well, I don't know anything about lifting, so we don't have many options here!") and actually succeeds, after which Anglelyne and Flexo apparently make love right there, with Bender still in the room.

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