I’ve always thought of myself as a strong woman, able to turn away from something if I know it’s not good for me. That third slice of pizza, those expensive boots that I don’t really need in this godforsaken weather—I’m strong enough to be able to say no to them after a bit of thought. However, when I was younger and it came to men I used to be in a relationship with, I often found myself giving in to them even though they were much, much worse for me than the extra pounds or a huge credit card bill. You can solve those things in a matter of days, but letting an ex back into your life, even if you think it’s just for sex, can have consequences you’ll feel for years to come.
Now, I have nothing against sleeping with an ex per se. Some people are able to enjoy sex with an ex because they’re truly over the relationship and they just want a fun romp with someone who knows their body well. But not me. When I wanted that ex sex, I didn’t want just a fun romp. I wanted cuddling right after. I wanted breakfast in the morning. I wanted movie marathons on weekends. I wanted to get back together.
The first time I slept with an ex, it was with my first boyfriend, Rob*. We were together for two years until he cheated on me with Brenda*, a co-worker of his. In a fit of tearful indignation, I dumped his cheating ass, got drunk with my friends, and swore that I would move on “bukas na bukas din”—only to sleep with said cheating ass weeks later.
He would message me that he missed me, and I would say that I missed him, too. What can I say? I was 22 and so, so starved for love.
I had broken up with Rob, but I guess I was hoping that he would realize that he had made a mistake by choosing Brenda, so I stuck around. Sometimes, he would message me that he missed me, and I would say that I missed him, too. What can I say? I was 22 and so, so starved for love. He said he had ended it with her, and I wanted to believe him so badly that I didn’t pry any more.
We started sleeping together again, and it was easy to slip back into the routine we had perfected over the last two years. It’s not like I didn’t have reservations going into it; it’s just that I muted those voices of protest inside my head because I was tired of being sad over him. It was easier to give in to him than to resist him, when resisting meant staying sad for longer, putting myself out there again, and trying to meet new men only to be disappointed. (Rob was my first boyfriend and the first man I had ever slept with. He was comfortable to me.)
I even convinced myself that this was me being a modern woman, sleeping with a man who technically wasn’t my boyfriend—maybe this was what having a “fuck buddy” was like.
I wanted so much to feel better that I clung to that little ego boost, that Rob still wanted me—never mind that he had cheated on me. And in some twisted way, I wanted to get back at Brenda—if I couldn’t have him all to myself, I wasn’t going to let her have him all to herself. I even convinced myself that this was me being a modern woman, sleeping with a man who technically wasn’t my boyfriend—maybe this was what having a “fuck buddy” was like.
But if I were only completely honest with myself, I would realize that I was using sex to hold on to Rob, and then, to reel him back in. With every wordless gaze and synchronized surrender, I was asking him, “Don’t you miss this? Don’t you want this back?”
A few times in the months that followed, Rob and I would talk about us. I would ask him why we couldn’t be together again, and he would say, “Baka masaktan na naman kita.” That should’ve been the big red warning sign that would finally drive me away, but this idiot saw it otherwise. To me, his admission was him being vulnerable, and I just needed to be more understanding. I just needed to be more patient. He’d come around.
But he never did. I later found out that he and Brenda were still seeing each other—their pictures were up on her Facebook. Clearly, what Rob and I had wasn’t reeling him back in; if anything, it had just proved to him that he could have his cake and eat it, too. And the tables had turned—he was now publicly dating someone new, while I had become his dirty little secret.
So much for moving on “bukas na bukas din.”
I thought I had learned my lesson with Rob, but I was to repeat the same mistakes with Charles* years later. Charles was a childhood friend who grew up to be everything I wanted in a man—or so I thought. A year into our long-distance relationship, he cheated on me with Alyssa*. Another co-worker.
Like Rob, Charles would continue to talk to me even after we had broken up, and I clung to our conversations because it was easier than quitting him cold turkey. Since we dated long-distance, I never really knew the real picture when it came to his relationship with Alyssa, and so it was easier for me to believe that we still had a fighting chance. Ignorance really was bliss.
I was excited. I was single, he was single (or so he claimed), and we did say we still loved each other.
We continued to talk on and off throughout the year that followed, expressing regret at how things had turned out and wistfulness that things would be different if we only lived in the same city. When he made plans to visit our hometown, I was excited. I was single, he was single (or so he claimed), and we did say we still loved each other. I knew what was coming.
When we finally saw each other again, something felt different about him. He was less affectionate, more guarded, he didn’t laugh at the same jokes. But I pushed these observations to the back of my mind, telling myself that of course things were going to change—it had been a while, and we were no longer a couple. When we slept together, he did things we never did together in bed in the past, and I wondered if he learned them with Alyssa. We never talked about her the whole time he was in town, but she was the elephant in the room.
Like with Rob, Charles and I talked about whether or not we should give us another shot, but when his trip ended, he flew back into Alyssa’s arms. Maybe they never really stopped seeing each other the whole time. I was the fool again.
I was too scared that these men represented my few shots at true love, and I chose to crawl back to familiarity instead of jumping into the unknown with someone new.
With both men, I wasted years of my life sticking around when the better thing to do would’ve been to run far away and take my chances elsewhere. I was too scared that these men represented my few shots at true love, and I chose to crawl back to familiarity instead of jumping into the unknown with someone new—not realizing that familiarity would never be enough to heal a relationship that had cracked right down the middle.
I do believe I needed to make those mistakes to become the wiser person I am now, but when I think about those mistakes, I can’t help but cringe. Man, those are years I’ll never get back.
I remember sometime soon after my Rob chapter, a friend confided in me about her boyfriend dumping her. Rumor had it that he was already seeing his co-worker (!). But my friend continued to see him; they even slept together. I remember telling her, “There’s still hope! Don’t give up! You have to show him you’re willing to make it work!” Emboldened by my advice, she went to her ex’s house and, in a grand gesture, told him that she still loved him and she wanted to get back together. Guess what? He dumped her again.
I wish I could say sorry to my friend. Back then, I didn’t know any better myself. But if you, person reading this now, were to come to me with the same conundrum, I would know better. I would tell you, “Stop it. You’re not on the same page. You want his love, yet all he can give you is his, well, penis.”
*Names have been changed