Sex and the Single Mom: Recycling Exes


A couple on a date.There is an ease and comfort in exes. That is why, on occasion, I have gone back to an ex. When the prospect of putting myself out there to meet someone new was too much to handle, but I wanted a plus-one, an ex seemed like the perfect solution.

So, I rationalized why so-and-so wasn’t so bad and how being with them would be easier on my heart this time around. I was always wrong.

I once dated a comedian who, like most comedians, was a little “off.” He was insecure (in himself and our relationship), and combined with the fact that he didn’t have many friends, meant all his free time was spent with me. When I would say I was busy, he’d offer to run errands with me instead of going on a date. This was fun at first but became a little too much to handle one weekend when my son was with his dad, and the Comedian came over and watched movie musicals with my mom while I slept. We agreed that this wasn’t working because our lives were too different and split up.

Fast forward a few years, and I was in a dark place after several failed attempts at relationships. I wanted someone who was as into me as I was into them. The Comedian was still a friend on Facebook, and I decided to message him. He’d always had time for me before; maybe he would now. He did. I found out over pizza and drinks that his life was much the same, whereas mine had changed in many ways. We made out in the park, making me feel like a teenager again – desired and carefree. Then I got a Facebook message from his girlfriend a few days later.  


I realized this was a sad attempt at rekindling something with someone who was so clearly not my match. I wanted what he’d given me years before; undivided attention. And, for a night, I got it. This was not worth the guilt, drama, and shame I experienced afterward.

Unfortunately, that experience didn’t stop me from trying to recycle another ex. He was the Single Dad of a daughter a few years younger than my son. We bonded over being parents and sole providers. He was older, worldly, and super smart. Problem? He didn’t want to get married or have any more kids. I knew early on that this meant he and I wouldn’t work out for anything long-term. At the time, I was okay with that fact. I wanted something fun in my life and loved having a dad to talk to.

Slowly our relationship (or lack thereof) became frustrating to me. I wanted to spend more time with him, and he seemed just to fit me in when it was convenient. I felt it becoming less fun and more like a game where he held all the cards, and I was left to guess what they were. So, we split, and I got back into the dating scene. We kept in touch, and I occasionally reached out to him for advice from a dad’s perspective. This may have been my mistake.

It was particularly rough out there on the dating scene. Slowly, I started to warm to the idea of having a comfortable place to land (in his arms) rather than going out on another first date. We fell into old habits, and they were equally as satisfying (read: not so much).

This time, I reflected on what was driving me to “give it another go,” and the answer was: fear.

Dating is scary. You put yourself out there to be judged as a worthy companion. When you get a few rejections in a row, it’s natural to want to go back to a place and time when things were easier.

The difficulty in exes, though, is it always ended for a reason, and that reason rarely disappears.

I’ve learned to be braver, to risk rejection in hopes of finding “the one” instead of trying to convince myself that I could live with all the problems that came with an ex. In most cases, recycling is great, but if we sit back and reflect, I think we’ll all come to the conclusion that exes should be taken out with the trash.