It’s a Friday night, and things are heating up under the covers. His lips are in all the right places, he’s saying all the right things, and then suddenly, your ex enters your brain. Maybe it was something your guy did. Or maybe it’s seemingly for no reason at all. And while your guy du jour may have no clue anything’s happened, until you stop thinking about your former flame, you won’t get back on track.
Your inventory of exes—no matter how classified—impacts your present day sex life. After all, even though the men of yester-year are history (and many, thankfully so!), they’re still there. That boyfriend from college who made you realize chemistry could be near tangible and that off-again guy you couldn’t keep your hands off were both responsible for shaping your experiences behind closed doors. The problem is, some of us have better memories than other when it comes to past conquests. So here’s how to exorcise common ghosts of partners past, come to terms with your present day sitch, and be totally in the moment in bed.
The ghost: Your ex’s XXX skills
Bust it: The guy you’re with is amazing, but the guy you were with in the past had amazing bedroom skills—that you kind of wish you could experience again. Get him out of your mind by speaking up about your desires to Mr. Now. Sex is so much more than the physical act, and being able to honestly talk about turn-ons (or show him what you want) is key, says Holly Hein, Ph.D., author of Sexual Detours: The Startling Truth Behind Love, Lust, and Infidelity.
The ghost: A cringe-worthy sex memory
Bust it: Whether it was a move that went terribly awry or a comment your ex said mid-act that you just can’t shake, less-than-ideal memories can creep up at inconvenient moments. If it’s something you simply can’t get out of your head, either because it’s still embarrassing or it’s really bothering you, bring it up with your guy, Hein suggests. You don’t need to go into details, but letting it out can be the first step in letting the thought go. Meanwhile, if it was something you tried and didn’t like, then it’s completely fine to keep it off your bedroom repertoire for now. “What you feel comfortable doing after a year or two into a relationship is very different than what you may feel comfortable with after just a few months,” reminds Karen Ruskin, Psy.D., author of Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual.
The ghost: Your ex is all over your Facebook feed and on your brain
Bust it: Maybe you and he decided to stay friends or maybe you’ve indulged in a little cyberstalking. Whatever the reason, he’s stuck in your head. It’s no surprise that experts agree the more you block him during your daily life, the less he’ll pop up at X-rated moments. “Even if you know he’s not right for you, your body can still crave the chemistry you had with an ex,” Ruskin says. If that seems to be the case, then it’s best to create some distance between you two. “It’s not being mean, it’s being honest,” she says. “Maybe you and your ex could be friends in a year or two, but you need some time for the chemistry to cool down.”
The ghost: That random guy from the coffee shop pops up in dirty dreams
Bust it: Fantasies are a normal part of a healthy sex life, Wagner says. “We’re human and our minds occasionally go there. As long as they’re not interfering with the bond between you and your partner, it’s nothing to be worried about.” After all, surrounding yourself with a little intrigue has never been bad for the bedroom. But if you’re always finding your mind wandering or have to conjure up an image of another guy to get excited, then it’s likely a sign that something’s not quite right in your relationship.