Sex After Divorce
Think You’re Ready to Lose Your Post-Divorce Virginity?
Sex makes us feel wanted and accepted. So, after the big rejection of divorce, is it any surprise that people go looking for it to feel reassured. Plus, let’s face it: sex is just plain nice.
I meet a lot of guys who really struggled through their divorce. They’re finally free and it’s almost a return to their college years where there may be over immersion into one night stands, going to bars, and picking up women,” says sex therapist Dr. Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First: the Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.
Although it may be a rebalancing after a lack of sex, Dr. Kerner has found that casual sex is usually more of a transitional state. Most people come out of it on the other end and get to a more reasonable, integrated perspective,” he says.
While women may also engage in a post divorce time of free love, their biology makes it harder for them to have just sex.” That’s because if sex leads to orgasm, the brain gets washed with oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates feelings of attachment, especially for women.
Friends with benefits is never that clean cut. It’s easy to fall into the trap of intending something to be causal and have it turn out not to be. So, in general, it’s best not have sex with someone you’re not sure you want to be attached to,” says Dr. Laura Berman, the director of the Berman Center, a specialized health care facility in Chicago that’s dedicated to helping women repair their sex lives. She’s also the co-author of three New York Times bestsellers, including For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction and Reclaiming Your Sex Life.
When you think you’re ready to get back on that proverbial saddle, though, here are nine tips to make sure you do it right:
1. Don’t be in a rush.
While it’s tempting to numb the pain of divorce by jumping back into the dating scene, put yourself on the bench for a while and take the opportunity to lick your wounds and look at what happened in the marriage. Otherwise, says Dr. Berman, You can get into a situation where you’re still sort of an emotional mess and because you’ve had sex with someone, find yourself in a relationship that’s unsafe, unsatisfying, insulting and rubs salt into your wounds.”
2. Be aware that expectations are different.
If you’ve been married a while, you’ll probably find that sexual mores have changed a bit since the last time you were dating. Now, expectations of sex begin as early as the first date, and by the fourth date the pressure may really be mounting. But you get to decide what expectations do and do not work for you.
3. Realize the first post-divorce relationship is transitional.
When people get back into the game, they need to be prepared that the first relationship is not going to be the keeper but more the healer relationship,” says Dr. Berman. You’ve grown and changed since you were married. Each person you date will teach you more about what you’re now looking for in a relationship and partner. This is a time of change and choices not rules. For some, it makes sense to have sex during this transition. Others may choose not to put themselves through the emotional wringer of sex with someone who’s not a keeper.
The rule is there is no rule. Now is the time when you do what’s in your own best interest,” says Carolyn Ellis, a divorce coach and author of the bestselling Seven Pitfalls of Single Parenting. Ask does this support me and empower me or am I going to feel lousy in the morning? It’s a great opportunity to uncover your unconscious programming about sex.”
4. Be safe.
Having sex before you really know someone could break your heart. It could also get you involved with a wack job or worse. Or you may just connect with someone who, unlike you, hasn’t actually left their marriage”no matter what their online dating profile might claim. MSNBC reported that 30 percent of online daters were married.
5. Learn to say not yet.”
If you’re looking for a serious relationship, having sex too soon can muddy the waters. People don’t feel special when sex happens too soon. The general rule is not to be sexual with someone until you really know them and are clear you’re not only attracted to them but like them as well,” advises Dr. Berman.
Until you’re sure this is a person and situation you want to commit to it’s okay to say not yet.” You can do it in a way that keeps their ego intact. For example: ‘While I want to take things to the next step, I need to be honest with you. I don’t feel I’m ready for that.’
The way they handle this conversation is another good barometer of how they would be as a partner,” says Ellis. If they respond with something like ‘I really appreciate you telling me the truth, let’s slow things down’ as opposed to ‘hey baby, you were leading me on’ then you know they’re relationship material. We don’t need to settle for relationships with people who take things personally or turn these kinds of decisions into a power struggle.”
6. Express your sexuality creatively.
You don’t have to have sex in order to be sexual with someone. Sex is more than just the act itself “ it’s about feeling sexy, feeling sexual, feeling confident, vibrant and dynamic,” says Dr. Kerner. Watching a beautiful sunset, listening to great music, cooking a delicious dinner together or walking along the beach holding hands can be very sensual moments if you immerse yourself into the sounds, colors, textures and scents all around you.
7. Be clear about the reasons you want to have sex.
If this is just a feel-good moment to remind you you’re not too old, too fat or too awkward to be wanted, own that as the reason. If you’re having sex so that someone will love you, find a therapist, fast. If you really care about someone and want to take things to the next level, make sure you have a conversation with them and tell them this means something to you and that if you have sex, they will be partially responsible for managing your heart. If they don’t want that responsibility, they should have the opportunity to tell you before they climb into bed and you need to know that before you do.
Some people have sex because they discovered after marriage that their spouse had major sexual issues. They don’t want to repeat that mistake. So, once they find someone they really care for, they decide to explore sexual compatibility before making up their mind about spending the rest of their life waking up next to them.
Finally, some have sex because they’re deeply in love with and committed to the other person and it doesn’t get much better than that. Whatever your reasons for having sex, be clear about them and, if there are expectations attached, make sure the other person buys into them.
8. Be responsible.
Getting pregnant will really complicate things. I know a woman didn’t use any birth control because her date told her he had had a vasectomy. Only it didn’t take, so there they are in the early stages of a relationship and they’re expecting,” says Ellis.
9. Be smart.
Sure, it’s easy to let the hormones run away with you but with sexually transmitted infections at pandemic levels, is it smart? Like syphilis, many STDs have no symptoms for years, so just because someone looks clean” doesn’t mean they are. A moment of fleeting pleasure can lead to a lifetime of regret.
Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in up to 40 percent of the women with untreated Chlamydia, the infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues resulting in chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). And there is also herpes and HIV-AIDS to be concerned about.
With risks like that, it’s going to have to be some kind of orgasm to make it worth it. Condoms can make sex safer but they can break and leak and STDs can be spread through oral sex. So, the CDC says, The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.”
This means having the conversation about getting tested. My general policy is both should be tested for STDs up to six months after their last encounter. That way you can get a clear indication of what kind of STDs you’re dealing with,” says Dr. Berman.
Once you know the time is right, if you’re bald, have a belly or cellulite or erection difficulties due to blood pressure medication, the thought of getting naked with someone new can push your inadequacy buttons. Don’t obsess about your body image. A little goes a long way. See your doctor. Lose five pounds. Buy a few hot clothes and relax about the rest.
Nothing is more of a turn on than being with someone who feels sexy and communicates that,” says Dr. Berman. He’s not seeing that cellulite on your thighs or the flabbiness of your upper arms. So, don’t apologize. When you start calling attention to it, it’s a turn off. Focus on telling that person how attractive they are rather than calling attention to your own flaws. People just want someone who’s into it and into them.”