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Sex After Divorce: 4 Questions to Ask

Are you ready for sex again?

DGLimages/iStock; used with permission
Dating after Divorce
Source: DGLimages/iStock; used with permission

While my blog posts are primarily to help married people who are struggling within the confines of monogamy, as a counselor, I often coach people who are reentering the dating world after divorce and I'd like to help with a better re-pairing.

Are you divorced and entering the dating scene for the first time after a long marriage? If it’s been a decade or two since you last went out for drinks and dinner with a stranger, you probably have lots of questions about when, how, and if, to become sexually active again. Here are some things to consider:

Am I ready to date?

Our strongest drive is to be deeply attached to another person. Sometimes divorced people are told to wait a prescribed period of time but I find that advice artificial. Many times people have already processed the end of an empty marriage before it is technically over. But certainly, after experiencing the loss of divorce, it’s important to make sure you’re emotionally healthy enough to partner with someone new.

While readiness is measured subjectively, these questions can help you determine whether your heart is prepared to date: Is my self-esteem repaired enough so that I feel like a worthy, desirable person myself? Can I go out for a pleasant evening without recounting the miseries of my ex-partner? Am I ready for some rejection again should this prove to be simply a date and not the beginning of a relationship?

How do I feel about having sex with someone new?

Some people see dating after divorce as an opportunity to explore the variety of sexual partners now available to them. In these situations, the only prerequisite for sex may be that both partners find each other attractive (and possibly, convenient). Even if the sex is good, it’s absolutely no promise that the person will even wish to see you again.

Take some time to consider your own feelings about sex. Do you want to have sex simply for pleasure or does it have deeper meaning for you? If having sex means you start to care for the person and expect that in return, you should wait until that connection is well established.

Also, keep in mind that “sex” doesn’t have to mean actual intercourse. It can be delightful teasing touches, outercourse (touching and rubbing fully clothed), or erotic massage, or it might mean sexting and phone sex.

What would I need to make me feel safe in a sexual encounter?

While everyone will answer this question differently, at the very least, you should consider whether you have enough information about your date to ensure that they are who they say they are. You may want to wait to have sex for a number of dates to get enough information to put you at ease. Also, both partners need to be clear about their consent to have sex.

There’s also sexual health to consider: Have you discussed with your date their health history of STD’s as well as revealed your own? Is he/you willing to wear a condom? A condom is an absolute necessity today as unfortunately, people lie about their conditions and/or don’t know that they are carriers of an STD.

Would I find early-relationship sex to be hot—or not?

Sometimes sex very early in a relationship sex is super hot—since we don’t care about what that person thinks of us, we let go of our inhibitions and the result is fireworks. But not always.

For many men, the anxiety of the first experience with a new partner causes premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction. And for women, even those who normally orgasm easily, first-time sex with a new and unfamiliar partner may mean her arousal is lower and orgasm non-existent. She probably needs reassurance that her lover wants to know what she likes and her partner may be too nervous to ask.

Fortunately or unfortunately, good or bad early sex doesn’t seem to have any bearing on future sexual compatibility (though, certainly, a person who doesn’t care about your pleasure should be ruled out). Consciousness about their attachment style and a willingness to work on problems is probably more telling as to whether sex will be good in the long run.

Finally, keep in mind that great sex for the long haul is a function of being emotionally open, feeling safe to take erotic risks, and knowledge of your partner’s and your own body. These characteristics take time to cultivate.

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The General Social Survey suggests that married couples have sex approximately 58 times per year, but this ignores age and other factors.