After divorce, happy couples suddenly are everywhere, and we think they are probably all having blissful lives and great sex. Sex after divorce for us is usually non-existent or scary or unthinkable, at least for awhile. I hated that.
Once our divorce was final and our 33 years as husband and wife were officially over, I wondered if I would ever be able to even romantically kiss another man without thinking about my ex. We had dated in high school and went to different colleges, but stayed in touch and finally decided to get married my junior year. There was no proposal. No ring. No getting on his knee. We just knew we wanted to be together. Part of that decision was the sex part. We both wanted it!
The Legal Part Of Sex During & After Separation/Divorce
When our marriage ended, everything changed … including, of course, the sex. We did try to reconcile three different times, when I let him come back home with promises the affair was over. We didn’t have sex during the separations, but we were having sex after separation during those times we were trying to work things out. After I realized the extent of the affair, I had divorce papers drawn up, but I didn’t want to file until we had tried everything possible to save our marriage.
So my husband and I did sometimes have sex during divorce proceedings that went on at least informally for those three years. As far as having sex with someone else when you are separated or having sex with someone else after separation and before you are divorced, that’s not a good idea because you are still legally married during separations.
There are legal issues to consider about relationships during and after separation that can affect alimony and final financial agreements. In some states, if either partner is living under the same roof for more than so many consecutive days with another person of the opposite sex, or of the same sex if you are in a homosexual/lesbian relationship, that can affect the financial settlement.
The Emotional/Physical Part Of Sex During & After Separation/Divorce
I realize that things are very different from when I got married. Now, people often have sex before there is a real commitment to each other. That makes relationships more complicated. For me, sex is a precious, personal experience to be shared with only a person I am in a committed, permanent, exclusive relationship with. Most people would laugh at that these days, but I believe there are benefits to this God-given plan.
Sex changes everything in a relationship. Sex is not to be taken lightly. Sex is sharing a special physical, emotional, spiritual union that has the ability to create new life and the responsibilities that go along with that. Sex is also for the amazing pleasure of it. It can also cause big problems.
Most modern cultures in the world have followed some version of permanent relationships between a man and a woman for our personal good and for the good of our society. Most cultures still don’t approve of a woman “sharing her complete self” with just any man off the street…or a man who sleeps around to put more “notches in his belt.” In my opinion that easy availability destroys the best of what sex can be…a personal, beautiful complete sharing with someone we love and are willing to wait for and commit to with our whole being.
In today’s dating world, physical, emotional and spiritual compatibility is often replaced by sexual compatibility. Sexual compatibility is great, but a real connection of your overall spiritual self and emotional self is so much deeper than just the physical part of “having sex.”
That’s true, but according to Gary Blake, Certified Sex Therapist, “Sex in marriage can be a source of great pleasure, great distress or numerous kinds of feelings in-between. Because sexual issues can affect not only a couple’s sex life, but also the heart of the marriage itself, it’s a good idea for couples to exchange a comprehensive set of current sexual information about one another.”
How Long Should You Wait?
Divorces in mid or late life have their own set of problems, especially if we were married a long time. There is a lot of emotional unpacking to do after years/decades of being together. If our life-long mate wants a divorce, that’s devastating. It takes time and work to get our confident self back after that kind of rejection. After divorce, we should be working on rediscovering our own real self instead of jumping into bed or into other relationships just to ease the pain.
After divorce, I was hungry for the physical touch, closeness and intimacy that had been available since I was 21. Emotionally, I was far from ready to explore new relationships on any level, much less a sexual one. But, I was unbelievably lonely.
At one of my first RADiCAL meetings after divorce, one of the other women in the group said, “I DO NOT want another relationship right now, but I would like to just put a bag over my head and put a bag over some guy’s head and just have a good screw!”
We all knew the feeling. The first time I had a massage, I cried through most of it. The simple physical touch reminded me of how much I missed the physical part of my lost relationship, and I couldn’t stop the tears. But don’t rush into a post-divorce relationship and the sex that goes with it. Getting strong again yourself is the only good way to proceed.
Putting Pressure On The First Time
After divorce, most of us worry that we will never have that excitement, that tingly feeling, that hard-to-describe pleasure again. Some of us are scared of sex after divorce. But, believe me, it all comes rushing back when the time is right … when the person is right … when the confidence and commitment and security is right in a new relationship. When I started dating again, and the first time my now husband really kissed me, I was so relieved. I thought I might never really enjoy that special feeling again. You will when things are right.
One of the benefits of getting older is that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. It’s normal for any age couple to have some worries about our bodies, but if we can keep our sense of humor and not make sex a performance, but a fun, good-natured exploration and sharing, things will go a lot better.
Hopefully, you have the whole rest of your life to get it figured out, so don’t feel pressured to perform perfectly when you have sex the first time after divorce, especially if you haven’t had real sex for a significant length of time.
Sex After A Sexless Marriage
Some divorces come after months or years of no sex. That may have been one of the things that caused your divorce in the first place. One side of the couple may lose interest or be embarrassed or have physical things that prevent the kind of sex they want. There are always things you can do to rekindle the desire and keep that sexual part of your relationship alive if both of you are willing and not afraid to be creative.
If you were in a marriage with no sex, it may take you some time to gain the emotional and physical confidence to make yourself vulnerable like that again. Maybe you find you have no sex drive after divorce or you’re scared of sex after divorce. Definitely tell any potential long-term partner about this feeling. Get professional help if you need to. Ask for patience as you may have to “relearn” some things.
Both of you can explore sexual techniques as you go along. Make it fun! What pleased your ex husband may not please your new love. The same goes for you, too. Don’t be afraid to explain what you like and what you need.
Lower Sexual Confidence
For women, especially, it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up because our culture, our media, and our entertainment make everyone look thin, beautiful and perfect. Facebook shows super-fit, gorgeous women with no wrinkles and still brown hair long after our own hair keeps trying to turn gray.
Our sexual inferiority complex may also come from a partner who was always making us feel like we didn’t measure up. It takes guts to take your clothes off in front of someone else when your body is betraying you in ways you never expected. Guys can use Viagra. Women can use lubrication and there are toys and things women can do to keep those pelvic floor muscles strong, (See Kegel exercises). Both partners have to adjust and slowly our confidence comes back.
Feeling Like You Cheated
It’s possible to see how some divorced people might have lingering thoughts that if they sleep with someone else after divorce (married or not), they are somehow cheating. My personal opinion is: “Once you are divorced, you are divorced!” NO GUILT NECESSARY if you are divorced and get remarried and have sex with your new spouse!”
Even though Catholic thinking is becoming more open to dealing with each specific case with grace and mercy and not just unquestioned law, there are still spiritual traditions that make people feel like they cannot re-marry after divorce and/or also cannot have sex unless their marriage was annulled. Some church leaders believe a couple is still spiritually married no matter what and that any sex after that is considered adultery. The Amoris Laetitia is the official document addressing these issues.
In some faith communities around the world, women have no rights and can be condemned for adultery even if they didn’t instigate sex or agree to it. They are often abandoned and shunned by extended family and friends, and left with no support and worse!
Set Your Standards, Know What You Want
I was incredibly lonely after divorce even though I had an amazing family, friends, a church to be a part of and enough money to start regrouping. But still, the early days and nights alone were awful. That’s where some women mistakenly think any warm body will be better than that oppressive loneliness. WRONG!
One good thing about dating after divorce is that it becomes easier to be selective. If you think someone is going to take too much work to be who you want them to be, just cross them off your list and move on.
Or as the author Jill Conners says in her book, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love “He (her Dad) would say, “Y’all come when you can,” which was of no substantial pith or import, but then he would add, “Be particular.” Except he pronounced it “p’ticklar.” Be particular. That is, without a doubt, the Best Advice Ever Given in the History of the Entire World.”
In our MasterPlan Program and Community, we help you figure out who you really are after divorce by helping you rediscover your own gifts and dreams and talents. We also help you explore who you want traveling with you after divorce. As a place to start, we suggest creating the following lists to clarify your thinking about any future relationships:
- Relationship Deal Breakers
- Relationship Must Haves
- Relationship Nice to Haves
Life is short. Figuring out who we are and what we want saves us time and grief as we move forward after divorce.
Sex As Revenge
Revenge sex may sound good in theory, but it is usually never good in real life with real life consequences. Sex as a revenge technique usually backfires. Most exes are with the Other Woman they left you for or are already dating anyone who will have them, and they don’t care what you’re doing at all.
Forget about your ex and what he or she is doing. Focus on YOU and what YOU want your life (including sex) after divorce to look like. Also do not do anything that can be used against you by your ex or in a court of law! See our blog about revenge!
Exes May Reappear
In this age of instant information, word of our divorce spreads fast. Many times our recent ex-spouse (or their proud lover) can’t wait to broadcast their new relationship on Facebook. Usually it is in some idyllic place with everyone hugging and smiling (and probably having sex!) Don’t look at his/her Facebook page! It only brings heartache and fury. Neither one is good.
A group of exes that may appear after your divorce are various exes from the past … not just ex husbands, but ex-boyfriends from your old home town, or high school or even college and before you were married.
I would shy away from all ex husbands, period! Too much baggage! Ex-boyfriends can sometimes be a good place to start in rediscovering yourself. If nothing else, they can remind you of how far you’ve come!
In a serious relationship after divorce – serious enough to have sex – it only makes sense that either one of you or both of you may be nervous enough to not be able to really perform sexually when the time comes. Don’t make a big deal about it. Be light-hearted and good natured and try again another time.
Some single/divorced guys are only thinking about how to get laid after divorce. (That needs to be on your Deal Breaker List! (See above.) Some are very convincing that they love you until you give them the sex they want, and then they sometimes lose interest. If your rule is not having sex unless you are in a committed relationship, that sometimes gets rid of those who are dating you just to get the “freebies!” Some women simply want their desirability and worth to be confirmed and sex might seem to be the easiest way to get that. It’s not.
At the same time, you should talk about sex and ask specific questions about sex in any really serious relationship. Like money, sex can be hard to talk about in new relationships, but really important.
I came across a great little book published back 2004 entitled Beyond Promises: Getting Ready for Marriage by Gary Blake, a professional counselor and a Certified Sex Therapist. It’s out of print, but it really is an amazing little book about all of the things to find out about your potential partner before marriage. Here are just a few questions you should ask any serious partner about “Sexual Issues.”
- Rate your general level of sexual desire
- Check your personally desired frequency of sexual activity
- Check the following sexual activities in which you agree to engage?
- Check the following sexual activities in which you would refuse to participate?
- How do you define pornography?
- Would you mind if your mate were regularly involved with Internet sex sites?
- Will you want your partner and you to engage other individuals/couples for sex with you?
- Have you experienced any sexual trauma that might affect your sex life with your partner?
- Have you ever been arrested or jailed for a sexual offense?
- Would you consider the lack of sexual satisfaction in marriage to justify a divorce?
- Are you heterosexual? Homosexual? Bisexual?
- Do you have a negative sexual past that should be shared with your partner?
Sex after divorce can be a minefield. If you get help and do the grief and healing work you need to do and are approaching dating and sex after divorce from a place of confidence and self assurance, then go for it! It’s one of the great pleasures of life with the right person at the right time. Choose wisely!