Finding Your Sex Life after Divorce

An advisory board discussion turned to our experiences as professionals supporting women who find themselves newly single, often after a divorce. I asked Mary Jo Rapini, one of our medical advisors, to share some of her observations and advice.

A divorce leaves most people confused, hurt, and angry. Sex with another person—or sex at all—may be the farthest thing from your mind in the midst of a divorce. Sex with an ex is more common than you might think, but it usually doesn’t last; it may help put closure on the end of the marriage. Sex with an ex usually reminds you why you split and reinforces that you are alone (one of the loneliest feelings is waking up after your ex leaves from a night that was nothing more than sex). Be aware—both if you compare yourself to your partner and as you meet new people—that men usually have more partners after a divorce. Men suffer more from being alone. Their heart rate and respiration take longer to return to normal after an argument, and they have less of a social network to turn to for emotional support. Many times their attempts to find someone new quickly are driven by emotion as well as sex. Women have stronger social networks that help to emotionally support them. This is a benefit for women and also prevents them from feeling the “need” to begin dating right after a divorce.

For both women and men, there are new sexual adventures waiting after a divorce. On-line dating, texting, sexting, emailing, and social networks have all provided a virtual world of new suitors. If you have been married for a long while, this may seem overwhelming and intimidating. It may be one of the reasons you hesitate to get back into dating. I hear questions like these from many recent divorcees; “How do I date?” “Where do I begin?” “What do men or women expect now while dating?”

Before you begin dating, get comfortable with both your post-divorce body and your thoughts about sexuality. If you were married for a long time, sex may have become routine, and your body most likely was accepted for the way it was. If you don’t like your body, this is an optimal time to begin a healthier life style that includes taking time for yourself. Exploration of your own sexuality can be a part of that healthier life style. Rushing into dating before you know what makes you feel good, where you like to be touched, and how to touch you won’t be as successful as taking your time and knowing yourself. You aren’t the same person you were when you got married. Your body isn’t the same body, either. Here are some things you can do to understand your sexual self post divorce:

  1. Take at least one evening or morning a week to begin touching yourself. Sitting in a bath tub with nice music, bubbles, and a hot tea or other favorite beverage is a wonderful opportunity to touch your skin and notice where your body is most sensitive. If you feel numb since the divorce, watch for goose bumps. These are good indicators of areas on your body that enjoy touch.
  2. As you feel more comfortable with your own touch, introduce a vibrator. If you aren’t sure of which kind to try, begin with a vibrator you can take in the water. The water is relaxing and if you are still uncomfortable looking at all your body parts (many women and men have body image issues after a divorce) the water is a gentle way to cover parts you don’t like. Massage your neck, arms, breasts, chest, groin, thighs, and then gently introduce it to the genitals.
  3. When you are finished in the bath, gently dry yourself and begin looking in the mirror. Note the areas of your body that are sensitive to touch and appreciate those. Repeating a mantra or a favorite quote or prayer at this time is a loving addition to your body and will begin helping you feel more sexual and confident.
  4. After dressing, sit down and write down things that you appreciate about your body and list reasons someone would want to love you. Keep these writings in a journal where you can continue this practice. Writing will begin your healing process of self love, discovering your sexual self, and preparation to love again.

Whether you wanted the divorce or were forced into one, knowing your intimate, sexual self post-divorce is so important. The majority of divorcees do go on to have relationships and marriages. Many of these don’t work out, and it’s often because one or both partners rushed into another relationship without fully appreciating what they had to offer another.

If you didn’t want the divorce, it’s especially important to heal emotionally, as well as restoring your sexuality. These suggestions will help you get through the immediate months following a divorce:

  1. Talk to a counselor to help you navigate your feelings. Venting to your friends, parents, and children is not helpful and can actually isolate you. Children can be emotionally damaged when parents trash-talk an ex, so confide in a counselor and one or two close friends.
  2. Make exercise a part of your daily life. Exercise helps motivate you when you feel too fatigued to go on, and it restores your body image. If you can’t exercise by yourself, ask a good friend to walk, run, or go to the gym with you.
  3. Join at least one support group or a like-minded group. This will help you minimize your aloneness; it will also get you out into the community where—who knows?—you may meet new people, including, perhaps, someone you’d like to date.
  4. Minimize meeting up with your ex as much as possible. The more you engage with your ex, the more difficult moving on can be.
  5. Continue to enjoy the events you used to. You may not “feel” the same enjoyment at the same deep level, but eventually you will.

Going on with a new life you never wanted or chose is painful. Many times, the partner left feels revengeful, and although this is a common feeling (don’t beat yourself up for feeling it), you eventually have to give that up, too. Before you give up on that feeling though, remember: The best revenge is becoming the best version of you! This includes taking care of your emotional and spiritual health, your children’s health, and your physical health. You will make it, even though your heart may be breaking. You are strong, you will survive, and you will continue to grow, change, and love again.


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