In the movie "Must Love Dogs," while Sarah is dressing for her first date after her divorce, her sisters, Carol and Christine, coach her in seduction tips from that bible of sexuality: "Sports Illustrated Magazine."
Suddenly, Sarah panics, “What if I want to have sex? What if he wants to have sex? What if I can’t control myself? It’s been a long time.”
“Look, you’re going out for muffins and coffee. I think you’ll be OK,” says Carol.
Sex gives the appearance of being wanted and accepted. So, after the big rejection of divorce, many people go looking for it to feel reassured. Plus, let’s face it. Sex just plain feels good.
“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,” said sex therapist Ian Kerner
, Ph.D, author of "She Comes First: the Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman," which was selected by both Amazon.com
and Borders as a "Best of 2004" non-fiction title.
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 said.
While women may also engage in a post divorce time of Sex in the City
, 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,” said Dr. Laura Berman, Ph.D.
Berman is the director of the Berman Center, a specialized health care facility in Chicago that's dedicated to helping women repair their sex lives and 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.”
While the desire to be held may make it feel like the time is right to find a new sexual partner, here are nine steps to help you figure out when you’re really ready. 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 the sexual mores are pretty different than when you were dating decades ago. Of course, premarital sex was going on back then. In the sixties, it was a political statement — make love not war. But, in general, there was a sense that "good girls" dated for at least six months or waited until they were engaged or married before diving into the sheets. Guys who wanted to wait, too, weren’t viewed with suspicion. Now, there's expectations for sex on the first date or at least by fourth to eighth dates and there's no sense of being committed or the commitment is early and weak. 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,” said 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,” said 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. Maybe, she’s a fatal attraction type and he might be a rapist. Be especially careful if you met on the Internet. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Survey on Internet Dating, 74 percent of Internet users who say they are single and looking for romance have used the internet to further their romantic interests. "Online Dating Magazine,"
a consumer watchdog of the online dating industry, estimates that more than 20 million people visit at least one online dating service a month. Yet, MSNBC reported that 30 percent of online daters were married. 5. Learn to say, not yet.
Anyone can have sex but love and relationship take time and lots of it. “If you’re looking for a serious relationship, having sex too soon can muddy the waters. To be quite honest, it’s common for him to think if she’s doing this that quickly with me, who else is she doing this with? 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,” said Dr. Berman.
So, do you know their best friend? What are their favorite books? What makes them laugh/cry? Are their religious beliefs and political persuasions compatible with yours? Do they fight to win or work through conflict? Have they been a good parent? Are they financially stable? Can you talk heart to heart? Do you enjoy being with their family?
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 in tact. For example: I really appreciate your interest and I’m really flattered. 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,” said 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.”