Your Sex Life After Divorce

Yes, yes, yes! It can be wonderful. Our resident sexologist shares her tips for getting your groove back now that you’re single again.

By Sari Locker, Ph.D.

ranted, beginning a sexual relationship with a new partner can be stressful for anyone—but for those of you who are getting back into the dating game after a divorce or the end of a long relationship, it can be even more overwhelming. Since you’ve been out of the singles scene for years or even decades, you confront a unique array of issues from “has my sexual technique gotten rusty?” to “which birth control is best to use?”—not to mention “how do I leave the baggage from my last relationship behind and learn to enjoy myself in bed?”

If you’re struggling with any of these questions, do not fear. You’re hardly alone, and plenty of people in your situation have gone on to have incredible love lives. You can, too—all you need a little guidance. Read on for some pointers that’ll help you realize that jumping back into bed doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, it’s darn exciting!

Keep looking, and you will find someone who’ll make sparks fly
When you first start dating again, it’s common to worry whether you’ll find anyone you’re attracted to. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because all the good ones are taken. Sure, you might not feel
If your date’s hurtling ahead and you want to put on the brakes, say something specific but complimentary.
that instant hormonal rush when you meet someone cute like you did in your youth, but — if you have patience and date more than one or two people — you will find someone who gives you that giddy feeling. Case in point: After her 20-year marriage ended, Kim, 44, from Louisville, KY, feared that her dating prospects wouldn’t be attractive to her. But after scanning an online dating site she realized this was hardly the case. “I saw a guy named ‘Buddy’ who was totally hot!” she recalls. They met for a date and he turned out to be even better-looking in person, debunking Kim’s fears that the pickings are slim in the post-divorce dating pool. “I couldn’t believe that there were available men out there with his kind of looks—a Don Johnson type,” she says.

In addition to following Kim’s lead and looking for prospects online, consider joining a book club, park clean-up team, or other volunteer group that will expose you to like-minded people. (Added bonus: Activities serve as instant ice-breakers and ease off some of the pressure you might feel in a bar or on a blind date.) What if you meet someone, and there aren’t instant sparks? Give it time: Attraction can grow the more you get to know and trust someone new.

Boost your sexual confidence
Many people have a less-than-stellar body image and self-esteem after a long-term relationship ends. That’s a problem that once plagued Deb, a forty-something from New York, NY. “A bad marriage left me feeling unattractive and undesirable,” she admits. “I couldn't imagine that anyone would want to have sex with a middle-aged mother.” But what Deb soon realized (and you will, too) is that new love interests saw her in a totally different light. “As soon as the guy I was dating told me, ‘You are the sexiest person I've ever met,’ I lost all my apprehension and inhibitions,” she recalls. “I realized that my body image and confidence problems were a product of my marriage and, thankfully they ended when the marriage did and I met someone new.”

Moral of the story: Even if you think you’re not so hot or could stand to lose a few pounds, get out there on a blind date, wink at someone online or flirt at a party, and the compliments will come, boosting your confidence big-time. And while you’re at it, treat yourself to some self-image pick-me-ups: Splurge on a high-end haircut, a massage, or a new date-night outfit, a tactic that Kim recommends highly. “I was determined to look as good as I could on a date, so I made a run to Victoria's Secret for some new lingerie and a sexy top. I felt like the hottest women on earth!”

Wait until it feels right…
Once you’ve found someone you’re attracted to, an even bigger issue looms: How quickly should the physical part of your relationship progress? Is it pretty much expected that you should be kissing on the first date and be stripping down by the third? The pacing question can terrify people re-entering the dating scene, and Deb can relate: “I was married for twenty-three years and I'd had only one partner before my ex-husband,” she explains. “By the time we separated, particularly because my sex life was virtually nonexistent toward the end, I felt practically like a virgin. The prospect of getting physical with a new person was frightening.”

For those of you who share Deb’s jitters, keep this in mind: There’s no reason why you can’t take things slowly. If your date’s hurtling ahead and
New love interests see you in a totally different light.
you want to put on the brakes, say something specific but complimentary like, “I really like you, but I’d like to just stick to holding hands/kissing/making out for awhile.” Deb held off until she knew it felt right with great results. “What I'd forgotten is that if you wait until you're really smitten, everything falls into place naturally,” she says. “I'll never forget our first real kiss. We were snuggling at a lake, and I was determined to take things to the next level. I decided that if his lips touched any part of my face, I was going to make the first move and move in for a kiss. Which is exactly what I did, and it was natural and wonderful.”

…Or jump in for some no-strings-attached fun
While taking things slowly works well for some people, others — like Kim — find sex for its own sake exciting and even liberating after a long relationship. “I hadn’t had sex with anyone but my husband in more than twenty years and, before that, only with my college sweetheart,” she says. “So at some point early on when I started dating someone again, I decided to go for it.” Her verdict: “While this guy wasn’t The One for me, connecting with him physically was easy and enjoyable; I felt back in the swing of things again!”

Brush up on your birth-control options
In your past relationship, you were probably using birth control that was right for you then... but is it still right for you now? Check with your doctor to see if something else might suit you or your new partner better. While birth-control pills are the most popular choice, these days there are plenty of other options, including the birth-control patch, Depo-Provera shots, the NuvaRing (a small vaginal device that releases hormones), caps and shields (they cover the cervix and block sperm from passing like a diaphragm), IUDs (a device that’s implanted in the uterus), and, of course, condoms—which you should use even if you’re using another form of birth control since it’s the best method to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Bring condoms along whether you’re a man or a woman, incidentally; never assume your date will have them handy.

And what if you want to broach the birth-control question with your date long before the big night? Make it sound like a team effort by putting it this way: “I really like you and I feel like we might want to have sex together soon. When we do, let’s use condoms/the Pill/see a doctor to discuss our options.” You might also consider getting tested for STDs, including HIV. (Likewise, a “let’s get tested together” approach will keep your sweetie from getting defensive.) Keep in mind, though, that the virus that causes AIDS may not show up in a blood test for up to six months after it’s contracted; that means that the only way someone can be sure that he or she is not HIV positive is to get tested after abstaining from sex for six months. (Having sex using condoms during that six months will minimize but not eliminate the risk of transmission.)

Expand your sexual horizons
Another common fear among divorcés is that sexual expectations have changed since the last time they were dating, and that people today expect to have all kinds of wild, crazy, acrobatic sex. Don’t worry, it hasn’t changed that much, but if you want an extra dose of confidence, there are plenty of ways to do a little research. Sex advice has come a long way since the days of Dr. Ruth; today, websites, instructional sex videos, and sex self-help books galore can give you tips and tricks to spice things up. Another great resource may be your single friends.

Of course, everyone has different sexual preferences, and the only way to learn them is to go ahead and ask. Even so, many divorcés may find their sexual communication skills have atrophied, since they’d gotten so used to their ex’s likes and dislikes in bed. If speaking up leaves you tongue-tied, try this easy question to get the conversation rolling with a new lover: “What are some of the most exciting things you’ve done sexually?” Not that you’re looking for your date to talk too much about the past—just consider it an easy way to gather some ideas on your partner’s turn-ons. Opening up like this may seem embarrassing, awkward, even scary at first. But these feelings are far from yours alone, so give yourself some slack and enjoy all the exciting possibilities that are now in front of you.

Sari Locker is a sex educator, TV personality, and author of the bestseller, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex. She has an M.S. in Sexuality Education and was the host of Late Date with Sari on Lifetime Television. Her website is
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