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How to approach sex with a new partner following a long term relationship

By Maya Khamala

While any breakup can shake you to the core, the breakup of a longterm relationship or a marriage has to be one of the most destabilizing life events out there. 

But after the smoke has cleared, you may—sooner or later—find yourself courting someone new. You may even find yourself ready to have sex again, hallelujah.

But while new sex with a new partner can be exhilarating, it can also be stressful, or even downright scary after being with someone else for so long. 

Maybe you’re weeks out of a year-long toxic relationship, months out of a 5-year relationship with the love of your life, or years out of a 20-year marriage that couldn’t survive the weight of routine. Maybe you’re a parent to boot. Maybe you’re only after sex, or maybe you’re ready for an all-new emotional investment. Maybe it’s been a decade since you last had sex, or maybe you got some just last week. Regardless of the specifics, moving on involves navigating a whole lot of new territory.

Are you ready?

Regardless of who ended your last relationship, and why it ended, healing is a step that can’t be skipped.

If your desires are strictly physical, moving on may seem simple. But before you dive face-first into your casual sex rebound, do yourself a favor and make sure it’s really what you want. Catching deeper feelings for your lover when you’ve both made it clear that your arrangement is casual, or before you’ve had a chance to properly heal, can be a recipe for re-devastation. Depending on the details of your last relationship, you may not be emotionally prepared to have sex with someone new, let alone enter into something more serious and intimate.

Taking the time to be single for a bit can help you grow and evolve, ultimately leading to stronger future relationships (and better sex!). Of course, there are zero rules for how long you should wait—only you can determine what's best for you. If that means throwing off the shackles of a loveless marriage and hitting Tinder before the ink has dried, power to you. 

When your relationship was toxic or traumatic

From emotional/physical/sexual abuse, to gaslighting, love bombing, debilitating codependency, to a range of other unhealthy behaviors, relationship toxicity and trauma can take countless forms. Just because your relationship ended doesn't mean the damage it inflicted ended simultaneously. Post toxic relationship, it's common to feel demoralized, inadequate, and even scared of future relationships. It might be necessary to work on building platonic, loving relationships before re-entering the world of sex and romance so you have a solid support system in place in case anything goes awry.

When it comes to sex specifically, trauma tends to manifest in one of two main ways: sexual avoidance and sexual fixation or addiction. There’s no right or wrong here—they’re different ways of processing and dealing. It may be necessary to take the time to rebuild a positive relationship with sex—no easy feat. This may involve talking it out with friends, a sex therapist, finding balance through meditation, or blowing off steam in a boxing class—whatever it takes, because you’re worth it.

How to feel comfortable with a new sexual partner

No matter what your previous relationship and sex life were like, after years of being with the same person, they’re familiar. But, as disorienting as it can feel, there are ways to make sex with someone new more comfortable. 

Don’t rush. Be wary of rebounding. If you’re ripe ’n ready, do you, but know that you don’t need a partner to prove your self-worth. When you’re in the heat of the moment with a new partner, things can happen fast, but if there’s any doubt raining on your parade, slow down. Taking it slow may seem like overkill if you’re used to being with someone who knows you inside out—but it's not. Making out, foreplay and sexploration are all necessary to quality new connections. Just because you’re only after a sexual relationship doesn't mean you need to do more than kiss when you first meet someone. Be kind and patient with yourself.

Cultivate self-confidence through self-care. If you’re nervous, that’s 100% normal and human. But because feeling comfortable in your own skin leads to better lovin’ and sexin,’ consider boosting your confidence by showing yourself some TLC. This might include buying new lingerie (or anything else that makes you feel sexy), grooming and cleaning yourself in whatever ways make you feel most at ease (just because your ex preferred you fully waxed doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it), scheduled solo time, scheduled friend time, daily exercise, and a healthy diet—to name a few. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy heart.

Get in touch with your desire. Figuring out how to be comfortable in a new sexual or romantic relationship can be very empowering. There may be things you need to feel safe/happy/aroused—see if you can name them for yourself. Especially if you didn't have the kind of relationship where your desires were honored, it’s important to get in touch with whatever it is that gets your motor humming. Tantric masturbation—or regular masturbation—might help you remember what’s feels good. It can also help heighten your libido if your breakup happened to leave your sex-drive in tatters. 

Remember that communication is everything. Fact: a healthy relationship is built on healthy communication. Communicate your desires to your new partner. While you’re probably accustomed to being with someone who already knows what buttons to press, strong communication is vital to new sexual and intimate experiences. So don’t be afraid to let your partner know what pleases you and what doesn’t. Beyond the bedroom, whether you’re seeking a committed monogamous relationship, a casual, non-exclusive fling, or anything in between, that's valid. The important thing is to be clear with both yourself and your partner so as to avoid future heartbreak. 

Bottom line: moving on from a long term relationship or marriage to welcome something new into your life can be mind-blowingly delicious if you’re ready for it—the start of a new and exciting era. The relationship and/or sex life of your wet dreams may be just around the corner. It might be strange or awkward at first, but with patience, communication, and a little humor, a new sexual relationship can thrive. And so can you. <3

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