On sex after divorce

BACK IN THE GAME: Sex makes us feel wanted, accepted and reassured.
BACK IN THE GAME: Sex makes us feel wanted, accepted and reassured.

The end of a relationship is always very painful; it doesn't matter who initiated it, had an affair, fell out of love or drifted apart.

Divorce can take a major toll on your self-esteem; and often there is a grieving process, with periods of anger and disappointment. A natural reaction is to hide away for a while, which in many cases is probably a good thing to do.

But as time passes it's tempting to go back into the dating scene - after all, sex makes us feel wanted, accepted and reassured.

Lately I've spoken to several clients who started dating again after a divorce or separation. One of them, in her early 40s, believes sex after divorce is much better, because for her sex had become a chore. She married quite young and now wants to have some new sexual experiences.

Another client in her 50s was very embarrassed when she came to see me. She told me she had never had an orgasm, and she wanted to find out what it was all about before she planned to have sex again with a new partner. She had married in her early 20s and had expected her husband to give her one when they had sex.

She is not the only one; some women have no problem having an orgasm on their own, but not with their partners and are therefore often faking it.

They were very surprised to find out that only 20 to 25 per cent of women can orgasm by just having penetrative sex. Often men don't know this either.

For men, dating again is also not that easy. One of my clients, aged 48, was for many years in an almost sexless marriage; he had planned to leave his wife after his youngest child had finished school and he did. He didn't expect it to be difficult, but after meeting a compatible woman on line he lost his erection when they had sex the first time and was so embarrassed that he stopped seeing her.

He tried again with another woman, but with the same result, which is why he came to see me. He had lost his confidence and acquired performance anxiety. Losing his erection was enough to raise doubt in his mind and, anticipating problems about his performance became a self-fulfilling fear. After some psycho-sexual education he is fine now.

If a man has no physical sexual dysfunction, and if the problem is performance anxiety, I often suggest he uses Viagra or Cialis for a while to get his confidence back.

Some months ago the patent for Viagra ran out and it is cheap enough now that most men can afford it, which is especially good news for older men, who may need it more often.

With divorce rates on the rise, it's quite popular now for men and women to look for love on line. Many, who have been in long, monogamous relationships, are looking for more casual sexual encounters before committing themselves again.

However, long periods of sexual monogamy have left them unfamiliar with today's safe-sex practices. In the past, most women were on the pill and condoms were hardly ever used.

I can't believe how many men and women tell me they have unprotected sex with people they have just met. They are still under the impression that you only use a condom to prevent pregnancies.

One client who had a great time with several new partners ended up with an STI and was very embarrassed when his GP told him. They were such nice women, he said, and they probably were, but this can easily happen by having unprotected sex.

When you have sex with different people, safe sex is the name of the game and you should have an honest discussion with a new partner. It's much easier to negotiate the use of a condom before you both are carried away in the heat of the moment ripping each other's clothes off.

Sydney Morning Herald