Redefining Sexual Values
Do you sometimes wonder after surviving a divorce whether anyone will ever find you attractive again? Is it difficult to even think about being intimate with someone other than your former spouse? Is It hard to imagine being able to trust someone again? Do you miss the physical connection but dread the process of “starting all over” with a new lover? Does the thought of being a “single” person again seem overwhelming?
Rest assured that these are very normal concerns for people who have recently separated or divorced. As if working through all the legal, financial and custody issues wasn’t challenging enough . . . You’re now left alone in bed, wondering if that spot next to you will ever be occupied again.
This is where the process of redefining your sexual values begins. Who you are and how you see sex, connection and intimacy has undoubtedly shifted over the years.
Redefining your sexual values is messy, particularly since our cultural norms change so rapidly in this arena. Don’t expect to figure it out right away. There isn’t one answer that will resolve the dilemma; redefining your sexual values is a process of examining your own beliefs and values around sexuality now that you are a divorcee.
It’s natural to incorporate one’s own sexuality with a spouse or long-time partner. Therefore, it can be difficult to separate one’s sexuality from that person when the relationship ends. Keep in mind that your sexuality did not suddenly begin when you met your former spouse; you were a sexual being before him or her. And you still are a sexual being after him or her.
If you tell the truth to yourself, you will probably recognize that your perspective is very different than it was prior to your marriage. The following questions may be helpful as you begin redefining your sexual values:
- What were my sexual values before I got married?
- Before my marriage, was sex something that was reserved only for someone I was in love with? Or was sex something that could just be casual and fun?
- Did I like sex before I got married?
- How did sex with my former spouse make me feel about myself?
- Did I like having sex with my former spouse?
- What do I think about sex now, after my marriage? How has divorce changed my perspective?
- What am I hoping to find in my next partner?
- Post-divorce, are there aspects of my sexuality that I’d like to explore but never felt comfortable talking about in my marriage?
- Can I see myself as a sexual being, separate from my former spouse?
- How do I feel about the term “making love?”
- As a single person, how would I like to express my sexuality?
- Am I comfortable having short-term lovers or a few different long-term lovers?
- Should I be celibate? Is it OK to masturbate? To flirt? To kiss?
- How do I feel when I look at myself naked in the mirror?
- As a single person, what are my sexual needs and what are my options for getting my needsmet?
- Would it be wise to get tested for STI’s before considering a new sexual partner?
- Am I comfortable discussing “safe(r) sex” with a new partner?
- Do I just miss sex or am I really craving intimacy?
- How much trust do I need to have in someone before I’m comfortable sleeping with him/her?
- (If you have children) What messages are you sending to your children about healthy sexuality?
While it may be easier to focus on “snagging” a new lover, this is often an attempt to validate yourself after the blow your self-esteem took when your relationship ended. It’s OK; you’re human. And it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees. Jumping head-first into a situation to assuage your self-doubt can create more problems in the long run. Everyone needs to feel loveable; everyone needs confirmation of his/her attractiveness and worth. While it’s tempting and very human to use sex to “prove yourself again,” you will likely feel better about your choice when it’s made from a confident, self-assured state of mind.
Redefining your sexual values is one aspect of the overall process of redefining yourself, separate from your former spouse. It’s natural to mold yourself around the needs of others, particularly in a long-term relationship or marriage. Much of this is automatic; so much so that you may not have recognized the parts of your “self” you stifled in an effort to maintain the “status quo.” It can seem overwhelming at first, since it entails so much change all at once. But a more empowering way to view it could be as an adventure – of discovering new shades of yourself. Start to notice the way you talk to yourself when you are considering this change process. Many people have negative internal messages like, “This is too much for me to deal with, “I’m too old to start over” or “I’m not attractive (young, thin) enough.” While these kinds of thoughts are very common, they are not helpful to you as you embark on this new chapter. When you notice negative thoughts, make a conscious choice to replace them with more empowering thoughts. Choose language that is realistic rather than “Pollyanna” type language. Examples include:
- “This is a lot of change. But I can handle it, one bit at a time.”
- “I have successfully managed many challenges in the past. I can with this one too.”
- “I have the opportunity to begin a whole new chapter.”
The transition after divorce is significant and that there is no one right answer. Redefining your sexual values is one piece of the puzzle as you create your new identity. Frequently, as you become more adjusted to being single again your ideas, feelings and thoughts change.
What is important is to focus on being present in the moment rather than worrying about where you want to “get to.” Take it one step (sometimes one moment) at a time. Trust yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out. We are here to help. You do not have to go through this alone.