GMA:Intimacy After Divorce

After a divorce, the thought of dating again and having a sexual relationship with someone new can be scary and difficult.

For some people, it’s like being in high school, starting all over again. But while you may be swept away by a new romance, there are some down-to-earth issues to grapple with.

How do you introduce your children to a new man? And how do you deal with the issue of safe sex, when both you and the person you are seeing have just gotten out of a marriage?

Dr. Laura Berman spoke to Good Morning America about this issue, pointing out, for example that the rules may have changed since some people’s last dating experience.

For instance, those who married in their early 20s, and are now in their late 30s and early 40s, did not become sexual in the AIDS era, so they may have some new skills and vocabulary to learn.

“Sex is a risk...it is important to feel safe with that person, to feel a degree of intimacy, ” Berman said. If there is any doubt, don’t do it, she said.

Emotional Roller Coaster

Experts say that the prospect of new sexual relationships bring emotions related to your break-up to the forefront. Unresolved hurt or anger can affect your sexuality and your ability to get involved in a fulfilling relationship.

If you are not far enough along in the healing process, post-divorce sex can make you feel worse. On the other hand, if you are further along on the healing curve, it can be a loving and satisfying experience. Generally, therapists say it takes about one to two years to heal after a divorce, and to be ready for a relationship again.

Some women avoid sexual contact since rejection has a negative impact on their self-image. If they have been dumped by their spouse, there can be feelings of low self-esteem, or personal failure and abandonment. This can impact how you feel about your sexual attractiveness, and the way you interact with people of the opposite sex.

Some therapists recommend setting goals to help define the new you. Another way to get out of the slump is exercise, such as a brisk, 45-minute walk, to chase away depression and help you feel emotionally grounded.

Wear clothes that give you a lift, perhaps something with a bright color. And dwell on the positive aspects of being single.

Getting Back into a Relationship

For other women, divorce may prompt them to jump into a sexual relationship right away to regain a sense of power. But experts warn that jumping in too soon may provide temporary fulfillment, but could lead to hating yourself the next morning.

For those who have been married, wearing condoms may not have been an issue, but upon re-entering the dating game, the newly divorced need to know about the dangers of unprotected sex.

“Ideally, it should be talked about ahead of time, before you are in the bedroom,” Berman said.

A person cannot tell whether someone has a sexually transmitted disease by just looking at them, so remember to practice safe sex. Whatever you do, experts say that there should be a good feeling, and a sense of rightness in a new relationship.

Sex is one of the most intimate acts that can be shared between two people, and divorce can lead to a loss of trust, faith and idealism. In order to get into a positive relationship, you must have a positive sense of self, therapists say.

Relationships and Your Children

After a divorce, children often wish their parents would get back together, and it is difficult to introduce anyone new to them.

Berman recommends not bringing anyone into the children’s lives unelss it is someone you are going to have a firm commitment to. If the child becomes attached to the person, it would be difficult for he or she to suffer yet another loss in their lives.

Do not let your children decide whether you see someone or not, but respect their feelings. They may feel frightened or angry at the prospect of you having a new mate, but allow them to talk about these feelings, experts say.

If you get to the point where you are going to remarry, waiting to do so allows children the chance to get used to it. Children should understand that its OK to like the new person, even if they are still angry about the divorce.

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