Sex After Divorce: Advice from a Certified Intimacy Educator and Coach

When it comes to sex after divorce, some people can't wait to get back in the saddle. Others feel like they'll never be ready. The good news is, there's no right or wrong timeline. What's important is that you wait until it feels right for you and that you take some time to get up to speed on modern sex and dating.

After the break-up dust has settled, one of the most pressing questions for newly divorced people is when to start dating or having sex again. Everyone moves at a different pace, and that's okay.

Signs you are emotionally ready for a new sexual relationship

Engaging in new sexual relationships post-divorce requires emotional readiness to ensure healthy and fulfilling connections. Here are indicators that you might be emotionally ready for new sexual relationships after a divorce:

Emotional stability

You have processed the grief of your divorce and feel emotionally balanced. You don’t let your moods and feelings toward your ex guide your actions or decisions.


You have accepted the end of your marriage and are no longer preoccupied with thoughts about your ex or any chance of reconciliation, revenge, etc. You feel a sense of closure.

Self-esteem and self-worth

You have a healthy self-image and feel confident in yourself, inside and out. You love and accept yourself as you are, and know that you deserve love and respect.

Clear intentions

Your desire to explore new sexual relationships comes from a place of genuine interest and pleasure for yourself, not from a need for validation or to “get even.” You know what you want, whether that’s a casual fling or a committed relationship.

Communication skills

You are comfortable discussing your needs, boundaries, and desires with potential partners, while listening to theirs, too.

Sexual comfort

You feel a natural sexual desire and are comfortable with your sexuality. You are healthy and open to exploring.

Questions to consider before having sex after divorce

Have you processed your feelings?

No two divorces are alike, and they each leave different amounts of emotional turmoil in their wake. It can be helpful to receive therapy or coaching to help you process all the feelings that are likely to come up.

Do you still get blindsided by grief or anger?

It's natural to feel grief or anger, even when you know ending a relationship was the right decision. Grief isn't just about the loss of a person; it's about coming to terms with unmet expectations. And while these feelings are normal, it's best to give them some time to lose their intensity before moving on.

Does the idea of sex with someone else make you feel guilty?

If you've been in a long-term monogamous relationship, it can take a while to shake the feeling that even flirting isn't allowed. It's okay to move slowly and get used to chatting with new people before taking the next step.

Are you feeling confident on your own?

Being in a long-term relationship, many people get used to seeing themselves as half of a whole. It's important to get used to being on your own and remember who you are solo before adding other people to the mix. Rather than using sex with someone new as a quick confidence booster, try reconnecting with old friends and practicing skills and hobbies you're proud of.

Signs you might not be ready for sex (yet)

Sometimes it’s easier to see the signs that you are not quite there. Here are a few indicators that you might be better off waiting to have a sexual encounter.

  1.  You feel emotional turmoil, such as depression, anger or resentment most days and often with no present trigger.
  2.  You’re obsessing about the past and comparing that to your present or future expectations.
  3.  You’re not really feeling it, but think you should. Your libido is low or you just feel like sex would be going through the motions. You don’t feel confident or comfortable with your body.
  4.  The thought of being sexually active again fills you with fear and anxiety.
  5.  Your primary reason to have sex again ties to revenge or other’s expectations or other types of external validation.

Other ways to be intimate without having sex

It’s okay to not be ready for a sexual relationship yet, but there are some ways to explore your intimate, sexual self without going “there.” Here are some ideas.

  • Deep conversations: Openly share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with potential partners to forge a strong emotional connection and get more comfortable with them.
  • Physical affection such as cuddling, hand-holding, massage, kisses, and hugs.
  • Find activity partners who enjoy the same hobbies and interests as you. Bonus points if it involves some form of exercise or health-focused activity.
  • Have fun! Don’t be afraid to get a little silly. Play games, sports, or watch funny TV shows or movies together. See a comedy show. Laugh together.
  • Spiritual connection: If you share religious or spiritual beliefs, meditate or pray together. Go to each other’s place of worship to immerse yourselves in each other’s communities.
  • Acts of service: Do things to express your affection or interest. Helping with chores, sending a sweet text, or bringing them a favorite snack can make you closer.
  • Make plans for the future such as vacations or projects to do together. 

Tips on rebuilding self-esteem and sexual confidence after divorce

Rebuilding self-esteem and sexual confidence after the end of a long-term relationship can be a challenging journey, but you can and will with patience and self-care. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

Allow yourself to grieve

It's normal to feel a range of emotions, from sadness to anger. Permit yourself to grieve the loss of your previous relationship without judgment.

Focus on self-care

  • Engage in activities that boost your physical well-being, such as exercise, eating nutritious foods, and getting enough sleep.
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, walking, or yoga to help manage stress and anxiety. Consider journaling your thoughts and feelings.
  • Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your strengths and past achievements.
  • When you notice self-critical thoughts, challenge them by questioning their validity and replacing them with more balanced perspectives.

Rediscover your own interests

Reconnect with activities and interests that you enjoyed before the relationship. This can help you rebuild a sense of self outside of the relationship.

Set realistic goals

Set achievable goals for yourself, whether they are personal, professional, or social. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.

Seek support

Lean on your support network. Sometimes, just talking to someone who cares can make a big difference. Consider seeing a therapist or counselor, especially one who specializes in relationships or sexual health, to work through your feelings and rebuild your confidence.

Explore your sexuality

Take time to understand your sexual needs and desires. Reading books, attending workshops, or talking to a sex therapist can be helpful.

Engage in new experiences or challenges that push you out of your comfort zone. This can help rebuild your confidence and sense of adventure.

If you’re not ready, don’t force it. Don’t rush into new sexual experiences. Take your time to feel comfortable with your body and your sexuality again.

Rebuild intimacy

  • Start with emotional intimacy: Work on building emotional connections with others before diving into physical intimacy. Trust and communication are key.
  • Communicate openly: When you do feel ready to be intimate with someone new, communicate your feelings, boundaries, and desires openly.
  • Be patient with yourself: Rebuilding self-esteem and sexual confidence is a journey that takes time. Be patient and persistent, and don’t get discouraged by setbacks.

Rebuilding your self-esteem and sexual confidence is a personal journey that involves self-reflection, support, and self-love. By taking small, positive steps, you can gradually rediscover your strength and confidence.

When you find someone you're ready to have sex with

If you haven't dated for a while, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by how the sex and dating landscape has changed. Don't let anyone take advantage of your vulnerability or inexperience. Always do a gut check. If something doesn't feel right, then it's not. You never have to do anything you're not excited about.

While you certainly don't have to try anything new or different, you can if it excites you. No matter what kind of sex you had before or during your marriage, your past experiences don't dictate what you can try in the future. The sexual possibilities are nearly endless, so take time to explore your fantasies and decide what you want for your pleasure outside the influence of a partner. It's not unusual for values and interests to change over time.

Bodies also change over time, and learning what works for you now can be a lot of fun. Try starting from scratch and exploring what feels good. Sexual arousal and desire work like muscles; they need to be exercised. If you're feeling out-of-touch with your turn-ons, start by reconnecting with your own body. Learn what kinds of touch bring you pleasure, and bring this knowledge with you when you have sex with someone new.

Sexual safety after divorce

Even if you've been monogamous for many years, it's a good idea to get tested for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) before having sex with anyone new. This way, you can start your new adventures armed with knowledge about your sexual health, and hopefully with a doctor with whom you feel comfortable discussing sexual health issues.

Another reason to get tested, even if you feel sure the results will be negative, is that it's much easier to ask someone else when they've been tested if you have recent results to share.

Step-by-step guide: Talking about sexual history and health

Initiating conversations about sexual history and STI testing with potential partners is important as you get back out there. Here are some steps to take to help you approach this topic effectively and respectfully:

1. Choose the right time and place

  • Private, comfortable setting: Go somewhere you can talk without interruptions or distractions.
  • Neutral timing: Don’t wait until you are ready to get physical right after you talk. Choose a time when both of you are relaxed and can focus on the conversation.

2. Prepare yourself

  • Education: Learn about STIs, transmission, and prevention.
  • Be prepared to share your own sexual history and STI testing status honestly. Get tested if you are not sure, and know that your partner might expect you to show test results.

3. Converse, don’t confront

  • Use a positive and open-minded tone. For example, “I really value honesty and communication in relationships, and I think it’s important for us to talk about our sexual health.”
  • Normalize it as a common, responsible part of getting more serious in a relationship.
  • Be honest about your own experiences and perspectives first to create a safe space for your partner to do the same. For example, “I got tested for STIs last month, and everything came back clear. How about you?”
  • Ask your partner to share their history without feeling interrogated. Approach the conversation with empathy and do not be judgmental.
  • Suggest testing together: If you think they are open to it, suggest getting tested together. 

4. Talk about safe sex

What types of contraception or sexual protection do you prefer to use? Will one of you need to begin some type of birth control? What types of sexual activities are you comfortable with to start?

5. Address any concerns or questions

  • Be open to questions: Encourage them to ask any questions they have and answer them honestly. 
  • Reassure your partner that this conversation is about mutual care and respect, not judgment. You want to begin this aspect of your relationship in a healthy way.

6. Follow up (as needed)

  • Get tested: Follow through with getting tested if you’ve agreed to do so, and share your results with your partner.
  • Continue to have conversations about sexual comfort and safety.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • When were you last tested, and what were the results?
  • How many partners have you had since then?
  • Have those partners been tested?
  • Did you use barriers with those partners?
  • Do you have safer sex talks with every new partner?

While the answers to these questions are important, just as important is how someone has this conversation. Do they seem annoyed that you brought it up? Do they act offended? Does it seem like they've never thought about safety before? Any of these reactions are a bad sign.

Sexual safety isn't just about protection from infection; it's also about feeling safe. If you're anxious about STIs, it's difficult to relax and enjoy yourself. A good sexual partner will care about how you feel. If they can't be bothered to have this conversation, they might not care about your other needs.

If you or a potential new partner are positive for an STI, that's not a deal-breaker! Many people live with STIs and have full and satisfying sex lives. But it's important to share this information so precautions can be taken and so everyone can give fully informed consent.

Get used to condoms and other barriers

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the safer sex methods you want to use before you're with another person. While condoms can't prevent all STI infections – some, like HSV, transmit skin-to-skin – they're still an essential safety precaution for more serious infections.

If you have a penis and haven't used condoms for a while, add them to your masturbation routine. This is a great way to get used to the sensation of sex with a condom and can help reduce performance anxiety when the time comes to use one with a partner. It's also a chance to test-drive different brands, sizes, and styles.

Not all condoms are created equal! Condom sizing isn't standardized, so one brand's regular might be bigger than another brand's large. And "large" can mean longer, wider, or more room in the head. These are important differences that can have a big impact on both comfort and safety.

Regardless of gender, everyone should bring safer sex supplies to a date. Never rely on the other person to be prepared. And even if your sexual partner has supplies, it's nice to have your favorite brands available. Condoms aren't just for penises. They're useful for covering sex toys as well. Even if the toy is only ever used with one person, they can make clean-up easier. (And putting them on a toy is a great way to practice putting them on a body.)

Other barriers you might want to check out are internal condoms (for vaginal or anal sex) and dental dams (for oral-and-vulva or oral-and-anal contact). Experiment with lube, too. There are countless varieties, and it's important to get something with body-safe ingredients. Find a reputable sex toy store to check out the options. The individual sample packs easily fit in a pocket or purse and make a big difference when it comes to pleasurable sex. They also make barriers more pleasurable to use.

Sexual communication

No one is a mind-reader. But if you've been having sex with the same person for a long time, you can get used to your partner knowing your body and your preferences. While sexual communication is always important for maximizing pleasure, it's absolutely essential with someone new. Get ready to have clear and explicit conversations with your new partner about what kind of sex you want to have. That means negotiating in advance as well as making requests and giving feedback during sex. If talking during sex feels overwhelming, start by focusing on a choice between two things: "Harder or softer." "Faster or slower." "Left or right."

The importance of sexual communication and consent

Sexual communication and consent are fundamental to healthy and respectful relationships. They ensure that both partners feel safe, respected, and satisfied. Here’s an exploration of their importance, along with examples of how to have these conversations:

  1.  Respect and safety
  2.  Both partners respect each other's boundaries, limitations, and comfort levels.
  3.  Clear communication helps prevent potential misunderstandings, conflicts, or harm.
  4.  Enhancing intimacy and satisfaction
  5.  Open conversations about desires and boundaries help partners meet each other's needs more effectively, enhancing intimacy and satisfaction.
  6.  Discussing sexual preferences and boundaries builds trust.
  7.  Legal and ethical considerations
  8.  Consent is a legal requirement and an ethical cornerstone of any sexual interaction.
  9.  Without explicit consent, any sexual activity is considered non-consensual (and potentially criminal).

Effective sexual communication and consent are vital for a healthy, satisfying, and respectful relationship. By setting the right context, using clear and open communication, seeking and respecting consent, and continually checking in with each other, you and your sexual partner can ensure that their sexual experiences are mutually enjoyable and respectful. Overcoming challenges through patience, practice, and mutual respect will help build a strong foundation for ongoing sexual communication and consent.

What if you have performance anxiety?

It's common to end up with sexual baggage from previous relationships. Partnered sex relies on the chemistry and connection between the people involved. When a relationship is strained, the sex often suffers. But that doesn't mean either of the people is "bad" at sex. So don't worry that the issues you were experiencing in your marriage will necessarily follow you to your new sexual partners.

Even so, first-time sex with someone new can be stressful. And stress is the enemy of pleasure. Feeling anxious can make it difficult to get aroused or to experience orgasm. It can also make it more difficult for your body to do the things you're hoping for.

Be patient with yourself and your partner, and be prepared to take things slow. You can always start with long, slow make-out sessions or exchanging massages to get comfortable being intimate with someone new. It's also helpful to be ready to pivot to a Plan B. For example, if you or your partner doesn't get an erection, focus on other kinds of play. Use hands, toys, or mouths to explore. Taking the pressure off of genital response can help reduce stress and give you the opportunity to discover new forms of pleasure.

New Relationship Energy

In polyamory, there's a term for the feeling you get from being with someone new: New Relationship Energy (NRE). The reason it's talked about enough to have its own acronym is that NRE can take over your life. Good sex can be intoxicating. And just like you shouldn't drink and drive, you shouldn't make big life decisions while under the influence of NRE. Simply enjoy the feeling! It's incredible to feel desired and experience pleasure, especially if it's been a long time.

But these feelings don't mean you need to commit to anything serious right away (or ever). Give yourself time to get used to everything that's available to you now rather than going all-in on the first connection that makes you feel alive again.

Sex after divorce ... with your ex?

Sex with an ex is more common than you might think. There's something comforting about the familiarity. And if the sex wasn't the problem, why not? While it's possible for exes to become friends with benefits, it's a good idea to wait until you're really and truly over the break-up before you give this a try. It's too easy to fall into old habits or to make a choice because it feels like the only option.

Whether you're considering sex with the ex you just divorced or an ex from the past, make sure you're making that choice clear-headed. This can be a great time to check in with friends and gauge their responses when you float the idea.

Considerations before you have sex with your ex

Here are some questions to ask yourself and tips to help you if you’re considering being or already sexually re-involved with your ex:

  • Why do you want to have sex with your ex? Reflect on your motivations. Are you seeking closure, comfort, validation, or rekindling a past relationship? Understanding your reasons can help you make a more informed decision.
  • How emotionally attached are you now? Ensure that both parties are emotionally ready for this step. If one person still has strong feelings, it might lead to confusion and hurt.
  • Did you both get closure on the previous reiteration of your relationship? Consider if this might reopen old wounds or provide a sense of closure. Be honest about your emotional state.
  • Did you discuss boundaries? Discuss and establish clear boundaries and expectations beforehand. Ensure both parties are on the same page to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Might there be emotional or physical consequences: Be aware that sex with an ex can reignite old feelings, leading to potential emotional turmoil. You also need to discuss sexual safety and birth control.
  • Are either of you dating or sexually involved with someone else? If either of you is in a new relationship, consider the ethical implications and potential harm it could cause.
  • Reflect on the timing and context of this decision. Is it a one-time thing, or are you considering rekindling the relationship?
  • What will happen after you are sexually intimate again? Decide how you will interact moving forward. Will this change your relationship, and how will you manage any potential fallout?
  • Have coping strategies in place if the encounter leads to emotional complications. This might include talking to friends, seeking therapy, or taking time for self-reflection.

Resources on sex after divorce

You're not in this alone! If you want help figuring out sex, dating, and relationships, there are a lot of resources available.

Online classes

There are many educational opportunities available online for people who want to expand their knowledge about sex and relationships. Many sex toy stores offer both live and pre-recorded class options.

For some recorded classes to get started with, you can check out offerings from:


Whether you prefer paper, digital, or audio, there are countless books available to help you navigate sex and relationships. Check out my book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships, or find a list of my favorite sex and relationship books over on

Therapy and coaching

Nothing can take the place of professional help when managing life transitions. If you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed by changes in your life, consider reaching out to a therapist for support. If you're looking for help getting back into dating and sex, a coach can be a fantastic resource.

Read: More articles by Stella Harris
Relationship Specialist
Communication, Mediation, Sexual Health, Life Coaching
Stella believes communication is key to satisfaction in relationships. Professionally trained as an intimacy educator, coach, and mediator, Stella brings empathy, expertise, and a fresh perspective to help clients find their sticking points and break through the roadblocks to their goals. Stella’s wide-ranging expertise has led to being featured on the evening news discussing the importance of sex education in schools, appearing as an expert witness in court, and even speaking as an authority on banana slug mating habits. Stella lives in Oregon and is the author of two books, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships, and The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes. Learn more at or follow her on Instagram @stellaharriserotica.