Getting Intimate Again

After divorce or widowhood, it can be hard to imagine having a new relationship. Here’s advice on how to ease through this transitional time.

By Isadora Alman

ou think to yourself, “This one is a definite possibility.” You’re feeling flutters of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of a new romance—someone with whom to share talks and walks and important parts of your life. It’s been a long time. And then the thought hits you: This wonderful new relationship will at some point involve doing these longed-for things without your clothes on! How to prepare yourself?

When you are facing the prospect of physical intimacy again after being used to one partner, and perhaps after a long period of not being used to it
There are no rules or timetables—it’s all up to you!
at all, the idea can be as scary as it is exciting. All sorts of self-doubts can bubble to the surface like the ooze in the La Brea Tar Pits. Here are some pointers to keep in mind so as not to spoil the anticipation of new love.

Don’t play mind games with yourself
The other person has the same fears and doubts as you do. It’s only human. None of us looks like we did in our 20s. Our bodies and our psyches bear the scars of our years of experiences. You are coming together as two veterans of the Relationship Wars and will treat the other person — and yourself — with gentleness, humor and respect due a fellow veteran of the trenches.

Talking about your hesitancies helps
There is no need to pretend a bravery you don’t feel. Sharing your concerns out loud will help establish the emotional intimacy that leads to a better physical connection.

Don’t believe there’s a rule book you didn’t get
There is no script. Rather than worry about how things are being done these days, remind
Explore. Test your limits. Enjoy yourself — and someone new.
yourself that you can have it any way you want it. Take it fast; take it slow. Jump right in, or dangle your toes in the water. There is no way a new relationship or its physical aspect has to be other than what you and this new person create together. Put all notions of third-date rules and two-day waits between phone calls in the trash.

Develop a dialogue about what feels good
Remind yourself as often as necessary that this is a new person with different likes, dislikes and ways of doing things than your previous partner. Examine old assumptions that “Men always… ” or “Women never… ” Also remember that just because your previous partner did or said or liked something is in no way indicative of how this new person will be or what he or she prefers. When in doubt, don’t assume—ask!

“We always used to do it that way” is a perfectly good reason to not do it (whatever “it” is) that way again. This is a new you at a new time in your life. All the habits, both good and bad, you shared with your last love can be put away in a drawer with your old photos and letters, and you can create something new and wonderful with this new person. Explore. Test your limits. Enjoy yourself, and enjoy someone new as well.

ISADORA ALMAN ( is a California-licensed marriage and relationship therapist, a board-certified sexologist, author of several books, and a syndicated sex and relationship columnist. Her “Ask Isadora” column has been running in alternative weekly papers worldwide for more than 20 years.
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