When I got divorced, my new normal was difficult to navigate. I had been with the same person since I was in my late teens. Not only was I dealing with the emotional turmoil of my divorce, I ran into a whole host of other problems I didn’t anticipate. One of them was how to navigate sex after getting divorced. I felt like a little kid again, afraid to talk or ask questions about something that made me feel so naive and insecure. But there I was, back on the dating scene, and I had no idea what I was doing.

Enter: Lynn Manning. Lynn and I were business partners with Dollar Workout Club, and she had already been through her divorce. I began to talk to her and ask her all of the questions I had about navigating sex as a newly divorced mom. I felt safe to have these talks with someone close to me, someone who had gone through it, and someone was non-judgemental (thank you, Lynn!). Honestly, plenty of these topics not only apply to women who are divorced, but women in general. It’s about loving your body, changing your mindset, learning some insight, being safe, finding someone you trust to talk about this with, and having sex for you, not them.

Just be prepared, this conversation got really honest and candid! This is not a safe blog post for little eyes, so practice caution!

This is Lynn

Like I said, Lynn Manning was my business partner for Dollar Workout Club, which is no longer happening, but our friendship stayed strong outside of it. During that time, we all stayed together in this big house, and Lynn and I actually stayed in the same bed — non sexually, of course! I had just gone through a divorce, she’d already been there done that, so she became my confidant for all of the embarrassing questions I had. We stayed up all night long, like teenagers, and talked about this new normal.This was great because one of Lynn’s greatest strengths as a friend is giving advice without telling you what to do. She’s also super understanding and non-judgemental and was just the voice I needed at the time.

I asked Lynn to do a podcast episode about this, and she laughed, but agreed! She was so supportive of my podcast and my quest to really pull back the curtain and talk about things that are sensitive or embarrassing. It was helpful for me, so hopefully it’ll be helpful for others! Honestly, whether you’re divorced or not, some of her advice is helpful regardless of your circumstance.

Managing Physical Insecurities

For me, one of my biggest insecurities about having sex after getting divorced was the idea of having sex with someone who didn’t see my body as it was before I had babies. I have stretch marks, stretched skin, and, honestly, always wondered if my vagina was the same after having two ten pound babies! For me, talking with other girlfriends really helped. The truth is, your body is just not the same after babies. Even if you are still married, it’s about getting comfortable with the changes in your body regardless of who you’re having sex with.

According to Lynn, talking with girlfriends really helped, but so did talking to men. Hearing the perspective from men was helpful.

Lynn: For me, my vagina is not the same! I’ve looked at it with a mirror and it’s just not the same! That’s okay, but I remember thinking the same thing! I remember thinking, “Oh my God, does my vagina look like it’s been through a blender now?” I worried about what the guy would think in regards to my stretch marks, more cottage cheese, more weight in some areas, age spots, more wrinkles. Natalie and I talk a lot about self-love and acceptance, but that’s just a hard area when it comes to being intimate again. Especially when it comes to being with a man who doesn’t know you as long, didn’t see you before kids, didn’t see you during pregnancy, and might not have the same compassion because the kids you birthed aren’t his.

Two things really helped me. 1. Realizing that if a man really cares about the stretch marks or that my vagina isn’t as tight as it was in my 20s, he’s not the type of long-term partner I want. I’m in my mid 30s, and I’m looking for someone who is going to be a companion and a partner. I don’t need a guy that’s all about “bangin’ that hot 21-year-old with the perfect ass.” That’s not realistic for those of us who are looking for a companion, a partner, and a best friend. So, realizing that has been a big help. 2. I asked men if they really actually cared about those physical things. They said, “honestly, we don’t care.” They were just happy to have a naked woman that they liked near them. They said they don’t even look or notice the stretch marks or the extra weight.

I totally agree with Lynn on these points. I also think that being confident is so much sexier than what you look like, and I’ve had a lot of guys confirm this with me as well. The older you get, the easier it is to be comfortable in your body. In my 20s, I was all about keeping the lights off. But in my 30s, I just don’t care if they see it all!

Lynn: The older we get, the easier it is to understand that we are not our body. Our value is in our mind, our kindness, our heart, or our sense of humor. It’s not about the physical. That part might help in the very beginning stages of a relationship when it’s about the spark or attraction, but that fades fast.

Don’t Slut Shame

Something I really struggled with in the beginning was the idea of getting comfortable with sex and my sexuality without feeling slutty. I was married for eight years, and we dated for four years before that. I was with the same person for so long, so I didn’t know how to go be with others without feeling slutty, or even just getting comfortable with sex again after being with one person for so long.

Lynn: Honestly, when I got divorced, I was really insecure about my sexuality. Many who know me think of me as this loud, abrasive, and confident woman. I think a lot of us dealing with divorce can have a lot of insecurities about sex due to sexual problems in the marriage, or if infidelity was involved in the divorce. I definitely started creating stories in my head like, “What if I’m bad in bed? Am I not sexy anymore? Maybe my boobs don’t look good anymore. Maybe that’s why my husband cheated.” Those thoughts can create big walls and issues in relationships going forward, which was why my first sexual experience after my divorce was SO AWKWARD. I can’t even go into it. Insecurity bombs everywhere.

Part of moving and healing and growing on is being honest and vulnerable, which is something Natalie and I talk about a lot. Acknowledging what you’re working through and taking yourself through them is a big part of the process. Post-divorce is almost a rebirth. We think about who we are, and what we really want. You start to think about what you really like about sex, how often you like to have sex, or if you’re okay with different positions. It’s an opportunity to explore and determine what we want. I had to be honest with myself about what I really like. I had to sit down and think, “Do I like this because I like it, or am I doing it because he likes it?”  I was using sex as a tool for love. I was doing things sexually so that he would love me, which is not how sex should be used.

I worked through these things with therapy, which has been a big part of my process. I worked through fears that I wasn’t good in bed, or that my husband didn’t love me because I wasn’t sexy. I worried I’d take these fears into future relationships, but therapy taught me how to heal those fears. I also found healing through taking an honest look about why I had the relationship I did with sex. I had a very religious upbringing, Natalie grew up Mormon, so we understand the idea of this upbringing putting a lot of shame on women, their bodies, and their sexuality. Even society’s expectations to not be a slut shape our views.

So, my girlfriends and I always made it a point not to ever slut shame each other. It’s important to remember that we don’t know what someone else is going through. We don’t know the connection a couple had, or what that woman is going through. It’s okay to sit a friend down and talk about their issues to help them, but it’s not okay to judge them. It’s not our business. When I was younger, I used to be that judgemental girl. I used to judge women for sleeping around. It wasn’t until I went through some hard things that I became more compassionate and loving.

Stay Safe

Sex after divorce involves a lot of navigation, and one of the things we need to navigate includes our safety. This means being aware of nude photo exposure, getting naked photos from guys, and getting checked for STDs.

Lynn: Like I said, I used to use sex as a sort of tool. For instance, I used to send sexy photos to be told I looked pretty or to get a guy to like me. However, some of my guy friends told me that guys share the photos they get with their friends! Not just guys you’re hooking up with, but also guys with girlfriends, or even married guys! So, be safe with those naked photos! It’s a sense of pride for a lot of them.

The other side of that is getting dick pics! Guys should never send them to girls, not only because they are gross, but also because we screenshot them and share them with our girlfriends! If you’re a guy and you’re listening, don’t send girls any dick pics. You’re not going to impress her.

Lynn: Women don’t want that. If we are dating them, we have to pretend its a turn on! But it’s not.

Another problem I had was with navigating through sexual health. Like, do you need to get regular STD checks, how do you have a conversation about those things? I felt like a teenager asking Lynn all of these questions! But, I know if I had questions, other people must have them too. These are just our opinions, others may have different opinions, but this is just what we’ve learned through our friends.

Lynn: I had all of the same questions! Thankfully, I had a friend who just had a divorce the year before I did, so I went to her with these questions. Some I learned on my own through trial and error and experience. However, the STD conversation is always awkward, it’s always uncomfortable. Asking the person you’re with if they’ve had an STD check recently and if I can look at the paperwork is always uncomfortable. I will say, I practice what I preach. After each sexual partner/relationship, I get tested. I go to Planned Parenthood and pay for an STD panel. Even if you’re having safe sex, you can still get an STD. Whether you’re 20, 30, 40, or 50, it’s important to practice safe sex. It’s not a conversation I enjoy, but it’s a conversation you have to have. And, try to have that conversation before you have sex with them! Honestly, if you’re going to be in a relationship with someone, you have to have these intimate and honest conversations. You can just say, “Hey, I know we both don’t want to have this conversation, but this is the last time I got tested, here are my results. I just wanted you to know, and I’d like to know when you’ve been tested.” And if they haven’t been, it’s okay to ask them to do that. If you don’t care, that’s up to you. But, I just don’t want to play Russian roulette with my vagina!

I agree with Lynn! And, for your own testing, take a picture and just have it on your phone so you can avoid the, “Yes I had a recent STD test, the paperwork is at home, blah blah blah,” response when it comes up.

How Does Dating Even Work?

When I started dating my ex husband, there were no dating apps. I had no idea how the process even worked. How do you go on dates on the app? How soon after do you get intimate with them? Dating is hard, and I don’t like dating apps. At first I refused, I think it was an ego thing, but Lynn set up my first profile on Bumble, and it was kind of fun! Like a game, where you just swipe left or right. I had just broken up with an ex (one of the many times that happened with this person), so Lynn created my profile and I had all of these matches.

Lynn and I ended up on this double date with these guys. The guy I met was late and condescending and awful. The date wasn’t going well, so we decided to be honest about that and leave early, but instead this guy lectured me outside about wasting his time. Guess that’s what we get for being honest!

I don’t think dating apps are bad. Honestly, they are great because you need some time to just get out there and date before finding your long-term partner again. I didn’t realize that at first, but I’m still not sure if I’m in a place where I’m ready to get married again, but I really thought I was ready immediately. I encourage dating apps, dating people, finding out what you like, and having the hard conversations.  

I’ve spoken to my therapist a lot about getting out there and dating. He told me to remember that each time we date, we send out our “media relations” person to take part in that date. Their job is to portray what you want your date to see about you, and to take in what you want to see in the other person. We look out for the puzzle pieces that fit, and we tend to ignore the things that don’t. It’s important to observe these dates from an outside perspective, to understand that on a date we are projecting or media relations person out there, and that the other person is doing that too. It’s important to realize there are pieces of that person that you’re ignoring right now.

I do that all the time, I meet a guy and I get all twitterpated about the idea that he looks like a great dad online and that he fits so many other puzzle pieces, and then I realize he’s not exactly what I wanted. One of the best things I ever did was to write out a list of every single thing I wanted in a partner, so I know and so that I don’t settle for a crappy relationship.

Lynn: Yes to what Natalie said! I think that is gold. I’m not for or against dating apps either! I’m all for people getting out there, and honestly that’s just how people do that. I mean, how often are you able to meet people when you’re with your kids and friends and stuff. Dating apps are important to be able to get out there and date, and to be honest about what you want. It’s complicated, but it helps to show us where our insecurities are. These early dating experiences helped me to realize my fears, walls, or insecurities. I realized where I was holding back, where I wasn’t being vulnerable, and where I was being unhealthy in my attachment to men and wanting them to like me or using sex as a tool for that.

It’s about sitting down and asking yourself what you really want. It’s not about finding someone perfect, but about finding a good fit for you. But you should have your nonnegotiable. For me, I found one of my nonnegotiable was that I needed to date someone with kids so that they could relate to me and my priorities.

Changing Your Mindset About Sex

Sex is so much more about just the act of having sex. Sex involves a lot of emotions, some good and some bad. Lynn talked about having an unhealthy relationship with sex, and I can definitely relate to some of those feelings. Navigating them after a divorce has been quite the process.

Lynn: Letting go of viewing sex as a tool has been an ongoing process for me. It took me a long time to realize how unhealthy my relationship with sex was. At the time, I thought I had a great relationship with sex. In a lot of ways I did, and it was a learning experience for me through the years. However, now I look back and see so many issues regarding how women are meant to tie their value to sex. That our worth is our body, our sexuality. That men are visual, and think about sex all the time. It took time for me to really think about what I really liked and wanted from sexual experiences.

I also had to have enough self confidence to realize that if what I want isn’t what a guy wants, it’s just not a good fit. Not because I’m not good enough, or sexy enough, or because I’m not having sex enough. It’s just not a match. I learned to love myself enough to trust myself and to speak up. If I don’t want to send a nude photo, or do that position, or have sex tonight, I had to have the confidence to say that without the fear that saying that would make him not like me or that he would break up with me. I repeat to myself, “If being myself isn’t good enough, it’s not a good fit.”

So often, a relationship ends and we say, “Why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t he choose me? Is it my body?” Our insecurities come out and we think relationships end because we aren’t good enough. We never say that we learned a lot, that we were true to ourselves, we decided what we wanted, we communicated, it didn’t work out. But the truth is, we were honest, vulnerable, authentic, we knew what we wanted, and it didn’t work out. Thank god for that relationship to help learn more about what we want. Flipping the narrative and our mindset is so important.

Another thing Tom Bilyeu says is that we are all going to fail, screw up, and have breakups and heartaches, but the difference is in your ability to dust off your knees and stand back up and try again. The story you tell yourself when you stand back up is important. The story isn’t that you screwed up, that you’re not sexy, that you’re not good in bed, that you’re worthless, or that you caused your husband to have an affair. The story is that you messed up, but you’re going to try again. It’s what makes you strong, and what makes you a survivor. With sex, you may do stupid stuff. You might have embarrassing sexual moments, and hopefully great sex, but it’s about learning from it every time and learning what you like.

I grew up Mormon, so I grew up believing sex was bad or that you shouldn’t have sex until you’re married, and now I’m divorced, I’m sometimes like, “well, now what.” But it was cool to realize I liked having sex and to find out what I liked, and it wasn’t just a thing you could only do in your marriage. At first, I was so uncomfortable about talking about sex because it made me so uncomfortable. Now, I talk about it with my girlfriends all the time. Even just talking about sex without blushing was something new. Learning that I can date someone and break up and it doesn’t mean i’m slutty was a learning experience. It just meant was in an intimate relationship and then it didn’t work out and it’s fine. That was a part of my growth process, to be okay with my decisions and with myself.

Lynn: I agree with Natalie. The sexual experiences I had post divorce helped me to realize what I liked, and helped me to explore my sexuality. As I did that, I let go of the shame, guilt, and social stigma. I was able to love my body more. Sex was shameful, so it created a shame about my body too. When we talked about turning the lights off during sex in our 20s, it was about sex, shame, and our bodies. As we release that and grow in that area, we feel more comfortable in our bodies. There are no regrets because everything is a stepping stone to help you grow more into who you really are and to be okay with what you want in a partner and in a sexual relationship.

Getting Extra Advice

An extra piece of advice from me, is to find a close girlfriend or guy friend who you trust and to talk about this stuff with them. Once I found Lynn, I was about to feel understood, and like I wasn’t alone in my experiences, questions, and insecurities. One I started talking about it, it because much less uncomfortable for me.

Lynn: There’s a quote by Shonda Rhimes that says, “Because no matter how hard a conversation is, I know that on the other side of that difficult conversation lies peace. Knowledge. An answer delivered. Character is revealed. Truces are formed. Misunderstandings are resolved. Freedom lies across the field of the difficult conversation. An the more difficult the conversation, the greater the freedom.”

We make ourselves sick with stress and worry because we are unwilling to have those conversations. Be vulnerable and have those conversations, even if its your husband. Be open and honest about your sexual needs, because the result can be really meaningful. It’s important to have these discussions in order to find out what you want, and what they want, and if it doesn’t match up, it’s not going to work. It’s important to be able to be genuine in your relationship in order to grow. Even just asking yourself is important. There are no rules, only you know what’s right for you.

Navigating the world of sex, dating, and divorce is a process I’m still working through. It’s been frustrating at times, rewarding during other times, and downright funny on occasion, but it’s all a part of learning to understand myself and what I need in a partner. It’s also been important in understanding what I want as a person.

In order to connect with Lynn, find her on Instagram or email her!

If you would like to listen to the original podcast episode on this topic, listen here!

You can also listen to another podcast episode that expands on relationship warning signs. In a two part episode, we have What to Do if You Have a Narcissist in Your Life Part 1 and Part 2.

You can also listen to Dating 101 with Dustin Olson Part 1 and Part 2.

We will have more coming surrounding this topic! Thank you so much to Lynn who helped me with this topic, I so appreciate her insight and her friendship through this part of my life. Hopefully, if you can relate to us, this topic helped you as well. Please feel free to reach out with your own insight, or any questions you have! We are all in this together.

Talk to you soon,

Natalie