Sex after Divorce – Part 2
In my previous installment on this topic, I covered some of the realities of re-entering the sex and dating game after a long absence. There is really no right or wrong way to go about it, but I noted in the first part of this article certain things you can do to make that adjustment slightly easier.
So, if you haven’t already, please take the time to visit and read the whole piece - but as a short recap, I didn’t really do any of those things. You see, there is one school of thought that says just dive right back in there and have all the sex you can, and another that is more cautious and advocates taking things slowly. But what both opinions agree upon, is beware of the rebound relationship. You are in a delicate emotional space, so don’t get too attached too soon.
Naturally that’s exactly what I did do. And even more predictably it ended in further heartbreak, angst and confusion. Then I decided to try the other route. I decided that I would be determinedly single, eschewing anything that even came close to looking like a relationship.
My rules were fairly simple: be safe and be up-front. The first is obvious, while the second was meant to avoid any unintentional entanglements. I would explain right at the beginning that this was just a casual thing and it was never going to be anything more. If she didn’t want that then it was no problem, and I totally understood and respected that choice. At least, that was the plan.
After my divorce I moved in with two other single guys, both of whom were close friends of mine. This wouldn’t be a story of single-life debauchery, without the obligatory bachelor pad. We rented a beautiful place right in the heart of the city I call home and duly stocked it with all the accoutrements guys just love. There was a pool table, expansive kitchen (with draught beer tap), living room with huge sofas, big-screen TV, surround sound, and all that business. We even had the place painted and remodeled the bathrooms. It should have been called Cliché Palace.
The stage was set but I had been out of this particular game for a long time, and I really wasn’t sure how my no-strings-attached approach would go over. I was expecting a lot of ‘single player’ gaming. Boy, was I wrong.
I had been married before smartphones were an everyday thing, and certainly before the advent of dating apps. I have to hand it to the technology, it really did make things a whole lot more efficient. You could chat with someone and get to know them, at least a little, without spending hours standing around in a bar. It also transformed rejection from a public performance to one you could better endure alone.
Now, there has been much written about whether these apps have replaced dating with a ‘hook-up culture’, but I’m not altogether sure. However, it is true, in my situation at that time, just looking to keep things simple and have some fun, it was a whole new world. Also, lest I give the impression that it was ‘chat-come on over-ok see you later’, I want to clarify it wasn’t. In the roughly year-and-a-half that covered this period of my life, that happened exactly once. But more on that story later. Normally we would meet for coffee, a drink, sometimes dinner. Remember, this was not just about sex, it was about finding enjoyment in life amidst male/female interactions again. The last few years of a marriage can be fairly brutal, and the simple act of enjoying a pleasant conversation or meal is often rendered almost non-existent.
The women I encountered during this time, who were also looking for something similar to myself, could generally be divided into two groups. Firstly, younger women at the beginning of their careers and/or small business owners who wanted to enjoy themselves, but were primarily focused on their work. It was wonderful to get to know these amazing, intelligent, accomplished and driven women.
The second group was essentially the same as me, divorcees, who were sometimes also single mothers. This kind of made sense. It was not their first rodeo so the sheen of romance had been dulled by life, or they were busy juggling kids and jobs, and just needed a night out and some bed-frame-breaking sex to blow off some steam (and yes, one bedframe selflessly gave its life for the cause one dark and stormy night).
Then there were those individuals who defied any kind of categorization, completely unique personalities it was fascinating to encounter. One of the things about being a writer is that you become a collector of experiences, of characters that you will file away for some future use, to inform your work. And there were encounters during that period of post-divorce bachelorhood that will always stay with me.
The occasion I mentioned earlier was an encounter where things went straight, and I do mean directly, from a phone chat to the bedroom. She was a hyper-intelligent grad student, and after exchanging messages for an hour or two, she promptly announced she sometimes liked having sex with people she didn’t know well, and she invited herself over. I’ve never known anyone who enjoyed sex with every fibre of their being and found such pure joy in it, as her. She did invite herself over a couple of times afterwards, once at 3am with a couple of friends in tow, direct from a night of clubbing (alas, no, the friends did not join us). Last I heard she was doing her PhD on a fellowship in Rome.
Then there was the Vietnamese girl who had grown up in Moscow as the child of diplomats. Fluent in English, Russian and Vietnamese, she had once run the marketing and communications department for a major oil and gas company. I loved the dissonance of seeing this 100 percent Asian woman in front of me, whilst hearing a voice that sounded like dialogue from one of the old Boris and Natasha cartoons. She was also a single mother. But when you scratched beneath that polished, corporate surface, she could really let her freak flag fly. She did invite female friends to join us, and she also taught me that it was possible for a woman to orgasm from anal sex. Who knew?
And finally there was the woman I affectionately referred to as ‘Tatts’, because of the litany of very artistic tattoos covering most of her body. She also had blue hair and ample piercings, so was always difficult to miss in a crowd. I knew she was an only child of a wealthy family, but was never able to figure out exactly what she did. She did tell me something along the lines of being a photographic stylist, but all I was able to discern was some jetting around to different cities curating her, admittedly very stylish, Instagram feed. We would usually catch up for a single malt whisky when she was in town, but on one occasion I did fly to Kuala Lumpur to meet her there. I’ll never forget the 23rd floor apartment with floor to ceiling windows, looking out over the Petronas Towers, and lifting and pressing her against those windows, while hundreds of streaks of lightning crackled across the sky.
Yet, eventually, I came to ask myself what it was I was looking for, or perhaps more accurately what I was running away from. There were times that despite the up-front agreements, things did get complicated. It’s human nature, sometimes feelings develop and you end up in a place you did not expect to. In those situations, (it happened twice) I just withdrew and said we couldn’t see each other anymore. It wasn’t easy as I had cared for them also, but I just knew it would end up hurting everyone more down the track.
I knew I was getting better at being in a relationship then, but I also knew I wasn’t ready for one. There had been too much upheaval in both my personal and professional life (about which I won’t go into here). Also there was excessive levels of partying, buoyed by ample recreational narcotics of every variety and what seems in retrospect like an ocean of vodka. But there was a place inside of me where I knew it would come to an end - those days of staring bleary-eyed into the mirror, trying not to slice your lips off with the razor while shaving, and wondering who that disembodied leg sticking out from under the bedcovers belonged to.
As so often happens, life intervened. I met a remarkable woman (the old-fashioned way, at a party) and a new business venture took me away from that bachelor pad to a different, distant part of the city. It didn't exactly come together neatly and easily, there are definitely challenges created when two independent, head-strong people enter into a relationship. But once it clicked into place, it really clicked.
I’m not really sure what my thesis is when it comes to approaching sex after divorce, even after two articles and thousands of words. I guess my goal was to simply share my experiences, and all the things I did wrong, and let readers draw their own conclusions. My first attempt had me falling for someone way too soon and ending up with an additional layer of heartbreak; the second go around I went the opposite, anti-relationship track, and it almost killed me.
When divorce happens we all work through it in our own way. Sometimes that road can get pretty dark and disorienting, particularly when you are attempting to start life over again. The strange and the good thing is, if you keep believing it will eventually work out in the end, that’s usually what happens.