Remember when having sex with someone new would simply mean SlimFast for a week to flatten your tummy and either removing lightbulbs or putting sheer red material over the bedside lamp so as to create a confidence-boosting mood?
Back then, when we didn’t understand the flammable nature of silk, new sex was so much easier: new partner… new pants… tops off now?
But now, in midlife, when the reasons behind having a new lover – or even having sex again – can be complicated and/or deeply emotional, new sex can be quite the midlife challenge.
It’s one that is definitely worth overcoming, though (if you want to), because sex, at any age is so important: invigorating, life-affirming, joyful, healthy (touch and orgasms release the ‘feel-good’ chemical dopamine and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin) and, don’t tell the Chancellor, free!
To find out how to have sex again with someone new, Noon asked psychosexual therapist, dating and relationship coach, and sexual wellbeing company Lovehoney’s sex and love expert, Annabelle Knight to act as our guide. So take our hand. You don’t need to know where it’s been.
Sex again when you’re newly single after divorce
Annabelle: ‘As humans, we’re taught to stay safe and to avoid anything that may harm us. Over time, our fears of the unknown expand to include emotional pain as well as physical. Sex with someone new feeds into this and can mean something that should be met with excitement and positive anticipation – you’re single again; enjoy! – is marred by lots of “what if”s and worst-case scenarios.
This can cause serious issues because if you wander down the path of negativity, you will undoubtedly feel stressed by the prospect of having sex with someone new. And stress releases a hormone called cortisol which, in a nutshell, is pretty toxic for your physical health, your emotional health, and, yes, for your sex life.
Try to regulate yourself. If you find your mind moves to a place that results in you feeling anxious, distract it by listing three things you’re looking forward to. If you can cancel negativity with positivity, chances are the experience will be far more enjoyable for you.
Trouble-shooting is also a good idea. If there’s something that historically has made you feel uncomfortable, let’s say you’re not the biggest fan of your tummy, aim to counteract that in some way. That could be taking a body positivity workshop, or simply buying some gorgeous lingerie that makes you feel sexy just as you are.
Knowing you have a plan for potential problems can really make you feel at ease and allows for excitement and pleasure to take centre stage.’
Sex again when you’ve been bereaved
Annabelle: ‘Sex with someone new after a bereavement is a totally different proposition than sex with someone new after a breakup. The person you were with last hasn’t been left behind; they’ve gone. Moving on can seem to some like an infidelity of sorts and can lead to feelings of guilt, betrayal and shame.
It ’s particularly important in this scenario to have an honest and open dialogue with your new partner, regardless of whether the relationship you have with them is casual or potentially more serious. You also need to allow yourself to have good days and to not beat yourself up when you don’t.
I’m a big fan of talking therapy — and in the case of someone who has lost their partner, I would highly recommend trying it. There is no straightforward way through grief but therapy can give you the tools to navigate these choppy waters and help you enjoy life again. And make good use of your friends and family to help you through: talk to them, trust them, and let them be there for you.’
Sex again after you’ve been single for a while, or your libido disappeared but is back
Annabelle: ‘If you’ve had a dry spell, then getting back into the sexual swing of things can be daunting — especially if you’ve gone through some changes in that time. Mental and physical changes can cause confidence dips, so it’s important to recognise these and to own them.
Understanding your body is the first step to taking control of your pleasure. More than three-quarters of us will experience menopause symptoms, for example — and knowing what these are, and treating them appropriately, is so important to ensuring the long-term health and happiness of both our physical and emotional selves.
Consider how you feel about sex, how you view intimacy, and what your exceptions are when it comes to sex and relationships. Having a clear idea of what you want from having sex again could help you have a better and more fulfilling sex life.’
Having sex – now, then, whenever – is of course totally your call. There should never be any pressure. But if you want sex again and fear, grief or low confidence are stopping you, please don’t give up. As Annabelle says, ‘there’s no reason why having sex with a new partner should be anything other than a brilliant experience. It’s all about how we approach it and our mindset. With a little help, there’s no reason why you can’t venture into the world of sex again feeling empowered and excited.
‘Having sex with someone new can also bring some unexpected and positive, surprises. Trying something different in the bedroom, getting butterflies when your new beau calls, taking the time to pamper yourself before a date, or feeling the thrill of that first kiss… All of these are brilliantly exciting and very lovely things that will not only make you feel great, but that you deserve. At every age.’
Find out more about Annabelle and her work
By Bibi Lynch