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Sex when you’re newly single

By Lola McKenzie, January 30 2020—

A wise man I know once said to me that, in its most true form, having sex with somebody can be as uncomplicated as having sushi with somebody. Meaning, having sex is a neutral, natural event and it is us humans who have placed all sorts of crazy meanings and rules and conditions onto it. Sex is neutral. Eating sushi is neutral. Same-same, right? 

Maybe when I’m more evolved I’ll be able to actually feel that way, but as it stands for me in my current state of still searching for the meaning of life, sex still has a lot of strings attached to it. 

I am recently single after a nearly five- year-long relationship. Five years of having sex with the same person — it was a good thing, by the way — and we had a fairly healthy sexual relationship. However, I am now suddenly facing the dating world and sex is, fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, a part of that world. Approaching having sex with a new person or persons was at first not complicated at all for me. I wanted it. I was horny AF and I wanted sex. Fortunately for me and my raging libido, a flirtatious friend stepped in quickly and willingly attended to my desires. 

“Perfect,” I thought. I figured I could have lots of fun sex with someone I knew and had an already established level of trust with, which is important. It seemed to me that he wasn’t interested in a relationship either, so it was perfect for both of us! 


Something happened and “just sex” became more than that. This is the thing with sex — we think it can be “just sex” like it’s “just sushi” but for me right now, fresh out of a broken-off engagement, the fact is that it’s not just sex. 

It’s been a couple of months of sleeping with this friend and I’ve been running hot and cold and basically dragging him along for the ride. I’m trying to let myself off the hook for this, he’s a willing participant. I’ve been honest about where I stand, which is that I don’t want a relationship at all right now, which basically has me feeling like the stereotypical man in the “relationship” — eye roll. Despite my honesty and my attempts at cutting off this sexual relationship, I keep going back because I like having sex. Sorry, not sorry. I am a woman, I admit publicly to really, really liking sex.  I also feel bad because I’m not sure how my feelings are towards this guy. I like him, we have fun. But I feel like he’s thinking in a much more committed long-term kind of way than I am — cue the guilt. 

In order to mediate said guilt, I’ve tried to cut it off and “detox” from the relationship and men in general, which brings up a whole slew of other garbage that I guess I need to look at. 

It’s got me thinking, what is it about sex that stirs all this stuff up? Is it sex’s fault that we develop intense feelings of attachment to the person we’re doing it with? Or is it something deeper than that? 

Being a psych major and psychoanalyzing the shit out of myself all the time, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not sex’s fault.  It’s everything I put on sex’s fault. What I mean by this is that when I have sex with somebody, I feel desired and I feel loved and I feel empowered and sexy — basically like a frickin’ goddess. And I also associate those feelings of being wanted and loved with a sense of safety. Safety, my friends, is a big deal for me. I have, somewhere in my life and psyche, made myself believe that in order to be safe I must not be alone. Translate that to adulthood and I’ve set myself up to feel like I need to have a man in my life in some shape or form. Be it a casual conversation, attention on an app, texting, sex, flirting or a full-on relationship — doesn’t matter as long as there’s something. Without attention in some form from a man, I don’t feel safe because I think I’ll die alone. Then I rebel against that thought and think, “I shouldn’t need a man!” And beat myself up for, what, being who I am? This is why sex is complicated, because of all this other stuff around sex. Sex itself is neutral. It really is like sushi!

So where do I go from here? What can you, my dear sweet friend reading this, take away from my ramblings? I think the big thing that keeps coming up to my awareness is that there’s no right way to move back into having sex and having relationships after a breakup, or ever, really. 

It’s confusing and messy. I’ve gone from feeling secure and safe and comfortable with one person to suddenly getting naked with someone new and that can be awkward, or it can also be completely easy and fun. It can be one thing for a week or so and then it can turn into something else. There’s no prescription and there’s no perfect way to foray back into the dating and sexing world. Something I’m really trying to wrap my head around is just accepting myself for where I’m at and not flogging myself if I do something that I may regret. I’m a human and I’m going to make mistakes and that is allowed. Something that’s for sure important is just being honest with whoever you’re having sex with. Be honest about how you feel, even at risk of sounding like a crazy person. Have lots of sex or have a little or no sex — all of it is fine for whatever stage you’re in.

As a final thought, my issues around sex are my own personally applied meanings. I know there are a lot of other issues around it for every individual. Knowing yourself and understanding what meanings you personally put on sex is crucial in order to get “right” with it. I haven’t always felt empowered by sex. In fact, the complete opposite used to be true. I’ve worked through a lot of other stuff in order to get to that point and there’s clearly still more for me to get through. I will say, it’s pretty cool to make breakthroughs! Enjoying sex is pretty rad and it’s not just for guys. It’s worth the journey and the struggle and the messy mistakes. Just be smart and be safe about it and give yourself permission to dive in and see what happens. Happy sexing! 

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