By Marianne Beach
It's been so long since you were in the deep end of the dating pool, you barely remember how to swim. And yet, even though your divorce left you with scars and trust issues, you're now somehow actually thinking of diving off the deep end once again--with someone new.
But you're no longer a carefree twenty-something. You have kids, you have responsibilities, you have a serious aversion to taking too many risks. So how do you prepare yourself to go from casual dating to a serious sleepover?
We asked Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again.
"Think back to your pre-marriage days. What was your dating experience then? If you met your ex in high school, and never dated anyone else, you'll have a lot to learn," she says. "In that case, take everything really slow. It's OK (even charming) to not know what to expect. Confess that you're new to this, and be willing to learn new things. You'll have the best experience possible that way."
And keep in mind, the rules may have changed since you've been in the game. "It's really important not to make the assumption that sex means commitment. It doesn't work like that anymore," Tina says. "You need time to get to know who this stranger is, and whether he or she is looking for a commitment. If commitment is what you're looking for, then take it very slow before having sex the first time. Make sure you've connected with a person who has the character you're looking for."
If you're ready to take the plunge, try to keep things discreet at first.
"If it's a divorce, then hopefully the children have nights with their other parent when you can do what you like. Otherwise, make arrangements (with school-age children) for them to stay overnight at relatives or with friends," suggests Tina. "Your children should not know you're dating--any new person in your life should be introduced as a 'friend' and the behavior the children see should fit that description. Don't let your new date become more important than your children."
And don't show up to his house looking like you're ready to move in.
"Bring a discreet bag (a large purse or briefcase will work) with minimal toiletries, a change of underwear, etc.," Tina insists. "Don't make assumptions that you'll be staying, unless a pattern has been established."
After all, a tumble in the sack may not mean post-coital cuddling and morning-after pancakes to your new guy.
"Just because you've had sex, don't expect to sleep over unless invited by your host," Tina says. "Plan to shower at home or at the gym, unless invited to do so at the date's house. If it's the first time you’ve slept over, you will probably play it by ear. If you have to get up early for work, to take the kids to school, or some other reason, tell your date before you go to sleep. If not, and you're invited to stay over, that's a good time to ask your date about the morning schedule."
And lastly, don't rely on him to be the one to play it safe. Take charge of your own protection.
"Bring condoms and use them!" Tina says. "If this is a new person, you don't know what risks you're taking. Don't rely on your date to take care of STD prevention and birth control."
How did you handle post-divorce sleepovers...or any new sleepovers, whether or not you're divorced?!