How do I have casual sex without post-breakup guilt?
January 18, 2009 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I have casual/rebound sex without post-breakup guilt?

So, a little over a month ago, my SO of 4 years dumped me for another girl ("She's just a friend! I swear!"). We were living together, and this came as a complete surprise to me, as things seemed to be going swimmingly, and we were very vocal about our love/like/satisfaction with each other and our life together. After a mere three weeks of dating her, he is basically living at her house, making unrealistic commitments to her, acting as though our relationship essentially never happened, and I am the Crazy Evil Ex from years ago, while I'm still trying to recover from the initial shock. Needless to say, I am hurt, confused, and broken, but I'm trying to stay positive and move forward in a healthy way. I'm doing my due diligence in regards to reading all the relevant BreakupFilter AskMes and heeding their advice. I'm getting out there, dancing, drinking, having fun, reconnecting with old pals, reading, writing tons, drawing, watching all my favorite movies, and trying to re-discover how awesome I am. I have some bad days, but I generally feel like I'm doing really well.

As part of my recovery process, I'm trying to get laid. I'm finding all these boys crawling out of the woodwork, saying that they've been waiting for me to be single for a long time, and they're stoked that they now have the chance to make their move; no one is more surprised by this development than me, as Mr. Gone basically trashed my self esteem, and left me feeling ugly, fat, stupid, gross, and completely unlikely to ever find anyone again.

The simple fact that these dudes are expressing interest is already doing tons to improve my self-image, but as much as I want to bang these boys, I can't help feeling like I'm cheating on Him, and it's killing my libido mid-makeout. I hooked up with an old friend who stated his years-long desire to start something with me; this is someone who I really like, am attracted to, trust, and who would make an excellent rebound pal. Not only was I not turned on by what should have been a most awesome evening of dirtiness (I was reduced to saying "Lets just cuddle!"), but now I feel extreme guilt for even thinking of going-all-the-way with someone else. Obviously this is silly, as Mr. Gone is very with someone else, having tons of excellent sex himself, and I know that he ain't coming back...but still... It just feels so wrong!

(This was my first LTR, first cohabitation, first real heartbreak, and the lack of relevant dumpee experience is annoying.)

So: This is normal, right? Is it just too soon for me to be out and about in this way? How long did it take you guys to get to the point of being cool with being with someone else, even casually?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

It's only been a month -- you could indeed still be in the "roller coaster" phase of the breakup, where one minute you wanna kill your ex and the next you want to crawl back and beg on your knees, and the next you wanna crawl in like a ninja and assassinate the fucker, and the next...

It definitely sounds like your reticence is just that you plain need more time. And don't be surprised if that changes even minute-to-minute -- you could decide that you are ready to take a guy home, but then about a half hour into the proceedings you suddenly have a flashback and you can't do it. This makes perfect sense.

I've had a lot of different "recovery periods" -- I had one breakup where I was jumping into the sack with people only a month later. At the other extreme, it's been about 5 months since my most recent breakup and I think it's only now that I'm ready for anything with anyone else. It depends on exactly what kind of relationship you had, whether you'd had anything like that before, how your getting-over-it-process is going...a ton of factors. All you can do is check in with yourself about whether you really want to do something, and then be true to that; and forgive yourself for not living up to any outside "timetable". You'll go back and forth on this; it's okay.

It sounds totally normal to me for a month to be too soon, but the real question isn't "is this normal", it's "does this feel right for me, yes or no."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is normal, right? Is it just too soon for me to be out and about in this way? How long did it take you guys to get to the point of being cool with being with someone else, even casually?

Yes. Probably. About three months, at which point it was blissful.
posted by jon1270 at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2009

Yeah a month probably isn't enough to feel normal about this. My calculation is usually 1 month for every year you were together before you can have uncomplicated feelings, but even awkward sex is better than none therapeutically, so keep trying if you're into it. The hookups you're describing sound a bit serious--you know all these guys for years and such. Maybe it'd feel less like cheating with a semi- or total stranger? Be responsible and so on, and don't stress yourself out by thinking you have to get back in there asap just because he is. Take it as it comes (no pun intended).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2009

There's a lot going on in your post. The short answer is: it's normal. I've been in the same situation a few times in the past couple of years, and although the booze and my sheer horniness come together to make the thing happen (I am a dude, after all: no cuddling for me) I have woken up a couple of times, noticed that there's someone in bed with me, and wanted to immediately run and confess it all to my beloved. Who in every case was the one who ditched me, and has absolutely no right to make me feel bad about myself. But really it has nothing to do with them. It is all just residual stuff. It will pass in time.

On the other hand, I have also felt pretty guilty towards the person I've slept with. I'll admit, when I read the title of your question I thought you meant: 'Can I sleep with a person who I'm not very interested in without being guilty when I don't return their calls?' Ignoring the other person can be awkward. If all you want is casual sex, make sure they know that. If you can't tell them that in good conscience, then don't sleep with them. I feel this may be a problem with your male friend who has been admiring you from afar.

Perhaps you aren't really ready to be planning big romantic nights in with new people. Sure, that your ex may be enjoying his new wife with 'Only a friend', but whatever, fuck him (and her). If someone has left you and there is a void where they used to be, trying to jimmy someone else into that gap isn't really going to feel right. I mean, when you found you couldn't do the dirty, it wasn't with some guy you met in a bar. It was with someone who was a friend, someone with whom you have a relationship that goes a little beyond just casual sex. Trying to be genuinely intimate with that person before you have forgotten your previous boyfriend is no doubt going to feel strange.

You are also obviously hurt about your ex-boyfriends comments about you being a crazy domineering person. Three things:

1) Whatever gets back to you is probably not an accurate reflection of what he is saying to his new girlfriend. Probably you haven't been listening outside their window while they talk about you. At least, I hope you haven't been bugging their house and stuff. More you have spoken to mutual friends, and they heard.... etc... Listen - you are adults. You should not be playing an elaborate game of Chinese whispers.

2) If, however, he really is saying those things, then fuck him. If he wants to ingratiate himself to her by bad mouthing you, then that is her problem. Soon enough, he'll be saying the same things about her. You are better off without him.

3) I am inclined to think, however, that he thought he told you all the things that bothered him in the course of your relationship, but you never heard him (or he never felt like you heard him). This isn't your fault. If he had a problem, he should have sat you down like a big boy and told you clearly what he was thinking. If you can't remember any moments like this, then you can forget him. If he tries to tell you things by sulking or being awkward, and becomes more sulky and awkward when you don't notice, until he eventually runs away from home with the neighbour's kid, then that is his problem. Whatever you do, don't let his treatment of you get you down.

Don't worry if it is your first LTR. Not many people have done something as big as a four year relationship, and there isn't a lot of experience that can prepare you for a break up like that. From your own account of things, however, I would say you are doing very well. Keep it up!
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 2:15 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

as someone said above, depends on you. Whats good for you is whats 'normal' for you, in these things. Doesnt sound like you're an obsessive ex or anything, just sounds like you need to recover from the shock. Could be months before you feel normal again. Its good to be aware of it (as you are) but I wouldnt worry too much if it takes a little while. Just shows you're human.
posted by jak68 at 2:16 PM on January 18, 2009

I was you. This exact thing happened to me, right down to him sleep with and dating a girl he swore was a friend a month after we broke up. It took me a year to feel comfortable with anything with another person. YMMV, but I just want to let you know to take you time. Don't rush anything if you're not into it. Surround yourself with people who care about you, and forget that you ever gave that prick the time of day.
posted by piratebowling at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2009

Everyone is different, and each time is different. With one ex-girlfriend, we broke up twice, a year or so apart. That first time, I found someone new really fast and my ex was devastated by that -- "how could you have said that you loved me and already you are sleeping with her?" But then when we broke up the second and last time, she was the one getting over me by getting under some new guy a week later, totally unconcerned about it all, and I was the one left feeling pole-axed.

So the question isn't so much whether it is normal to need time to get over this (because it totally is, though the amount of time will vary), but what is right for you right now. Maybe you just need more time, or maybe you need to get some of this anger out of your system (because that anger comes through palpably in your question here).

And I agree that it kind of sounds like you are heading from one serious relationship directly into things that could be equally serious. Your old friend, or guys who have had crushes on you forever -- it's flattering, definitely, but maybe not the kind of low-key, low-expectation fun that you might want as part of the healing process.
posted by Forktine at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2009

So: This is normal, right? Is it just too soon for me to be out and about in this way? How long did it take you guys to get to the point of being cool with being with someone else, even casually?

Yup, this is normal.

It's too soon if you feel that it's too soon.

It takes as long as it takes. I know people who have been single for years after LTR breakups. Myself, I was single for two weeks after a four year LTR (three years of which was spent married) blew up in atomic proportions. I was shunned and ostracized by many of my friends who felt that I was moving "too fast." I would admonish anyone who told you that you were moving "too slow" just as harshly. You move as fast as you move.

If these guys are seriously interested in you, they will just cuddle. If not, and they're just looking to get laid... eh, they'll find that elsewhere and you don't have to worry about wasting your time.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:31 PM on January 18, 2009

It took me two to three weeks to have no-strings-attached sex with someone after breaking up with my boyfriend of a year. Two months later, I am finding myself almost ready to look for sex with some strings attached. This is me. It will probably be different for you. Nthing yes, this is totally normal that you're still thinking of Him.

That said, if you do decide that you just want to get laid, I'd avoid the boys crawling out of the woodwork, saying that they've been waiting for me to be single for a long time because they sound like they'd bring complications. Like feelings.

Good luck!
posted by coppermoss at 2:59 PM on January 18, 2009

Being a fellow girl, I can't look forward to sex w/ someone unless I'm totally into him. So I think that's your problem. As much as it feels flattering to have an old guy pal say how he wants to be w/ you, truth is you don't want to be w/ him. You want to be w/ your ex. You're not ready for it to be over. My best advice, pick up "It's Called a Break-Up Because It's Broken." I think it's by the same guy who wrote "He's Just Not That Into You." None of it's earth-shattering, but I think drives home the point that Mr. Gone is not worth your time. You deserve better, but the best part is, there are better men out there.

It'll take some time to get over your relationship. One day down the road, you see him out or get a message from him and feel nothing. I promise, you will get over him. Time heals all wounds.
posted by dannon205 at 11:03 PM on January 18, 2009

There's always one person (usually the dumper) who finds someone else to fuck like, TOMORROW, and then there's the one who can't/won't be up to finding someone else to fuck for a long time. Sadly, this time you've got the short straw, and really, you just have to wait and cuddle till you're ready.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

As long as both parties are on the same page, it's allllll good.
For me, sex w/ guys I'm not into (e.g. I'm just using to get laid) is never good so I've kind of stopped doing that & went out clubbing & got hit on by guys a lot (and that was enough for me - no desire for intimacy at all).
But if you can dig it, power to you!
posted by HolyWood at 2:50 PM on January 19, 2009

You can't answer questions, I understand, but I wonder - are you still in the place where you two lived together? It's not clear if you were actually living together. If so, this is a lot more difficult for you for many reasons. Also, the person who leaves has been mentally preparing to leave for some time, even if they haven't articulated that even to themselves, so they are somewhat prepared, while the unexpectedly abandoned person who doesn't have that luxury takes longer to get over the shock.

And here comes my theory, which is mine - one reason that being intimate with someone right now might be so difficult could be because they smell wrong. If you are like me, your partner's natural human scent is imprinted on your senses as the one you are bonded with, and more than anything else, even if you are feeling hot and interested with someone else, once you begin anything, the scent receptors are freaking out... almost like Anabuse for sex. (I have no idea how many people experience anything like this!)

At any rate, if you are still living in a place you shared, you might think of moving to a new place, or if not that, expend some of your nervous energy and sleeplessness totally remaking your place, and try to get rid of every trace of him, to the degree that you can afford that. Wash that man right out of your hair - and nostrils. Like seriously, that couch that he used to take an afternoon nap on? Salvation Army. Get a different Salvation Army couch if you can't afford new. New mattress! New bed linens! New curtains! Absolutely no clothes or personal items of his. Toss. Repaint. Disinfect! (Think of him as a bad case of bedbugs.) Out with the old, in with the new; get your close friends in on the project. Go nuts.

This will take some time, and hell, you need a little time. You're not an unfeeling rubber ball to bounce back immediately. Take the time you need, and spend it productively making your place new and beautiful - and yours alone, where you can entertain fun new dates, or spend some quality time on your own. Not a magic bullet for pain, I'm afraid, but it will help not to be surrounded by little bits of him saturating your space - and no matter what, it will get better. Take care of yourself.
posted by taz at 2:25 AM on January 20, 2009

ah! yes... you were living together - I no can read gud.
posted by taz at 2:29 AM on January 20, 2009

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