After a break up, it can feel like there's a force field around you. A protective membrane that keeps you from interacting with the world around you. You are untouchable. Maybe you don't even want to shower, you don't want to wash away their fingerprints on your skin. You don't want to force their scent away. The way your shoulder tucked under his armpit when he put his arm around you left a little kiss of his deodorant on it.
But eventually you do wash away those physical reminders. You box up the stag socks they left behind, sweatpants, earbuds, toothbrush, 2-in-1 shampoo. Your space becomes yours again and little by little, you become you again. You become the new you, you without them. As you fall back into your new self, the bubble begins to dissipate.
You start to notice the way other people look. You let other people look at you and really see you. At first it might feel like a betrayal. Every step you take towards finding someone new takes you a step away from the someone before. And while that might be a good thing, it doesn't hurt any less. It doesn't make it any less strange to offer your body to someone new. It can take so long to open up to someone and get to a point where you feel comfortable being yourself. Where you feel comfortable being naked. Where you feel comfortable having someone an inch away from your face when you open your eyes for the first time in the morning. Suddenly, you realize how intimate sex is, now that you're about to have it with someone you're not yet intimate with. Here are the six stages of getting used to sleeping with someone new:
Making the move
Crossing that threshold and making the first move is scary. But if it's what you want and you listen to your body, you'll enjoy how powerful you feel once you've made contact. If it takes a while for you to get there, don't be hard on yourself. When you're ready you'll know. And if you're not, don't force it. Be open with your feelings and hit the road if they're not patient.
You might feel shy but remember that you partner is probably feeling the same way. This is a new chapter for you so try to let go of whatever insecurities you held onto in your last relationship. If you love your body, your partner will too. Every new relationship is an opportunity for a healthier, more functional partnership so try your best to be progressive.
Getting into it
As you get into it, you'll start to realize how different this partner is from your last. No two people are the same in bed and it will take getting used to. Try to be present and take note of what does and doesn't work for your new partner. It's okay to ask what they like. You're better off asking than assuming. And whatever you do, do not allow your mind to compare your current fling to your last. Save that for the post-coital debrief with your friends, at least.
That heavy, loaded silence that rolls in after you roll off of each other, can be uncomfortable. And in the same way that all partners are different in bed, all partners are different after sex. Maybe your last partner said "I love you," and kissed your forehead in the afterglow. Maybe your last partner high-fived you or ran off to the shower. Who knows. But don't expect your current partner to behave in the same way and try not to be disappointed if they don't do exactly what you want. It will take time to get to know each other.
Spending the night is a commitment. You have to be comfortable with a person in order to spend the night. Sometimes sleeping in the same bed can be more intimate that the act itself. Your muscle memory will make you want to curl up to your new partner and fall asleep holding each other close. You'll want to wake up smiling and eat breakfast in bed and wash each other's hair in the shower. The only problem is, you're essentially strangers. You'll have to work your way up to those relationship activities because if you force them early on, it won't be authentic. So have a few awkward night sleeps. A few uncomfortable mornings. Get them out of the way.
So now that you've broken free from your last relationship and shared your body and mind with a new potential match, you're probably going to feeling insecure, vulnerable and confused. You'll ask yourself what's next? You'll feel uncomfortable about the whole post-sex texts. If you like the person, you'll want to hear from them, you'll need that affirmation. But if it feels scary and if it feels like you've got something to lose, then you're in a good place. That means you care. That means you're not rebounding, you're resurfacing.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.