You’re dating a new person after being on your own. You feel attracted to this person and you’d like to be sexual, but you’re not sure you’re ready. How do you know? What if you try, then realize it isn’t time yet, or this is the wrong person? The advice below is from my book, Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved. However, it applies to many situations where you’re dating a new person, not only when you’re grieving.

You may want to explore kissing or tentative touching with your date before you’re fully ready for a sexual relationship. If you sense that your date is expecting that these first explorations will lead to shedding clothes and heading for bed, it’s a good idea to set boundaries verbally. You’d like to do X right now and set the limits at Y. Define those your own way. For example: “I’m enjoying our kissing, and that’s as far as I want to go tonight.” Or, “I feel vulnerable and need to know we can stop when I want.”

Make a list of what you do and don’t want when your first or next date happens. Rehearse asking for what you want and communicating boundaries. Revise this list and rehearse the communication before each new date until you feel grounded and in control.

If you don’t know if you’re ready for dating and sex again, it’s okay to try it and then put it on hold if it feels wrong. You can explore, then change your mind at any point.