This is a really good question. It is a question that many single women (and single men) are asking themselves. Whether always single, divorced or widowed, many adults feel lonely for companionship, but also for touch. No one really addresses how long-time single or divorced adults can meet those needs in a healthy way.
In counseling a number of clients over 20+ years, I have seen and heard about a variety of solutions single women and men have created to meet these needs–some with positive outcomes and some with negative outcomes. Let me share with you some of what I have seen work and not work for people who really miss having sex and non-sexual touch in their lives.
Some people just miss touch and affection but are not missing sex per se. Some women have the good fortune to have one or two close female friends with whom they share a natural, non-sexual affection. Some women friends are comfortable sitting on the couch and rubbing each others’ feet or holding hands in a friendly way when out and about. Other people have found it very helpful to get relaxing and therapeutic massages once or twice a month. This is one way to meet some of those needs for nurturing, non-threatening touch without the complications of a relationship involvement.
When non-sexual touch just isn’t enough there is the question of how to meet one’s partner sexual needs when not in a steady or serious relationship. I use the term “partner sexual needs” deliberately. Some women are comfortable with pleasuring themselves through masturbation and fantasy and this is satisfying enough to meet their short-term sexual needs. Other women just miss the affection and sexual intimacy that can only be shared with another adult.
Casual sexual liaisons are an option but you should be really clear about whether or not it is really possible for you to have sex without expecting a sexual encounter to turn into a relationship. In most cases it will not become anything more. Culturally, men are more psychologically able to have sex without needing it to lead to emotional involvement. (Of course, this is not true of all men.) Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can have sex without emotional involvement unless you know that this is something you can handle. In this type of situation or any sexual relationship be sure that you know what safe sex is and that you insist on it with each and every partner.
Single adults have also found that it is sometimes possible to have a physical (sexual or sensual) relationship with a person they know as either an acquaintance or a friend when both of you are in the same boat with respect to missing touch and intimacy. This type of relationship is usually referred to as “friends with benefits”. These relationships are also tricky but often work well, at least for a time. It’s important to talk with your friend about how you will handle ending the arrangement if either of you no longer feels right about continuing it. Try to handle such an ending with honesty, tact and gentleness. After all, this person has been a special friend to you at a lonely time in your life.
Of course, you can always have sex as part of a dating relationship that you hope may lead to a deep, committed relationship. Most adults these days do have sex as part of exploring the potential of a relationship. Just make sure and take care of yourself physically and emotionally. When in doubt about whether to do something, wait. It is much better to reflect and consider your options and the potential consequences of an action rather than act impulsively and regret it later. Take your time, look into your heart and let yourself know what your real truth is about this particular option; and know that we all have lonely times. This one too shall pass.