I Had Sex With A Married Man, But It’s Not What You Think

Waking up to a hangover never feels good. But waking up to a hangover while slowly realizing you had sex with a married man? I experienced a whole new level of regret. It wasn’t until I explored the experience with a sex therapist that I was truly able to let go of the shame and finally shake off some of my hangups surrounding sex.

Even though I was single at the time, and the man I had sex with was in an open marriage (with *full consent*), it didn’t make me feel any better. I still felt like the slut and whore that my religious upbringing would have me believe I was. And the general judgment of society that’s always there, like a mother shaking her head in disapproval, didn’t help either. For a while, I’d actually convinced myself that I was no different than the homewrecker antagonists in those raunchy romance novels found at supermarket checkout stands.

I went on that way for several months when something clicked while having a conversation with a friend about the lifespan of our sex lives. While I didn’t believe, like she did, that it would magically expire come a certain age, it did hit me that it would undoubtedly change as I got older. So, I started to ask myself things like, Will I always feel this sexually adventurous or comfortable with my body? What if I meet my soulmate and find myself in a lifelong monogamous relationship where I can no longer be this free?

Answering those questions honestly made me realize that I didn’t want to set sexual boundaries for myself based on what society deems right or wrong — so long as I was never risking physical or emotional harm to myself or anyone else.

Despite all my internal progress and resolve, I still couldn’t shake the shame of this particular experience. I knew my beliefs around it were too deeply ingrained.

Naturally, when I found myself writing out questions to ask a therapist, the first one had to answer the very thing that was eating away at me the most: How do I let go of shame tied to sexual experiences that are considered wrong or immoral? And it was within the first few words of her answer that I could finally confirm to myself that these feelings were never really mine to begin with.

“A lot of this is about mindset, so it’s important to build shame awareness in order to be able to recognize whether the shame is yours or someone else’s. If it’s someone else’s, you can then work on not claiming or absorbing it, and instead observing it and giving yourself permission to let go of it and say no, this is not for me,” says Jackie Golob, sex therapist and intimacy coach at Shameless Therapy.

Golob explains that everyone’s mindset will ultimately look different, but reframing our sexuality or sexual experiences using positive affirmations is just one way we can help ourselves move past harmful and limiting beliefs. She says the best time to do this is right when we wake up or right before we go to bed because that’s when our brains are in theta wave mode and the subconscious psyche is easier to reprogram.

The second question I had for her was: How can I empower myself to explore my sexual desires, as well as to find empowerment through them? In other words, I was looking for permission to explore my sexual desires. No, not sleeping with married men, but doing things that felt natural to me without feeling shame.

“Don’t gaslight your intuition or emotions. Instead, honor these emotions and use them as an opportunity to reflect on your feelings and desires. Be introspect with some of that stuff, write them out, journal them, and also go back to how and why they made you feel a certain way,” says Golob, adding that writing out our experiences can help us to better understand our own sexual desires and needs, and teach us to separate our personal experiences and natural desires from myths or beliefs we may have picked up along the way.

Lastly, I wanted to learn how to set boundaries — because I had 100% done things that didn’t feel good to me to please someone else, which, you guessed it, always led to more shame. So, I asked how to avoid falling prey to the pressure, as well as what potential red flags to look for in a partner or a situation.

Golob says staying true to your intuition and desires is key, but there are a couple of huge red flags to be aware of. “If someone is projecting any myths of sexuality onto a partner — red flag. If someone is saying, ‘I need this; otherwise I’m going to die’ — red flag.”

In the end, what I took away was that I do have permission to own my sexual experiences. I do have permission to control what I do and do not want to do. And I do have permission to not feel shame for any of it.

Because I have been the victim of sexual harassment and abuse, I want to leave off by acknowledging that women, in particular, do not always have this permission. We aren’t always in a safe place. We don’t always have a choice. If that’s where you find yourself, I encourage you to speak up and find the support, healing, and freedom you deserve.

Safe resources:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Sexual Health Resources

love is respect

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