The sexual path after fifty – wanting a passionate life
If you’ve not had sex for years, perhaps a decade or more, meeting the right person can revitalize the spark and bring back what you felt was dormant within you. You might have concerns about finding the right person, but the evidence suggests that this is misplaced.
The 2003 AARP study of lifestyles and dating among midlife singles revealed that 75% of women who divorced in their 50s enjoyed a serious one-to-one relationship soon after their divorce, sometimes as early as within two years. (Among men, 81% found a new serious one-to-one relationship.)
There are plenty of ways to find a new relationship: the primary one these days seems to be Internet dating. Gail Sheehy reports that amongst 15,000 respondents to a study conducted by a sociologist at California State University, 50% of women say they are getting more dates, more sex, and more lasting love from online dating adverts than they would by conventional dating.
It’s easy to find out much about a man online by exchanging e-mails with him, a procedure that avoids the tedium of a two-hour dinner if the guy happens to turn out to be totally unsuitable.
Sure, it takes a degree of confidence and enterprise to use online dating services, but like everything else in life, the only way to discover the advantages and benefits is to plunge right in. If you’re interested in doing this we recommend Eharmony.com and Match.com.
Certainly if you’re one of the many women who are feeling a sense of “I can’t go on like this much longer”, then you’re feeling the pull of midlife towards a more passionate existence, and you need to do something about it. And while those are easy words to say, how do you face the enormity of separation or divorce or even leaving a long established partner at a time in life where traditionally you might well have never been able to find another one?
Well, for one thing, we live in a time when women are more empowered than ever before: according to a 2004 study of divorce in midlife by the AARP, two thirds of divorces among couples over aged 40 are initiated by the women; and one third of divorced or single women over 40 are dating younger men; and a single woman in her 50s is more likely to be divorced or never married than widowed.
What has changed here is that women have realized a degree of economic empowerment over the last decade or two that has enabled them to achieve both practical and emotional freedom.
Women are likely to precipitate divorce simply because they can, because they’re in unsatisfactory relationships with men who can’t give them what they know they need.
Along with economic power and better education comes emotional liberation; so nowadays women who suffer the challenges and difficulties of relationships that are far from satisfactory can only tolerate these problems for so long before their true selves emerge and compel them to seek out greater freedom.
No matter that as a woman you may stay with the man for the sake of the children, or for social appearances, or for some other reason; if you’re unhappy, there’ll be a time where you need to seek your own true destiny – whether that be sexual, spiritual, and emotional.
Sometimes a woman’s decision to divorce is initiated by a lack of sex, or by the fact that the husband has established a sexual relationship with another woman; in other cases it is because the husband is alcoholic or chronically abusive in some way, or even that he simply ignores his partner.
All of these situations can provoke women to seek out new dreams and new goals. Of course one of the big issues for women in this situation is whether to actually break up the relationship in the first place or continue with things the way they are.
Many so-called WMD’s want to know what’s on the other side of the break-up before they take the initiative. This emphasizes that having a passionate belief or a desire to pursue some important personal objective can provide the propulsion to make the move out of a failing relationship.
In her book Sex and the Seasoned Woman, Gail Sheehy provides plenty of examples drawn from real life women whom she interviewed while writing her account of midlife changes. We heartily recommend this book.
Rediscovering dreams may not be easy if you’re living in a conservative community or among friends and family who have expectations that you’ll behave in a certain way, or fulfill certain social “requirements”.
But if making a sudden and dramatic break such as divorce or separation is impossible, you might well ask if it’s possible to reach a different place through a personal evolution, through personal growth.
The answer is “yes”, it is possible, but there are many things to consider, not least amongst them the fact that when one person in a relationship begins to grow, the status quo is disrupted and the other partner is likely to respond in a way intended to maintain the status quo.
It’s a classic dilemma: how to break out of the old pattern of finding your new self without breaking away from family, friends or community?
Gail Sheehy talks about the paradox of love with dual impulses: first, to stay merged, or surrendered, or attached to a stronger person who will anticipate or meet all our needs; second, the opposite impulse to seek independence, become separate, explore your capacities and become masters of your own destiny.
These two needs — one for intimacy, and one for connection with our individuality — struggle for dominance throughout our lives, and it’s quite natural that as we approach midlife, the balance between them will be upset. This tension often plays out in a long-term relationship within the area of intimacy.
There can often be a dramatic divergence between the physical, sexual connection of a couple and the intimate connection of emotional closeness (i.e. sex continues but intimacy vanishes, or the other way round).
Sometimes change comes so quickly that one person within a couple becomes unfocused and rudderless, without a clear path to follow whilst the other builds a new way of life. This imbalance may provoke a renegotiation of the terms of the marriage, or it may provoke a separation in which each person has the opportunity to find what they want to do in the next decades.
Some women and men who find themselves single in crisis set out a list of expectations for their new partner-to-be which are completely unrealistic.
Incredibly high expectations may be appealing but are very unrealistic; and they are certainly not compatible with the personal growth in midlife that can lead you to a more realistic view of your own place in the world and among the people around you.
Any expectations that don’t include an appreciation of human frailty and understanding that a new relationship is an opportunity to grow together to a more spiritual and emotionally connected place are likely to be expectations that induce you to act like your own worst enemy.
Also keep in mind that men and women over 50 don’t have as much energy as they did when they were younger, don’t have bodies that are as perfect as they used to be, and probably don’t have the qualities that would attract a younger person.
Nonetheless the assertiveness and confidence that comes to somebody who is truly growing into their midlife self can provide more than enough energy and persistence to make sure that you don’t remain stuck as a single sexless person, instead finding a new, exciting and passionate life