Do you remember your “first time?” It might have been decades ago (hey, who’s counting!), but you probably remember some of the feelings surrounding your first sexual experience, since it can be a momentous occasion for many people. Did you feel nervous, excited, shy, anxious to get it over with, overjoyed that it was finally happening – or maybe a combination of all of the above? If you’re single again as an older adult and have made the decision to start dating, you might find yourself going through those emotions all over again when you meet someone new; and, if you’ve been with the same partner for decades or haven’t been intimate with someone new for a long time, there might be a whole new set of feelings (and fears) that go along with “getting back out there.” Don’t worry, though, navigating a new sexual relationship doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety: with some confidence and communication, you can make this new chapter in your life positive, exciting, and yes – fun!
It’s Good to Mingle If You’re Single
If you’re over 50 and single, you’re in luck (and maybe even the envy of some of your friends in long-term relationships) because you’re certainly not alone: roughly a third of older adults aren’t married. Turns out Baby Boomers did (and are currently doing) a lot more divorcing and separating, and a lot less marrying than previous generations, so there’s a lot of you out there. Not only that, but it’s much easier for older adults to meet these days, since you tend to have wider social circles than your parents did, and you have all the benefits of online dating and social media.
So if you’re in the category above and are getting out there and dating again, that one little three-letter word is bound to come up: sex. And you know what? It absolutely should come up if it’s something you’re interested in! In the words of 80s superstar George Michael, “Sex is natural, sex is fun” – so even if your sex life had become somewhat, well, humdrum, before you ended your previous relationship, or if you’ve been feeling like you’ve somehow missed out, it’s never too late to begin experimenting again.
After all, it’s not just some sort of cliche or hollow consolation when people say that older people can have better sex lives than their younger peers. Surveys, including the annual “Singles in America” survey, commissioned by the dating site Match.com, have shown that people report having the best sex of their lives in their 60s, because they’ve had decades to figure out what they like, understand their bodies better, and often have more time on their hands.
Even science agrees that sex can be especially pleasurable – and even physically good for you – as you age. According to senior sex expert Joan Price, taking those raging youthful hormones out of the picture can actually improve your sex life: “Sex as an older person is not the same as sex as a younger person…as we are not driven by hormones…You might think that is a bad thing…but what is wonderful about not being driven by hormones is we don’t have to be so goal-oriented. We are not fertile, we’re not hormonal; we’re having sex because we really enjoy it, for the pleasure.”
And it’s not only enjoyable: many scientists believe that sex is good for you, and that sexually-active people look younger than celibate ones. Some experts put this down to the boost of oxytocin in our blood streams that we get when we’re having joyful sex, which not only helps us feel close to our partners, but it also combats stress chemicals, such as cortisol.
And when we say it should come up (no pun intended), we also mean that sex should be a subject you communicate openly and honestly about with any new dating partner: if you’re feeling a little bit of anxiety about getting physically involved with someone, acknowledging those feelings and being upfront is vital for having a positive experience. So where to start?
Talk About What You Want
Some conversations can be difficult to have, and a frank conversation about sex with a new partner can definitely be on that list. But hey, you’ve gotten this far, so you’re obviously physically interested in each other, and if you’re feeling nervous, one of the best things you can do is have a conversation about sex early on, when it seems like the relationship is going in that direction. There’s nothing wrong with sitting your partner down and telling them you’d like to talk about each other’s desires, preferences, and, yes, fears.
Make it clear that you’d like to open up about yourself, but that you’re also very interested in hearing what they want to share with you – these conversations can be difficult to start, but they can lead in interesting directions and most likely to a more enjoyable sexual experience, especially if you’ve both been with one partner for a long time and are learning to share intimacy with someone new. As Joan Price says, “The important thing is to have a level of trust where you feel like you can talk about these things. If you can’t talk about these things, is it really time to invite this person into your body?”
Part of being honest with a new lover is also being honest about what you’re comfortable with sexually, so set boundaries if you’re not ready to just jump into bed on the first date. There’s so much you can do that’s mutually pleasurable that isn’t penetrative sex; in fact, getting rid of the all-or-nothing notion of sex can take some pressure off of the situation and make things hotter and more fun. Just think back to your teenage days of making out in cars past curfew!
For those who are just getting back into the dating scene and starting to get physical, Joan Price suggests, “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.’” Suggesting that you explore each other without any goals is a great way to get the juices flowing, so to speak, and to find out in an exciting way whether you’re sexually compatible.
Let’s Get Physical
There’s no getting around it: sex might get better in some ways as you age, but there are some physical issues that both men and women might be apprehensive about when starting a new sexual relationship in their golden years. First of all, partners of both sexes might worry about whether others will find them desirable, or whether they’ll find the people they’re dating desirable – this is totally normal (and can happen to anyone at any age!), and can be addressed with the honest communication we talked about earlier. We’ll also say that, while this hasn’t been scientifically proven, we’re pretty sure that most men don’t really actually know what cellulite is, and a lot of women are actually more turned on by what they hear from their partner, and how generous their partner is in bed, than what they see. Just saying.Other physical concerns might be harder to overcome, but certainly not impossible. For example, for women, sex after menopause can be painful because of issues like vaginal dryness, so if you’re worried that this will be the case for you start out by practicing! Yes, a very practical and enjoyable way to prove to yourself that everything is in working order is by exploring masturbation, especially with the help of a vibrator. In addition, when you’re ready to invite someone else to the party, don’t be embarrassed to introduce some luxurious lubricants into the situation, to make things more pleasurable for you. If you find you need more help making sex comfortable, speak to your doctor.
For men, the problem can be getting or maintaining an erection (and getting an erection that is hard enough for sex). The first thing you should do if you’re experiencing this is speak to your doctor, as ED can be a symptom of a larger problem; if you’ve done this, your doctor can also prescribe you an anti-impotence drug – these medications are a godsend for men with various erectile problems! And if you’re the partner of someone with ED, remember that their condition has nothing to do with you or your ability to turn them on – ED is a very common problem among older men.
And remember, as we discussed earlier, penetrative sex is never the one and only option on the table for pleasuring each other: if your genitals don’t seem to be cooperating, try kissing, exploring, mutual masturbation, oral sex – come on, use your imaginations! We know you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeves…
All of the above physical issues should be part of your frank discussions about sex with your new partner, and you know what else should always come up? Your sexual history, and how you plan on staying safe when and if you become physically intimate. There might be no risk of pregnancy at this stage in your lives, but there’s no age limit on STIs, so get tested, ask for test results from your partner, and plan on using barrier methods in new relationships to protect both of you.
Sure, teenage lust was fun in its own way, but, ugh, who wants to do that again? You may have been through a lot in life, and maybe you’ve got the battle scars to prove it, but you’ve come so far from those awkward years; you know what you want, you feel confident in your skin, and you’re better equipped to honestly communicate with others. So, if you’re ready, get out there and find what makes you happy – if that’s sex with a new partner, enjoy it and be safe!