senior couple

Ask Joan: Dating? Yes! Marriage…?

Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email sexpert@seniorplanet.org.

A member writes:

I’m a widower, age 71, and I’ve been dating a woman my age for two months. We met on a dating site, and we have had some wonderful, enjoyable dates. We both lost our spouses and feel really comfortable with each other. I had been widowed for 15 months when I met her – the first woman I dated after my wife’s death. She had been a widow for 22 years, dating sporadically. We have been exclusive since we met. We live 60 miles apart and get together about twice a week for dates. We talk on the phone every night.

My problem is that I am not sure I want to remarry after losing my wife of 44 years. I would like more intimacy in this relationship, but I’m unsure how to advance that. We have not been sexual, only hugging and kissing. We are planning an overnight getaway, so we’ll see if we take it to the next level.

We have not discussed the future and I have no idea yet if she wants to remarry. I am not sure myself. We seem to enjoy each other’s company and I would like to be more intimate. I just don’t want to get so close and end up hurting her. I enjoy spending time with her and we tell each other how much we miss seeing each other when we’re apart.

Am I misleading my friend with my indecision on marriage? I have not discussed this with her. Help please!

-Dating Yes, Marriage No

Joan responds:

I know how hard it is to start dating after losing your spouse. How lucky you were that the first person you dated turned out to be such a strong connection! Put your mind at ease: of course you’re not ready to think about marriage.

You were with one woman for 44 years – that’s a long time. You’ve only been dating this new person for two months – way too soon to be thinking about a lifetime commitment. You’re in the initial getting-to-know-you stage, spiced by the attraction, excitement and affection of a new relationship. Enjoy that giddy phase fully!

I appreciate how honorable you are in not wanting to mislead your friend. But you do need to open up the conversation, not just hope that the overnight getaway will resolve the issue. You don’t know what she’s thinking, and she doesn’t know what you’re thinking. How about a conversation opener like this: “I’m very attracted to you and I enjoy our times together. I miss sexual intimacy. Is that something you could see for us in our future?”

She may close you down with something like, “I don’t want sex outside of marriage,” or “I’m more comfortable with a Platonic relationship,” or “I’m sorry, I don’t feel that way about you.” Whatever she tells you, at least you know.

But suppose the answer is yes! I hear from many women who don’t know how to push a new relationship to the next level when the man isn’t making a move. (I know, the idea that the man has to make the move is outdated, but many of us were brought up to think this way, and it persists.) Even if you get a “yes,” the conversation isn’t done yet. Follow up with, “Would you be willing to share your feelings about this?” Talk about going slowly, not an all-or-nothing approach to sex. Even if she’s interested, you don’t need to go from kissing to intercourse in one date. Discuss safer sex, and be prepared with condoms and lubricant so you’ll have them when it’s time. (See my free webinar, “Safer Sex for Seniors.”)

Yes, talk about your misgivings about marrying again. I think you’ll feel better if you tell her something like, “Do you think you’ll ever want to remarry? I’m not sure I ever will.” At least it’s out in the open, and you know you’re not misleading her. And maybe it’s not even a problem. Many widowed people have no desire to marry again, and you may discover she feels the same way you do. After all, she’s been on her own for 22 years, so she may be quite happy that way.

To summarize, make this your checklist:

  1. Accept this initial dating stage as a joyful way to get to know this new person.

  2. Avoid setting goals for what the relationship needs to be now or in the future, as long as it’s making both of you happy.

  3. Have frank and sensitive conversations about your emotions and hers.

  4. Bring up sex and intimacy in a respectful way that allows her to say no if she isn’t interested or isn’t ready.

  5. If you do get sexual, take it a step at a time and check in with each other often.

  6. Get used to using your words. The scariest conversation is the one you don’t have.

Readers: Have you been in a situation like this? What did you say or ask to get the conversation going?

Send Joan your questions by emailing sexpert@seniorplanet.org. All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication.

Joan Price is the author of several books including “The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50” and the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age.” Visit Joan’s  blog, “Naked at Our Age” and her Facebook page. For senior sex news, tips, event and webinar announcements, and special offers, join Joan’s mailing listView Joan’s new free webinar, “Safer Sex for Seniors.”

2 comments
  • Ann
    REPLY

    My friend met a man couple of years ago while out walking. His wife had past away and they slowing enjoyed walking trips on weekends together. She was divorced after many years of marriage. He was very upfront in saying “not interested in marriage” and in return she informed him of the same so both continued to enjoy one another’s company. They have a nice relationship but live in their own homes however do go away together.

    My husband passed away three years ago. I would like to meet a man and share nice time together but also am not interested in marriage.

  • Shamus MacDuff
    REPLY

    This is quite similar to my situation. I lost my spouse after 30 years together, met a widow on a dating site, and we have developed a very close, positive relationship. Unlike your case we became sexual quite early on, and continue to enjoy that wonderful aspect of being human along with sharing many other nonsexual activities. Neither of us wishes to remarry or cohabit so we have agreed to a consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) relationship that works very well in our case. I would encourage Dating Yes, Marriage No to at least investigate CNM with his partner as a possible “remedy” to his conundrum. An excellent explanation of its pros and cons is Tristan Taormino’s, OPENING UP.

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