Ask Joan: Friend Zoned?

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 64. My husband of 32 years dumped me for a woman in her twenties two years ago. He never called me or our children. You can imagine our shock. We are over that, I hope, and I’m trying to get back to dating and sex. 

I met a man and had sex with him three times. Outside of sex, he will not talk to me at all, or go out with me. I get it—it’s sex only. But he makes me feel like I’m just his dirty little secret.

I met another man who likes me, and I like him. We’ve had a few great dinner dates and we’ve kissed, nothing more. I didn’t want to rush things and make the same mistake again. I do want sex, but with someone who’s a friend, not just a sex partner. 

After one of our dates, this man told me he was 53 years old. I told him I was 64, and he about hit the floor. He said, “Well, we can be friends!” I took this to mean that my age turns him off. However, he texts me and invites me to meet family members. He hugs me longer then a friend would, and I get the feeling he would fool around. 

I just feel sad that I am old. I know that a woman my age is not attractive to anyone. How do I get over feeling so low because my husband left me? Should I go back to the sex guy? 

— Lonely Lady

Joan responds: 

You sound so sad, and I understand why. Your husband left you and won’t communicate. You met a man who was eager to have sex with you, but not date you. You met a new man who was happy to date you until he learned that you’re 11 years older than he is. After relegating you to the friend zone, he’s sending mixed messages. You feel isolated, frustrated, and undesirable.

You may be over the shock of the way your husband left you, as you say in your first paragraph, but your last paragraph shows that you’re still depressed about it. Two years isn’t a long time to heal, especially after a 32-year marriage, but I get the sense that you’re not getting closer to healing. I strongly advise professional help to talk out these feelings, get closure, and learn strategies for changing the way you see yourself right now. 

I’m writing to you at age 75 to tell you that you are not too old to attract a man, and you are not too old for a sexy and satisfying relationship. You’ve internalized your ex-husband’s opinion that attractive, desirable women are less than half your age. That’s just not true! There are plenty of men your age (also younger and older) who are emotionally mature enough to recognize the desirability of women who have lived long and well and have much to give.

Unfortunately, you haven’t met these good men yet. Your sex guy made you feel bad about yourself by treating you like a sex toy, not a date or a lover or even a friend. Yet you’re considering going back to him. Please don’t—it will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Your new man blurted out a hurtful message when he learned your age. Yet he’s hugging you and including you in his life, and you’re getting sexual vibes from him. Have you tried asking him directly about his mixed signals? For example, tell him some combination of the following:

  • “When you said we can be friends, what did you mean exactly? Does my age rule me out from becoming anything more?” (If he says yes, wave goodbye.)  
  • “I interpreted your ‘friends’ statement to mean that you’re not interested in becoming sexual with me. But you’re confusing me with your lingering hugs. Please tell me honestly how you see our relationship.”
  • “I’m interested in developing a relationship that starts as friends and maybe becomes intimate. What are you interested in?”  

Maybe he felt negatively about your age at the time, but as he’s gotten to know you better, his feelings are growing. Or maybe not. There’s no way to guess the answer. The best that can result from an honest conversation is you’ll get a clearer understanding of his feelings, which you may have misinterpreted, and he’ll understand yours. The worst that can happen if you have a truthful conversation…? I can’t think of any bad outcome. 

Here’s my advice to you and to others in a similar situation:

  1. See a counselor about the wounds you still carry from your ex-husband’s actions and the depression you’re feeling.  
  2. Find role models—celebrities or people you know in real life—who are your age and older and epitomize how older women can be sexy and desirable.
  3. Don’t date anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. Period. Even if the sex is good.
  4. Don’t assume you understand what someone doesn’t say. Don’t assume someone understands what you don’t say. Use your words. 

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.”

 

6 comments
  • Kate Collins
    REPLY

    Dump the sex man and use a vibrator, it won’t ruin your self esteem like he will.
    Wholly agree with everything Joan advises including the questions to the ‘friend’ man, she is indeed wise.

    Don’t feel that you must have a man in your life all the time and be prepared for lonely periods but in those periods find an interest, or study to develop yourself as a whole new you, and you will find unexpected pleasures. . , You are out there looking, which is more than I have the courage to do right now,so I’m sure the right man is just around the corner. .

  • Barbara
    REPLY

    All great information. We all want to be honored and appreciated. I’m seeing a much younger man, so far it’s a bit of a roller coaster as he adjusts to dating an older woman. He loves and enjoys my company and intimacy, but wonders what will happen down the road as the gap in years will make a bigger difference. I say lets cross that road when we come to it. It’s a good conundrum to contemplate. How much do you invest not knowing your outcome. I’m trying to enjoy what it is for as long as it lasts, although I think I really want long lasting companionship. It usually doesn’t work out for long term so far in my life. Still I’m open for some deep soulful love with some great sex.

  • Diana Valle
    REPLY

    Wow. Great info. I understand in a way what she’s going thru! Been wronged by men. 67yrs old, disabled
    Use Rollator walker with service dog named Scarlotte!
    She treats me better than anyone! Don’t want 2 b in a relationship with a man. I’d rather b alone than in bad
    Company. However, I c a therapist! Best thing that
    Happened 2 me. No matter what I say I’m understood
    Molested + abused as a child + teenager has
    Impacted my Life! However, I go on with life + do what
    I can when I can. I have no one 2 help me shop so I do
    Myself. Go 2 free programs @ libraries,museums,etc.
    U only live once so u try 2 enjoy what u can. U gave
    Lonely woman great advice

  • NYArtist
    REPLY

    I would keep dating the “friend” man and not pressure him into saying anything just yet. Let it grow and see what develops. I’ve been with men who were almost embarassed that I was older but eventually it didn’t matter. Just be yourself and enjoy the company..but keep looking as well…maybe someone really special is on the horizon.

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