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A reader writes:
I’m 63, a widow for 7 years. I live in an active retirement community of friendly seniors. I’ve made great friendships, even dated some nice men, but with no spark of attraction, no stirring to connect intimately. I’ve been content with my sexual partner for these years: my Magic Wand! I assumed there was no great love or partner in my future. That changed, and I need help opening to a connection with a new person.
I met Joey in a fitness class. We have similar interests and the same bawdy sense of humor. We’ve shared a host of fun activities and we’ve been nearly inseparable since last February. I can’t imagine how I would have managed quarantine without Joey. We often spend days and evenings together, exercising, preparing meals, watching movies, and talking for hours.
“I assumed there was no great love or partner in my future. That changed…”
Two weeks ago, we decided to have a few glasses of wine and trade shoulder massages. I was so relaxed and centered in my body that I started to feel a tingle inside. We hadn’t really touched before, yet it felt comfortable and safe to me.
Then Joey kissed me. I felt warmth spreading within me that had long been dormant, and I kissed Joey back passionately. My whole body buzzed with energy. While this was amazing, it brought waves of guilt. Joey is actually Josephine, a beautiful and lively 64-year-old woman. I’ve never been attracted to a woman before and never would have predicted this.
How do I navigate this relationship without feeling guilty on many levels: guilt about moving on from my late husband, guilt about attraction to someone new, guilt about desiring a woman for the first time? I don’t know what senior sex might be like with another woman. I’m not even sure what to “do” in that arena. Joey and I continue to spend time together and have kissed many times, but I’m holding back, because I’m stuck on these issues.
– Surprised Widow
It isn’t often that I get to respond to such a happy situation! How lovely it is when life surprises us with new passion and connection.
You’re holding back because of guilt. Let’s look at what you’re feeling:
Guilt about moving on from your late husband and attraction to someone new. You’re not betraying your husband by lusting and loving again. You’re reclaiming your life force and your sexual being. I hope you’ll read my award-winning book, Sex After Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved, about understanding and accepting your ambivalent sexual feelings and figuring out how to open to a new relationship.
Guilt about desiring a woman for the first time. “Sexual fluidity” (see Resources) is not uncommon. The body, brain, and heart want what they want, and this can change. Joey is a lovely woman with whom you share many joys already. You’re attracted to each other and want to explore. That’s beautiful.
Over our many decades of living and loving, we realize that the rules, assumptions, and strict behavioral expectations that we grew up with may not serve us anymore. The world has changed, we have changed, and many of us come to a broader acceptance of different kinds of love, intimacy, and sexual expression.
As for what to do sexually, your first step is to ask Joey! Tell her what you’ve written here and ask her to guide you. There’s no one way that women make love to each other, just as there’s no one way that straight couples do. As with every relationship, it’s a process of learning how to communicate verbally and non-verbally what feels good.
“One of the best things about sex between women is there is no formula to follow, no destination— just an exploration of bodies and pleasure,” says Allison Moon, sex educator and author of the award-winning lesbian sex ed guide Girl Sex 101. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions— no one ‘just knows’ how to have sex. We learn by having lovers and through experience. Ask Joey how she likes to be touched and how she’d like to touch you. Go from there.”
Take it a step at a time, easing into a more intimate relationship, giving feedback along the way. Just as you were surprised at how passionately you responded to Joey’s kiss, you’ll discover other pleasures as you explore together.
– Dear John, I Love Jane, ed. Candace Walsh and Laura André. Anthology by women who left straight relationships because they fell in love with women. There’s also a sequel: Greetings from Janeland: Women Write More About Leaving Men for Women.
– Girl Sex 101, by Allison Moon. Although the title seems aimed at younger women, it’s appropriate for all ages of sexually explorative women.
– Sex After Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved, by Joan Price. How to bring sex back into your life after death of a partner.
– Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire by Lisa Diamond. How desire and attraction may change through women’s stages of life or in special relationships.
– Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure by Sheri Winston. A detailed exploration of women’s anatomy and erotic pleasure.
Send Joan your questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication from readers age 60+
Joan Price is the author of several self-help books about senior sex including her newest, “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved,” and the award-winning “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex.” Visit Joan’s website and blog and her Facebook page. For senior sex news and tips, subscribe to Joan’s free newsletter.