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 email@example.com.
Friends with Benefits?….or more?
I am a sensual, 68-year-old woman. I believe that sexual satisfaction, including “sex for one,” is a healthy practice. For a decade after my partner died, I didn’t meet anyone whom I found appealing as a potential lover. Six months ago, I met a man online who changed that. We exchanged emails and photos, then met in person within the week. We have much in common, including intense attraction.
We became sexual, and we’re extremely compatible and uninhibited. The better I know him, the more I like him, not just physically. I feel it could grow into love.
However, he is just emerging from a long, ill-fated marriage. He is reluctant to enter another relationship, even though he says he yearns for the smiles, laughter and gentle touch of a kind woman. I told him I enjoy our times together, but I’m not interested in marriage or living together. We agreed, at his request, to become “friends with benefits.” However, I don’t think that describes what we share very well.
We have great sex, but also real dates a couple of times a week– not just booty calls. We talk on the phone daily. We’ve met each other’s families. We’ve seen each other through illness. How are we just “friends with benefits”? Isn’t FWB just uncomplicated sex? This feels like much more.
I caution myself that he may decide he wants to meet and date other women, since he’s been out of the dating pool for over 35 years. Do I need to guard my heart?
FWB Or More?
You’re right, we don’t have the vocabulary to describe the different types of relationships that we may experience these days. Personally, I differentiate between “booty call” or “hook-up” that are just for sex and “friend with benefits” (FWB) that includes a caring, strong friendship along with good sex.
A sexual partner who is more than a playmate, more than a FWB, but not a committed, in-love-with partner needs its own term. I suggest “date mate” — somewhere between dating and mating, with plenty of lust.
Your relationship sounds stronger than FWB and seems to be growing towards love. By not pressuring him and staying in the moment, you’re enjoying the friendship and the sex, and he can feel comfortable taking small steps towards more intimacy.
Should you guard your heart? He may eventually want to date and have sex with other women and experience what he’s missed for 35 years. But that doesn’t have to mean a broken heart and an end to your relationship. Many in our age group practice consensual nonmonogamy. That means you agree that it’s not a relationship killer if one or both of you want to explore sex with others, while still staying together. You’re honest with each other and figure out what boundaries you each need to make this work. If this relationship model interests you, read “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships” by Tristan Taormino. Check out this review on my blog.
I asked a 74-year-old man who is newly exploring consensual nonmonogamy for his take on your question: “Dating other women will help him sort the deck and recognize what a special person she is. Should she guard her heart? In my view, one can be in love with someone—even deeply so—and take joy in his freedom without possessing or limiting him.”
Is that something you might accept? Whatever you decide, honest communication is key. Right now, you’re enjoying the companionship and the sexual connection, but you don’t know how he sees the relationship progressing and what he wants. Here are some ways you might approach the conversation:
- We agreed to be “friends with benefits,” but we never told each other what that term means to each of us. How would you have defined it when we first became sexual?
- Has the meaning of “friends with benefits” changed for you over the months we’ve been seeing each other?
- To me, our relationship feels like much more than friends who have sex. Is that just me? Do we need a new term to describe our relationship?
- Do you see yourself wanting to date other women at some point?
- If one of us wants to date others, would our relationship have to end? Might it become non-exclusive if we agree to that?
- Are you interested in learning more about what’s called “consensual nonmonogamy”?
Of course, if you don’t think you could accept a non-exclusive relationship, skip the last two questions. If he answers yes to #4 and sexual exclusivity is non-negotiable for you, this might be a short-term relationship. You can still enjoy it while it’s happening, and I hope you will. Just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean you failed. Most relationships end, and they can still be joyful and valuable.
Readers, does the term, “date mate” describe the kind of sexy, affectionate but not committed relationship that “FWB Or More?” is having? If so, help me get it into our everyday language. Or suggest another term if you have one.
Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex@Our Age.
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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 list. View Joan’s new free webinar, “Safer Sex for Seniors.”