Sex & Relationships

How to Satisfy Your Sexual Needs When Your Old Rulebook Says No

older man and woman kissing

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A reader writes:

I am a single older man, university educated, and I don’t consider myself monogamous. I have been dating one woman and I’m not cheating on her, but I am interested in several others. I’ve always longed for the experience of dating more than one woman and ideally being sexual with them. I truly don’t think I’ve ever been capable of being happy in a sexually exclusive relationship, and at this point in my life, I don’t want to try anymore – but are women open to this?

How can I bring up this issue with women I date? I’m not trying to “use” them and I don’t want to lie or cheat. I’d like to be able to talk rationally and honestly about what I consider to be my nature, hopefully with women who feel the same way. I’m hampered, though, by lingering old ideas about what is right and wrong about sex, especially that I’m supposed to be happily monogamous. I’d like to experience sex in a new way, and I hope it’s not too late.  —Non-Monogamous & Frustrated

Joan Answers:

Good for you for knowing what you need and for wanting to go after it ethically. As you’ve realized, by this point in our lives, many of the “rules” about sexuality we learned decades ago no longer feel true to us, if they ever did. The world has changed – people are more experimental and sexually open to new experiences.

The idea of one lifelong mate has all but dissolved because many of us are single and still sexually active – or wanting to be – after divorce, break-up or the death of a spouse. At our age, the old rules about sexual exclusivity might not even apply to our situation if we’re single and dating. Even many committed couples have agreed to be non-monogamous and find that it works for them. (Others, of course, feel most fulfilled in a monogamous commitment and can’t imagine an open sexual lifestyle being okay — but that’s not why you wrote!)

The first step, which you’ve done, is to realize that for you – and for many people of all ages, genders and orientations – monogamy is not authentic or fulfilling. A male friend of mine told me, “I tried every which way to be monogamous – it was never natural to me, and I quit one relationship after another until I acknowledged that I am ethically non-monogamous. Now that’s the way I live, with a partner who feels the same way.”

Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of women who also don’t feel monogamy suits them at this time in their lives. Perhaps they were in a long-term relationship and never had the opportunity to enjoy the special, spicy energy of variety, and they’d like to experience it now. Or maybe they had these kinds of experiences during the ‘60s and ‘70s, then settled down and are ready to fly again. Or they may always have felt that monogamy doesn’t suit  them and followed their desires.

The key is to be clear, respectful and honest in stating what you are looking for. Saying something like, “I’ve never felt that I could be happy in a sexually exclusive relationship and I’m looking for partners who feel this way, also,” might be a good approach. (I do not suggest broadcasting, “Wanted! Lots of women for sex!”) Some women will respond negatively. They won’t want anything to do with you, and that’s perfect – they wouldn’t work out for you.

Please have a candid conversation with the woman you’re dating now. She may be “in” with your idea, or she may not. Make sure she has all the information so that she can choose for herself whether or not to stay with you. However much you may like her, if the relationship is based on a lie or a misconception, it’s doomed. If she wants an exclusive relationship, let her go. Neither of you will be happy together.

When you do meet women who are interested in the sexual lifestyle you want, there will be negotiations: commitment to safer sex practices; how much each of you tells the other about your sexual relationships; whether you get involved in casual relationships or have a primary, committed relationship with a “free pass” for taking other lovers when it feels right. There are many ways to be non-monagamous, and a superb book to learn from is Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships  (Cleis Press, 2008).

Multiple sexual relationships are not easy, especially when you’re just feeling your way. But for many people, they are indeed rewarding. Age is no barrier when it comes to learning to live your authentic sexual beliefs. Good luck to you. —Joan

Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex At Our Age.

Joan-Price-senior-planetEvery 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 To send Joan your questions, email All information is confidential.

Joan Price is the author of the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and of “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s  blog, “Naked at Our Age.”


18 responses to “How to Satisfy Your Sexual Needs When Your Old Rulebook Says No

  1. men always wanted ther cake and eat it,thats natural to a man,he cannot help looking for more, and now the chains are off,he will be even more like that..
    women will have a point in ther life they may wonder,but otherwise want the forever dream,and will never agree to us men having anyone else,they pretend but have not got the confidence to hadle it,

    1. I don’t think we can generalize about gender differences, Stu. I know plenty of monogamous people of our age and plenty of non-monogamous people of our age, and they’re not categorized by gender. Many seniors are actively throwing off the old gender roles and the old “this is what sex must be” rules. It’s a big world out there, and if we’re honest about what we are (and are not) looking for, we can find others who match us.

    2. The reason women are more tied up to their relationships (besides being more homey by nature from the cave times) is that SHE is the one who bears and cares for the offspring with HE either abandons, sees them only on spare time and/or when he feels like playing with the babies and showing them off. Of course there are exceptions too…

      Yes, for millennia MAN has been the one having it all and nothing “fur” her! It’s just like that cute Oklahoma musical where he wants “All ‘er Notin'” and the girl says “All fur you and notin’ fur me”…..

  2. Excellent article—I love Joan Price—and smart comments. Given the numerical disadvantage at which older women find themselves, I do see advantages in embracing less traditional arrangements. Not sleeping with creeps, but not holding out for Mr. Perfect in Every Way Forever either. Consider partners not close to our own ages, or friends with benefits or, as Joan suggests, respectful, honest, meaningful non-monogamous relationships, aka polyamory. It’s a pretty radical idea. We know, though, that communal living arrangements will make sense as we age, so why not—as a thought experiment at least—consider a more communal approach to our romantic lives as well? Imagine the benefits, for example, of shared caregiving rather than being yoked to full-time, one-on-one care?

    1. >a more communal approach to our romantic lives as well

      Well said, Ashton — and that sounds like a dandy idea! (Does anyone say “dandy” anymore?) I’ll bet many of the communal living arrangements *do* embrace this.

      I’d love to hear from people in this kind of arrangement.

  3. I would suggest that you include the current term “polyamorous” in your reply.

    I don’t practice it myself, but I do see articles about it.

    And using that term should help a person find others who are either like minded or have additional insights.

    1. Thank you for your comment, MsChironl. Polyamory (literally “loving many”) is a non-monogamous lifestyle in which there is usually a primary couple who are committed to each other, plus each of them may have sexual and emotional attachments with other regular partners. There are many folks of our age who embrace polyamory.

      I didn’t specifically describe this lifestyle in my original answer to Non-Monogamous & Frustrated because that’s a big step beyond what he was asking — which was how to be free to date without the expectation of sexual exclusivity.

  4. I think Joan should point out that for most women sexual desire and loving someone deeply are intertwined. Sexual desire without the deeper connection seems to be what this man is seeking. By their nature, most women would seek both in a relationship and so if that’s what you’re looking for, beware the kind of man who plays the field.

    1. “most women sexual desire and loving someone deeply are intertwined.”

      I have no doubt that “many” women (and men) desire this, but it is important not to extrapolate from one’s personal preference and apply it to “most”. In some sense, everyone seems to want connection–love–but it is a cultural bias that this must be done monogamously.

      Monogamy has a short history, only a couple hundred years. That history seems to be one of frequent failure. (50% divorce rate. Many couple staying together “for the children”. Separate bedroom arrangements.)

      The most common form of marriage has been polygamy and concubinage.

  5. Great advice, Joan — I think so much of the stigma around non-monogamous relationships is the feeling that people who wan’t them aren’t up front about it. I always respect a man who tells me he doesn’t want to be monogamous.

  6. Thank you for this article/response. I just finished responding to a conservative Christian counselor’s misinterpretation of the Bible. He insisted that the ONLY relationship is monogamous and heterosexual. There are many who are lead astray by these right-wing pastors, but many others who grew up and unthinkingly absorbed these kinds of cultural biases. Now, at our age, they struggle with the conflict between what they want/need and their old infused biases. Even those who are not “Christian” in any sense, still grew up immersed in this anti-sex, anti-body culture.

    Every effort to ease their way into an ethical sexual openness. Ethical sexuality means, a) Consensual and mutual b) Honesty c) No physical or emotional damage to either party or other people; and otherwise no limits.

    1. >Ethical sexuality means, a) Consensual and mutual b) Honesty c) No physical or emotional damage to either party or other people; and otherwise no limits.

      Very well said, David Pittle. Honesty is the part that is hard for many. It’s so important. I hear from people all the time who say, “My partner doesn’t know that I…” out of fear that the partner will leave if he/she knows the truth.

      But we owe our loved ones the right to leave if our truth and theirs don’t coincide.

  7. I wish this comment was from a woman. I found when I was dating that many older men took advantage of the fact that demographics were on their side. They knew only too well that the abundance of lonely older women and not enough men to go around made it just too easy to fulfill male fantasies. Women will go along with the program, agree to being non-monogamous, whether they want to or not because they’re scared of being alone. \

    1. Really, Erica? Maybe, it’s because I’m ugly, poorly educated, fat and a bore with bad knees, but I just can’t get all those women interested in me. LOL

      I do recognize the phenomenon you describe and it does exist–especially in retirement communities. But when I do OKCupid, I get turned down a lot by women looking for younger men. That’s turning the tradition on its head. ;-)

      1. ugly, poorly educated, fat and a bore with bad knees
        I’ve done the knees, but the ugly, bore, fat, and inadequately educated will take a little more time. (My self-deprecation is always done with a grin and a wink. I’m actually gorgeous, exciting and know-it-all. ;-)

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