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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
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
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. To send Joan your questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.”