Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Love and Sex Over 50: What Women Need To Know

Love and Sex Over 50: What Women Need To Know

Play your cards right and midlife can be the richest time for friendships and romantic love.

January 9, 2012
How to love better and have better sex after 50.Source: Getty Images
Yes, you can! How to love better and have better sex after 50.
Our Expert: Susanne Braun Levine's latest book, How We Love Now, just out this month, explores love in all aspects of our lives – spouses, partners, children, parents, family and friends. Here, she shares some of her most intriguing discoveries about love and sex over 50 for women.

With Love and Sex, Be Ready To Surprise Yourself: "The women of our generation are products of a period of change, reinvention and self-discovery from the very beginning. In terms of love, sex and intimacy, we are not who we were only older. So you have to be ready to surprise yourself. One of the big surprises in terms of love is that women who are experiencing a second chance (whether they're widows or divorced or falling in love for the first time) to make choices that are completely different from what they would have expected or have chosen earlier. Women say, 'I'm looking for real intimacy, warm and embracing and empathetic. The kind I get from my friends.'

"The niceness factor comes into play. When we were in our thirties, we'd say, 'Oh, he's too nice. I go for the bad boys.' That doesn't play at this age. There is a whole universe of second chances available to a woman at this age that she couldn't anticipate — more satisfying choices. The old choices – taller, smarter, richer, more successful – were externally imposed."

Sex: Passion Is All Over the Map: "At midlife, sex for some women becomes totally irrelevant. For others, it's better than ever. What's going to happen to you sexually, you cannot anticipate. Accepting that the glass is half full is the most important thing. If your glass is half full of the love of children and grandchildren and work and your own interests, that's a pretty good portion. People who get hung up on the idea that they have to have a partner, or more sex, waste good energy telling themselves what they have to do.

"Women who are experimenting with sex are beside themselves with wonder. That's the last thing a woman at midlife thought she was entitled to. There is a whole universe of couples – and not just new loves — who are reinventing their relationships. One reason is that at this age we are physiologically becoming more hormonally compatible. Men are losing testosterone, which can play out positively in a relationship by making them less impatient, less aggressive, more tender. For women, as estrogen goes down, our testosterone is unmasked and plays a bigger role. We're getting a little more aggressive. Men are getting a little more emotional. The potential to be in the same place emotionally for the first time is great.

Safe Sex: Still Essential in the Age of HIV: "The over-50 age group is one of the fastest-growing AIDS infected groups. One of the first things I would tell women embarking on love is to use a condom. Meeting new men, women sometimes don't even know how to ask a guy if he's safe.

Work Can Be a Passion Too. "Unlike men, women get to this stage of life looking at work in a new light. Men are tired of working, but we've had a circular trajectory. We haven't been able to focus entirely on work before. Women who gave up work have a chance to rediscover skills. For women who want work that is more meaningful, it's important to take into account what work means.

First Of All Love Yourself:"I always say care getting is important. One thing that blindsides many of us is getting caught in the sandwich, between aging parents and kids who can't get launched. Studies show an enormous percentage of us are partially supporting either children or parents.

"Just when we are getting a glimpse of what it would be like to think of ourselves, things close in on us. It's important to understand that you need to be prepared to be a care getter as well as a caregiver. Learn to get help, to say I can't do this, to say no. The demands the people we care for make aren't always demands we have to meet. As Gloria Steinem says, it's time to do unto ourselves as we've been doing unto others.

"Part of that is understanding how important friends are. During those juggling years, the last things we could do was go on a weekend with a girlfriend. There's this wonderful sense of rediscovery. What was there is still there. You can have so much fun together, can count on each other."

Read more about Suzanne Braun Levine's reporting and writing about midlife. And look for the second part of this series tomorrow: What Men Need To Know About Love At Midlife.
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