I had no idea how Nightline’s hours of interview time would translate to a couple of minutes of air time. I knew the emphasis of the show would be on seniors’ risky sexual behavior, and I hoped there would also be room for the joy and intimacy of senior sexuality.
ABC did a great job putting this show together and — yes — conveying not only the cautions that our age group needs to be aware of, but also the joy and exuberance — as well as the challenges — of being fully alive in aging bodies.
I was thrilled when I saw it. Having watched it five times now, though, it’s a little embarrassing that so much focus was on how creaky our aging bodies become! I liked that the creaky talk was juxtaposed with the energetic and not-the-least-bit-creaky line dance visuals – that was cool. (And it’s amusing that I’m receiving emails from people recommending specific mattresses and arthritis remedies to combat the creakiness!)
One thing I didn’t mention in my background story in the post below: We had some laughs before the taping, when I asked what language was acceptable and what wasn’t. I knew I’d be reading aloud from reader comments on my blog, and I’m used to speaking frankly. Respectfully, but frankly.
We all laughed together as we went over words: “erection” was OK, “hard” wasn’t. When they told me that “clitoris” was okay, I reduced the crew to hysterics when I proclaimed, “Great! I’ve always wanted to say ‘clitoris’ on national TV!” But …it turns out I didn’t!
Did you see the show? What did you think?
Susan, age 65, sent me this email regarding intimacy after death of spouse, with permission to post it and respond here:
Joan, I found your website while browsing and really enjoyed it. I was widowed 5 months ago, and a friend of mine lost his wife shortly before my husband’s death. We had known each other casually for 20 years.
A social event brought us face to face about a month ago and we both have been smitten since that night. We are both young for our ages; both being 65, good physical condition and both exercise daily. I am experiencing a lot of guilt from wanting to see him after such a short span of time since my husband’s death. Although he has discussed me with his family and I with mine, I still have some guilt. I also, don’t hear the “approval” from other members of my family.
However, at our ages, how long is considered appropriate? I am also experiencing whether or not this could become a moral issue with me. He is a wonderful man, who cared for his wife, who was ill for many years, as I did for my husband.
He has expressed to me that he may be impotent. He had not had sexual relations with his wife for many years before her death, nor had I with my husband. I did, however, use a vibrator from time to time. Although I am 65, I certainly have been experiencing strong sexual feelings toward him.
I guess my questions to you are:
1) what is the appropriate time frame?
2) Is sex outside of marriage a moral and/or guilt issue?
3) How do I get rid of trying to please everyone else?
4) Should we pursue sexual intercourse or just “play around”?
Thank you so much for your input and can’t wait to get your book!
Susan, thank you so much for writing and for sharing these feelings.
I can’t tell you what the appropriate time frame for sharing intimacy after the death of a spouse is for YOU. I’m not a therapist, but I’ve heard some therapists say that it’s good to wait a year, because people need to grieve, then rediscover and reclaim who they are alone before they’re ready to enter into a new relationship.
I’ve also heard from/about people who were caretakers of ill spouses and did much of their grieving while their spouses were alive. They then needed to reach out to someone who could bring joy and intimacy back into their lives.
I can’t say what’s “right” for you — only you can know that. If you’re questioning whether it’s too soon, that maybe that’s your own heart saying it is. If this relationship will be right for the two of you, it will be right if you wait a few more months, too.
Meanwhile, you can develop a friendship and enjoy each other’s company. But do learn to enjoy your own company, too — see who you are on your own in the world, what interests you’d like to pursue now.
Of course you still have sexual feelings — glory in that wonderful gift, and let your fantasies roam. When you and your friend come together in that intimate way, if you decide to, you’ll be good and ready for his tender touch.
You say your family hasn’t expressed approval of your new relationship. Realize that they are still grieving your husband, too. Respect their feelings, and if/when you decide to go ahead with this new relationship, perhaps it would be best not to tell them until and unless they ask, at least for a while.
As for sex outside of marriage, that’s completely your decision. I don’t know your beliefs or your religion, or whether these values might be changing at this time of your life. You might find it useful to consult a counselor to get your own values and needs in perspective.
Your friend told you that he might be impotent. Please suggest that he see a urologist and find out the cause, and whether any treatment is appropriate. If he is unable to have erections, you can still have loving, intimate sex in other ways. I have more information about that in my book “Sex After Grief“, in the chapter titled “When You or Your Partner Can’t.”
I’m sure that Susan would like to hear from others who have gone through this, and from others who have an opinion on when to have intimacy after the death of a spouse. I invite you to comment.
Recently Judy, age 62, who attended my Ask Me, I’ll Tell You workshop, emailed me a description of her special “niche of passion:”
Here’s what Judy has to say:
I’m interested in the special challenges of over 60 women with under 25 men. This has been my preference for many years.
Contrary to expectations there seems to be a wealth of available men for me. Perhaps it is the “sex only for the pure joy of it” idea; I have offers pretty much daily.
I don’t pay but treat the young men with respect and a great deal of motherly (grandmotherly!) concern. Our relationships have lots of laughs and energy. ever see the movie Harold and Maude?
Currently I live with 4 young men under 25. All are affectionate, and watch each other to see if I have a favorite. (I tell them I love them all equally.)
Then there are numerous lovers from outside the house who visit. This is as close to heaven as I can get. It would be fun to meet another grandma who has found this niche of passion.
Are there other women out there who love men much younger? Share your stories, please!
I received this lovely account of a couple’s erotic and spiritual ritual from Anne, 58, with permission to share it with you:
My husband and I have been friends since age 14 and were fortunate enough to marry our best friend. We’re 58 now and have been married 35 years.
As part of our spiritual practice, we begin each day together, nude, in our hot tub, located on a screened porch where we’re surrounded by woods, garden, and birdfeeders, watching the sun rise over the mountains. Usually we do this in silence, although we’ve been known to add music. Our favorite is Tina Turner’s “You’re The Best” CD. If you listen closely to the words, it can become a hymn to the Creator! Our neighbor’s rooster also chimes in, crowing in the early hours — a prelude to the day.
Each evening at day’s end, we repeat this ritual. It’s usually dark. The moon hangs above the trees or over the mountains. Every night is different. Sometimes it’s a dazzling darkness with no moon, other times everything shivers in silver when the moon is full. The silence speaks volumes as we listen to the night creatures and other sounds.
We also purchased a massage table years ago, which is wonderful for relieving aches and pains as well as a delightful addition to foreplay. I’m trained in massage therapy by profession, however, my husband, whose wonderfully large hands were untrained, improved dramatically when I encouraged his visits to a massage therapist. Now we’re both comfortable giving and receiving a massage and every one is different. Variety is truly the spice of life!
These are wonderful modalities for both of us who suffer from arthritis and who continue to be very much in love. It’s a three for one deal, improving physical, emotional and spiritual health. I can’t speak highly enough of this practice’s rewards and encourage others to give it a go.
If you have an erotic and spiritual practice you’d like to share, I invite you to tell us about it.