A reader wrote:
I am 62, single, and once was a very sexually active woman. I’ve undergone treatment for breast cancer twice. My recovery required my full attention for years, but now I feel ready for new adventures — hopefully including sex. After rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, and continued estrogen blocking medications, sex with another became a thing of the past.
Currently, sexual intercourse may no longer be possible for me — but I still enjoy having orgasms and I desire the wonder of touch.
However, I am so concerned about my limitations as a sexual partner that I am afraid to attempt to date again.
I have no idea what men in my age group expect or desire in terms of performance from their partners. What are woman experiencing in the 60-year-old dating world in terms of performance expectations? Would my current physical circumstance deter most men from being interested in exploring an intimate relationship with me?
I am grateful for this message and all it conveys about hope and healing and moving forward. I understand why you’re apprehensive. I would encourage you to get out there and go after what you want.
I know that many single men in our age group also fear “performance expectations” when erections are no longer possible or predictable. There are many who would welcome a sexual partner who did not expect intercourse, who would be happy exchanging touch, oral and manual stimulation, and fabulous orgasms — without intercourse.
These men may be cancer survivors themselves, wanting to return fully to life, including sex and intimacy, but they don’t know how to navigate the dating world either — when to divulge the cancer, when to divulge the sexual issues.
You might find out if there’s a local cancer survivors’ singles group. Or try online dating: I did a search on “cancer survivors singles” and came up with several sites that promote themselves as dating sites for cancer survivors.
There’s even one — “2date4love” — that “enables people who cannot engage in sexual intercourse to meet and experience love, companionship and intimacy.” I haven’t vetted any of these sites — if any of you have tried them, I hope you’ll share your experiences.
You don’t need to limit yourself to dating companions who share a similar medical history, though. Just be up front about your cancer on a first date if it looks like there’s potential for a second date. (If not, you don’t need to mention it.)
Then if you progress to a few dates and there’s chemistry, it’s important to explain that yes, you are interested in sex, but no, this might not include intercourse. Be prepared: Men who desire intercourse may want to discontinue getting to know you, and that’s okay.
When all the cards are on the table, if the relationship progresses, you have the delightful journey of exploring all the ways you can be sexual without intercourse!
Even when a date doesn’t progress to more, it’s still worth getting to know new people, “practicing” dating, trying out how to tell a potential partner about your needs, desires, and challenges.
If you take it all as part of the brave new world of dating experience, you don’t need to feel regretful or shamed when a new relationship (or potential relationship) doesn’t work out. Most of them will not work out — that’s the nature of the game.
Everything I’ve said so far presumed that you’re right that intercourse will not be possible for you. But please explore whether there are ways that you can heal yourself vaginally, if this is something you want to pursue. An excellent resource is “Vaginal Recuperation after Cancer or Surgery” from A Woman’s Touch, one of my favorite sexuality resource centers.
I hope you’ll check in again and share what you tried, how it worked for you, what you learned and gained.
I hope that you’ll share your thoughts, too, readers.
|(Robert can’t stop laughing after pulling my hat down)|
For Valentine’s Day this year (2013), I’m re-publishing the post I wrote in 2011, updating it slightly.
I always loved Valentine’s Day with Robert. We bought each other gifts, professed our love for each other emphatically and often poetically. We spent the afternoon making love, glorying in the magic of the powerful passion we felt for each other. We would love each other for hours — a candle lighted even in the bright light of afternoon, the bedroom door closed though we were alone in the house. I can still feel the touch of his skin, the sweet pressure of his lips. I hear the love words he muttered.
Could I have this dance
for the rest of my life?
Would you be my partner
When we’re together,
It feels so right.
Could I have this dance
for the rest of my life?
Every Valentine’s Day and birthday — and sometimes New Year’s Eve, too! — he danced for me: a special dance he had created just to please and entice me. He practiced for days in private, choosing the music, the choreography, and the costume that he would shed slowly and sensuously as part of his dance.
2013: This is my fifth Valentine’s Day without Robert. It wasn’t until the third one that I was able to remember his special dances without crying. What beautiful gifts he gave me throughout our seven years together. What beautiful gifts he gives me still, as I remember him.
For all of you who have a special loved one on this Valentine’s Day, glory in what you share. Never take for granted that “the rest of my life” means anything more than “this moment right now.”
For all of us who are unpartnered on this Valentine’s Day, let’s glory in the love we know how to give, and let’s give it to ourselves and the people in our lives today. Let’s do something special that nurtures us and delights us. Let’s make someone else feel special. Let’s celebrate our capacity to feel joy. The more love we give, the more we have within us.
On this 2013 update, a good friend is just home from the hospital after suffering a heart attack. “I died three times,” he told me — that’s how often they had to re-start his heart. We need to make a special point always of letting the people we love know that we love them. We never know how much time we have.
“Chemistry,” he said. “I searched through Naked at Our Age and I didn’t find that you discussed it at all. What are your thoughts?”
We were on a second date. Interesting question. What is chemistry, and how does it affect our choices of dating, pursuing a relationship, having sex?
I found myself discussing the importance and wonder of attraction /chemistry in generalities at first. We agreed that although attraction can grow through friendship, usually it’s either there or it’s not right from the beginning. We can
think, this is an interesting, accomplished, fabulous person, and I
really should feel attracted to him/her, but I’m not!
Then I went for complete candor: “For example,” I told him, “You’re an amazing person. But I just don’t feel any chemistry here.”
To my relief, he responded, “I feel the same way.”
Whew! We continued our conversation with gusto and interest, and agreed to see each other once in a while — as friends.
whether there’s chemistry for us as seniors, specifically? I would guess that during childbearing years it serves a
biological purpose — our biology is matching us with some people and
not with others.But if we’re not looking for a mate to propagate the species but for other reasons entirely, why isn’t it easier to find that elusive chemistry? What purpose does the “no chemistry” warning serve at our age?
We discussed how you tell someone that the chemistry isn’t there. I
think my friend’s approach (intentional or not) was excellent — ask the question first: “What is
chemistry to you? Tell me your thoughts.” From there, it’s an easy
transition to the admission that there isn’t chemistry between you.
What are your thoughts about chemistry, what purpose it serves at our age, and how you tell someone in a kind way that it isn’t there for you?
(I started this topic on my Naked at Our Age Facebook page, where we discuss all sorts of news and views about senior sex — I hope you’ll read and “like” that page and comment there on topics of interest to you.)
I’ve been pondering the topics I’ll cover in my new workshop — “How the Heck Do I Date at This Age?” — which I’ll debut in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin on Oct. 1 and 2, 2011. (See my events page for details.)
Can I get you involved? If you’re newly dating again, or if you’ve been single and dating for a long time, what questions and/or tips do you have for the rest of us?
For example, people who attend my book signings and speeches have asked me these questions about online dating and dating in general:
- Is it okay to lie about my age? If I don’t, no one will date me.
- When I’m ready to have sex with a new person, how do I know if he’s “safe”?
- Why do men pursue me like crazy and then suddenly disappear and I never hear from them again?
- After I meet someone, how do I say I don’t want to see him/her again without hurting his/her feelings?
- Why do women show photos of their pets and grandchildren on their profiles? I don’t want to date their pets or grandchildren.
- Why do men wear sunglasses in their profile photos? It looks like they’re shifty and hiding.
- Is there a nice way to ask women to send a full-body photo? Not nude or revealing, just showing their body type.
- Why do men think that 30-50 pounds overweight is “average” build?
- (From a man:) I posted my profile and got so many responses that I couldn’t possibly answer them all. Are men so outnumbered?
- (From a woman:) I posted my profile — why didn’t I get any responses?
You can bet I have answers for all of these, but I want to know your opinion first and get our community talking. Here’s how you can participate with your comments:
- 1. Choose any of the above questions, and take a stab at the answer.
- 2. Add questions of your own.
- 3. Add tips to help seniors navigate dating at our age.
- 4. What else should we know?
After I get an array of comments, I’ll write an update with my views. Your turn first!
Check out more “seniors dating” posts here.