Love, Sex, and Romance After 50
By Michael Brickey, Ph.D.
The Times Are Changing
Television shows like to snicker at and make fun of grey-haired romance, but in real life, love often gets better with age. One reason is that many of us learn from experience and mistakes. With age we also tend to learn to manage our emotions better, deal with conflict better, and know when to try to change someone’s behavior and when to let it go because arguing would be futile at best. Research finds that we tend to focus more on the positive as we age.
Young adults are often so preoccupied with making a career splash and rearing children that there is little time left for love and romance. While teens and young adults often pick mates on the basis of who is “hottest,” prettiest, or most popular, older adults tend to place more emphasis on being kind, considerate, and having common interests (beyond pop music).
Baby Boomers hate limits and while “The Greatest Generation” might be inclined to give up on pursuing amore after fifty, Boomers are convinced the old rules don’t apply to them. One of the old rules was that men pursued women their age or younger. But now there are as many women dating younger men as the other way around. So now we have cougars as well as wolves pursuing younger partners.
Finding Love Online
I’m an incurable romantic and love romantic movies like You’ve Got Mail. You remember Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan falling deeper in love with each email. It was a big product placement coup for AOL. While AOL email is near extinction, online dating is second only to porn in Internet paid content. Not just for kids, more than 4.8 million people over 50 have used online dating.
Psychologist and www.onlinedatingmagazine.com online dating columnist Dr. James Houran advises that the best way to start with online dating is with some of the large, free sites like www.plentyoffish.com. He also likes that site because it provides a lot of how to advice. (Free sites make their money from advertising and referral links.)
After trying free general sites, you will have a better idea of whether specialty sites are worth pursuing. Specialty sites often focus on common interests, e.g., religion, political views, hobbies, pets, sexual preferences, and seniors. Some, like eharmony.com emphasize matching personality traits. Research suggests that shared values, religious views, political views, and IQ help bonding while with personality traits it is a tossup whether likes or opposites attract more.
Dr. Houran advises online daters to spend the most time on your pictures. Potential dates aren’t necessarily looking for the pettiest or handsomest person, but for someone who looks kind and approachable. Usually people spend only a few seconds with pictures before deciding whether to read on or move on.
Better Sex After 50
Our humor is a good indication of how important sex is to us, and how much anxiety we have about sex. It takes more than a little blue pill to have a fulfilling sex life. Fortunately, several factors conspire to make sex potentially better than ever after fifty. One factor is that with children reared and careers well established or winding down, couples have more time for each other. There is no more fear of children interrupting intimacy or fear of an unwanted pregnancy. Because an older man often needs more stimulation to get and keep and erection, women often find he is more emotionally involved and present than he was in their younger years. Instead of hot and steamy microwave sex that is over in minutes, older couples are more likely to pursue “slow cooking.”
Sexologist Dr. Robert Birch says the most important ingredient for sex after fifty is to “focus on the trip rather than the destination.” If a man or woman believes sex is only “successful” if he or she had an orgasm during intercourse, aging can be humbling. But if they are enjoying all aspects of the sexual experience, an orgasm, from any method, is merely icing on the cake. A key is focusing on the sensual as opposed to performance, and talking positively, e.g., I love it when you do that, as opposed to why don’t you ever....
From decades of clinical experience, Dr. Birch observes that it is surprising how many men avoid sex for fear of “performance” problems. Focusing on the journey attenuates those anxieties. Women’s biggest fear is that their man or men will no longer find them attractive.
Dr. Birch also notes that “A lot of women think there is something wrong with them if they don’t climax during intercourse. The truth is that most women never climax during intercourse, but most can climax with extra stimulation before or after intercourse.” If you have any doubts about older people getting it on, consider Senator Strom Thurmond. Even in his nineties he was notorious for pursuing women. As Senator JohnTower put it, “When Strom dies, they'll have to beat down his pecker with a baseball bat to close the coffin lid.”
Love, sex and romance after fifty aren’t about “finding” love but developing a loving relationship. Especially after fifty, that usually takes planning, effort, clarity about who you are and what you want, and a belief that it’s never too late. There are many paths including self-improvement, finding kindred spirits, rekindling an old romance, and online dating. The reward is feeling like you are a sixteen-year-old in love, even if your body is 60, 80, or 100.