How to Deal with a New Sex Partner After a 'Dry Spell'

What I learned about the physical and emotional anxieties of dating at midlife

by Leslie A. Westbrook • Next Avenue
blonde woman image
Photograph: Shutterstock

"Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place." — Billy Crystal

After three and a half years of casual online dating, I finally came across a fella on who sparked my interest, largely because he was interested in things beyond “candlelit dinners and sunset walks on the beach.” I read his amusing and engaging profile (and the photo wasn’t bad), and my intuition said, “This could be the one.”

I sent him a simple greeting and asked what movies and types of music he liked (those and political leanings are my litmus test). A flurry of emails led to a lively — and encouraging — phone conversation, which led to plans to meet for lunch a few days after Thanksgiving. We ordered bowls of clam chowder in a restaurant overlooking a boat harbor in Southern California, and that first date lasted three hours. 

About halfway through the meal, my insecurities kicked in big-time.

Am I Ready to Get Back in the Saddle?

This guy is attractive, funny and upbeat, and I could really like him, I thought to myself. But a deeper interior voice screamed, “Oh my God, he can’t possibly like me, and if he does, how do I tell him it’s been eons since I’ve been intimate with anyone?” Obviously these were not words I was planning to say out loud, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this was something that was very much on my mind.

Let’s-call-him-Sam wanted to meet again. And again. After spending quite a bit of time together and some cuddling and kissing on a cold winter’s night, I blurted out my confession.

“Sam, I really like you, but I am scared to death about making love with you. I'm not sure what changes menopause has brought, and, even more importantly,” I continued in what felt like one long run-on sentence, “I am frightened that physical intimacy might ruin our great friendship.”

What I didn’t admit was that I wasn’t sure I was “all in” just yet.

And, if I’m being totally honest, despite having really enjoyed making love over the centuries (20th and 21st), I wondered whether I was even that interested anymore. My hormone levels had clearly dropped off, and I hadn’t been feeling as sexually … charged … as I was in my younger days.

When I spent some time thinking about it, I realized that my reticence revolved around two things: physiological changes (dryness and thinning vaginal skin) and, more surprisingly, a whole new set of non-physical “prerequisites” for a lover.

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Next: How to Date After Divorce

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