Now don't go ditching a stable and satisfying marriage after being seduced into this article by the headline, even if things have become a bit stale. Stale can be revived. Incompatibility cannot. While healing from the harshness of divorce, here's some hopeful news:
While researching my new book, Sex After...Women Share How Intimacy Changes As Life Changes, a compilation of 150 interviews with women ages 20 through 90, I heard lots of breathy accounts from divorcees having the best sex of their lives.
"A pervasive myth is that quality of sex declines with age," said Dr. Melanie Davis, a certified sexuality educator and co-founder of the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness. "Studies have shown that many older adults are finding their sexual experiences to be even more sensual and satisfying than when they were younger."
Lucille is a California girl in her mid-fifties with a full-body tan and who works in the hospitality industry. She left a sexless marriage to a drug-abusing husband and is now living with a former NBA basketball player. With a boost from hormone therapy, she talks of "fantastic" post-menopausal sex, and discovering deep emotional fulfillment with her lanky boyfriend Johnny, who is ten years younger.
My sex life with Johnny was quite good from the start. But it's even gotten better -- my fifties have turned out to be really hot. Two years ago, I started using a testosterone cream, which I take along with progesterone. This has been fantastic for my post-menopausal libido.
The older-woman-younger-man thing, we don't really talk about that. We are very well matched, emotionally and physically. Intimacy is so much more important than most people want to admit. When I didn't have it, I buried myself in my work. And, I think most people who don't have it make excuses like, "Oh, I'm too busy to think about sex." Sure, there are people who are just asexual, but for most of us, my God, we truly need sex to feel alive!
The choice to shuck a bad marriage at midlife and beyond is being made more often, and with less trepidation. Women now occupy more than half of the management and professional positions in the U.S. work force, and can increasingly fend for themselves financially. Renee, who grew up in a working-class family in which her housewife mom felt stuck in a bad marriage, put herself through medical school and is now a successful physician.
"I never wanted to be dependent on a man," Renee, 55, told me. I met her at a party and knew she belonged in Sex After... when she introduced me to the person she was dating after divorce -- her pool man! Here is a segment from our interview:
My husband retired at the age of fifty-three, then did nothing for the rest of our marriage. I waited for years after his retirement for him to get a hobby, to go back to school, to volunteer, to do something. It didn't happen; he just drank more and more.
I had no desire for sex; it actually got to the point where he was repulsive to me. Finally, I pulled the plug when I realized this saying was true: "I'd rather be alone without you than lonely with you." The kids stayed with me most of the time.
For years after the divorce I had no desire to be intimate with a man. What turned my heart was when I found someone very nice and very attractive. And when he kissed me, something that I believed was dead inside of me totally came alive. I never thought I would feel this way again. And it was the pool guy -- a grown woman's fantasy!
Two years later are still together. I have become obsessed with sex. I am totally comfortable with my new guy and totally turned on by him. I never had this with my husband! I'm not robbing the cradle either -- this isn't a young pool boy. He is a man who is only a few years younger than me.
Initially he was like living out that fantasy, screwing my pool man. I thought the fantasy would go away but then the relationship kept lasting. Many women friends are staying in their marriages because of money. I didn't have to. When my mother was unhappy in her marriage and I urged her to leave she said, "I can't." She didn't have a profession. She couldn't sustain herself without a husband. From my teenage years, I always vowed if I was in a relationship it would be because I wanted to, not because I had to.
Ingrid is a 42-year woman who has also been awakened sexually after a 20-year "humiliating" marriage. But unlike Renee, the loss of her husband's income left her in a hole, as he has withdrawn payment of any household expenses. She is working overtime to support their young son, who is in her sole custody, and to pay off six-figure attorney bills. Solace has come in the form of a fawning new lover who also happens to be her son's Cub Scout leader.
Here is a swatch of our interview:
My ex-husband was volatile and completely degrading of everything I am. During the early years of our marriage we were very sexy, but the passion died quickly. I never had an orgasm with my husband. I don't think he ever knew this because I faked it.
When this new man came into my life, I was ready to be laid, quite frankly. It had been six years since I had sex! Oh God, it feels so great, having sex back in my life, skin against skin, the heavy breathing, the feel of a man.
I've been seeing him for a few months now and he is very bold in the bedroom. He loves to watch a woman touch herself, so he started buying me toys I never owned, like a vibrator. The sex is fantastic yet the chemistry is far more than physical. We have this great emotional energy between us.
So I am going a little wild as I escape a hurtful marriage. I would recommend this to any woman going through a bad divorce.
I'll leave you with a theme I found to be recurrent in all of my interviews, from recent college graduates to grandmothers: A woman's sexuality is of central importance to her until the day she dies, and that day is getting farther and farther away. With medical inroads and improved fitness regimens, women in their late 80s and early 90s are the fastest growing segment of the aging population. So there is lots of time ahead for second-chance love and carnal pleasures.
"I could easily live another 35 years and I refuse to live without good sex and real love," said Monica, 55, a real estate agent who divorced after 16 "miserable" years of marriage.
"I will never again sacrifice myself on a spiritual and psychological level to a man, like I did with my control-freak husband," she added. "I am attractive and smart, and I will find love again. Though I won't settle until I am swept off my feet. Not just sexually, but by the whole package -- mentally and soulfully."
Iris Krasnow's new book Sex After...Women Share How Intimacy Changes As Life Changes was recently released by Gotham Books. Connect with her at iriskrasnow.com