Having the Conversation​: A Guide for Women Over 50

divorce sex dating

By Patricia Weitzman and Sarah Mack

Are you part of the growing group of people who are divorced and over the age of 50? If so, you might be thinking about something you haven’t thought about in a very long time — having sex with a new partner!

So, are you prepared? If you’re like many women your age, you probably didn’t have much in the way of sex education. You could be feeling embarrassed about bringing sexual health questions to your doctor or even asking your friends about it. But you do need to get educated because HIV and sexually-transmitted disease (STD) rates are rising in the over 50 crowd. Here are tips to get you started:

Step 1: Shake the shame

Society's view of aging women as sexless is wrong! Many women enjoy sex more in later life, perhaps because they are more experienced, and know what they want and enjoy. There’s no shame in having sex! When it’s safe, it can improve mental and physical health. It forges emotional connections, boosts your mood, improves your skin tone, burns fat and more!

Step 2: Know the facts

In today’s world of Tinder and Viagra, you have to know the facts. HIV and STDs are on the rise in older populations. This doesn’t mean you should avoid sex. Knowledge is power and protection! Here are stats you shouldn’t ignore. According to the CDC:

  • People age 50 and older have many of the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but may be less aware of their risk.
  • People aged 55 and older accounted for one-quarter of all Americans living with HIV in 2012.
  • Older Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV infection later in the course of their disease, when it is harder to treat.
  • In 2013, people age 50 and over accounted for 21% (8,575) of an estimated 47,352 HIV diagnoses in the United States. Of these, the largest number (44%, 3,747) was among those ages 50 to 54.

Step 3: Talk to your doctor and get tested

It’s natural to feel a little shy when you’re in the doctor’s office, and faced with the topic of sexual health. Especially if you see a male doctor who, unfortunately, may not even think to ask an older woman about her sex life. You may feel embarrassed about the questions you have, thinking someone your age should already know the answers. The truth is we all have more to learn. It’s important to have an open line of communication with your doctor. If you don’t feel comfortable raising issues about your sexual health with your primary care doctor, try talking to your gynecologist.  Gynecologists are often the most knowledgeable and easiest to talk to about these topics.

Above all, get talking and get tested! Getting tested allows you to tell a new partner that you’ve got a clean bill of health, and makes it easier to ask him to do the same.

Step 4: Know your body

Open up about worries you have about your changing body, whether it’s about what you look like, sexual performance, or just being shy. You’ll feel relieved once you put it out there, either to a friend, a partner, or a doctor.

Some of your anxiety may stem from a body that is producing less estrogen. Less estrogen can lead to vaginal dryness, making intercourse uncomfortable or painful. Personal lubricants, available in the drugstore, go a long way to making sex enjoyable.

Men also face physical issues after 50 including a delayed erection, less semen and a shorter organism. Being open about your anxieties may help your partner feel less uptight about addressing some of his needs and concerns.

Step 5: Know how to protect yourself

Condoms are not just for birth control! It may seem crazy to be using condoms after all these years, but condoms are a must, unless you’re in a monogamous relationship where you’ve both been tested for STDs.

Many women avoid negotiating condom use with new partners because they fear it will result in rejection or conflict. Sometimes the best approach is to normalize the behavior. If you’re headed out on a date, throw some condoms in your purse so you’ll have them on hand if things start to get sexy. Then you can nonchalantly pull a condom out of your purse like it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Here’s a guide from The Condom Depot with more information on what you should know about condoms.

Step 6: Prepare for the conversation

Prepare for the conversation about condoms in advance.  You might say something like “I feel it’s important to use condoms. They keep both of us safe. How do you feel about that?” Picture yourself saying a firm NO if need be. Often dating means dining out, perhaps a few glasses of wine. Unsafe sex is more likely to happen if you’re tipsy. That’s why it’s good to figure out ahead of time what will work for you — whether it’s going easy on the wine, pulling the condom out of your purse when the time comes, or initiating a the conversation before things get hot and heavy.

Whichever way you proceed, have a sense of humor about it. Humor lightens the mood, and allows both of you to bring up any concerns. Your openness may feel refreshing to your partner, and help everyone relax. Honesty can be sexy!