We may not always know what we want most when it comes to our sexual relationships. Sometimes it’s only after things go wrong that we realize what is really important. Truly intimate moments come when we feel safe and secure, trusted and respected. Trust and respect are more important than a hot sex date.
Two women have reached out to me recently with stories that reinforce this point. With their permission I am sharing a bit of their experiences.
The first is a woman who is probably in her late 40s to early 50s. She recently decided to explore multiple relationships. She met a like-minded man and they met and had sex a couple of times. She and her new friend talked about seeing other people and they had a brief discussion about condom use. Long story short-she found out he was having unprotected sex with another woman, a woman he identified as ‘ just a friend’. This might have all gone differently if he had admitted to the sexual relationship up front—after all they were both open to having multiple partners.
In the initial conversation about condoms he said he used them. But he didn’t say that he used a condom every time. And, she didn’t think to ask the question in that way. She is understandably upset about what he did. He lied about the other woman and lied about using condoms and by doing so put her at risk. That relationship is over. As she said to him, “you have not behaved in a away that indicates your respect and concern for my physical and emotional safety.”
In the second case, the man drilled his potential female partner about her sexual history and pushed her to get tested. When she began asking him the same questions he got very testy then confessed to having unprotected sex with a woman he met on-line. He didn’t feel the need to disclose nor did he seem to think the incident would have exposed him, or my acquaintance, with whom he was already having sex, to a sexually transmitted infection. His excuse for unprotected sex? This other woman was “mostly vanilla” and therefore safe.
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There are two issues here--the lack of awareness about the sexually transmitted infections (STI) and a lack of respect for one’s partner. In both situations the couples were comfortable having sex with multiple partners. What neither woman expected (and this could just as easily been the male partner) was the lack of honesty. No amount of good sex can make up for lying to a partner or showing disrespect for another person.
These aren’t youngsters I’m talking about –these are mature adults who were in the process of establishing sexual relationships.
How honest do we need to be in a relationship? Is it necessary to share one’s complete sexual history with every new partner? Not necessarily, but if one is having unprotected sex and not getting tested that should be shared. It’s one thing to expose yourself to a STI; it’s quite different altogether to put another partner at risk because you chose not to be honest.
As more boomers re-enter the dating scene, they are experimenting and exploring sexuality again. It’s not the same as it was back in our earlier years. Exploration can be great fun but it comes with a responsibility. We have to find a way to be open about what we’re doing—it’s a matter of respect for ourselves and our partners. And, it’s about creating relationships, however fleeting, that are built on mutual trust. Intimacy can be created in brief flings—it’s not the exclusive domain of long-term relationships. And, when we trust our partner we are more likely to have better sex and better communications.
Walker Thornton is a writer, sex educator and public speaker, with a Masters in Educational Psychology and over 10 years experience in the field of sexual violence against women. She is a strong advocate for midlife women’s sexuality, encouraging women to ‘step into their desire’. Kinkly.com ranked her blog, WalkerThornton.com, #17 in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013. Walker is the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about sex and the older adult for Kinkly.com. You can connect with her on her website (www.walkerthornton.com ), Facebook (https://facebook.com/AWomansPage ) Twitter (http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton) and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/+WalkerThornton/posts ).