Love & Sex

How We Love Now – Changes for Women Over 50

The generation of women entering Second Adulthood is coping with their changing identities, dreams, desires, experiences, accomplishments, and the issue of finding love after fifty. Through the women Levine interviews, her research, and her own life experience as a journalist as well as a wife and mother of two, HOW WE LOVE NOW tells funny, poignant, and heartwarming stories of the frustration and exhilaration found in self-discovery. Women are still lusting and loving as they age, and although their needs and bodies have changed, they are enjoying it more than ever.

HOW WE LOVE NOW aims to help women understand their changing needs, navigate love and intimacy in their Second Adulthood, and explore new sexuality. It’s about risk taking, and finding, not losing yourself. Topics include:

  • “From Dependence to Independence to Interdependence”
  • “Turning On to Our Sexuality – Even If We Undress in the Dark”
  • “A Second Chance at Getting it Right”
  • “Love and Work – Together at Last”
  • “Cyberspace—Where The Action Is”
  • “Care Getting—The Next Frontier”

Many women can be disillusioned by the notion that life has to be stagnant and lackluster once you reach your fifties. However, this book delivers the message that love knows no age limits, and that the second half of our lives can be lived with freedom, joy, and satisfying intimacy that is even more enjoyable than ever.

Q: You say in HOW WE LOVE NOW that women in Second Adulthood—those in midlife or Boomers—are living totally new love, sex, and intimacy narratives. What is going on?

A: The simple answer is that we finally know who we are. And what we want! We used to see being loved as filling a need; we were “needy.” By Second Adulthood we are beginning to take charge of our own lives, and we are paying attention to our emotional wants. We are ready to take more chances, explore new kinds of relationships, and refire long-term loves. The New Intimacy, as we are experiencing it, is about finding, not losing, yourself in a relationship.

Q: When it comes to love, what’s the good news for women in their 50s, 60s and 70s?

A: I am happy to report there is very good news! We’re learning:

  • Being in love knows no age limits:

    The kinds of love we can experience in a lifetime are limited only by our imagination and our circumstances.

  • The spark is still there:

    The sexual tingle or “click” when two people connect—doesn’t disappear with maturity.

  • Physical appeal is still important:

    But respect, humor, trust and tenderness are important turn-ons too.

  • What we call love now is not a replay of earlier relationships:

    Our requirements have shifted—the former “jerk” or “nerd” may be transformed into an adored and thoughtful companion, and the “bad boy” may have lost his appeal under our new priorities.

  • The eyes-light-up glow of Oxycontin:

    The so-called “cuddle” or “social bonding” hormone—is triggered by a wide range of loving relationships, including friends, grandchildren, colleagues as well as romantic partners.

  • The “New Intimacy” goes well beyond the bedroom.

    With the “mellowness” that comes with experience, we love more deeply and with less judgment; we are able to appreciate the gift of a glass half-full.

  • Friendships:

    Our intimate “Circle of Trust” and the “Horizontal Role Models” of our generation set the gold standard for nurturance, support and shared intimacy as we are redefining them.

Q: And how’s the SEX?

A: My interviews have revealed that many women—many more than anyone imagined—are lusting, loving and enjoying sex more with a variety of partners; they’re feeling “Adult” not “Old.” We’re not slowing down, we’re:

  • Having sex that is “hotter than a hot flash”
  • Falling for the short, balding and very shy guy with GED who has “a PhD in life experience” instead of the “dream boat” or “knight in shining armor”
  • Becoming a “serial monogamist” or finding the joys in no-stress hookups
  • Exploring previously “forbidden” territory on the Internet
  • Finding a high school sweetheart on Facebook and delighting in “Rekindled “Romance”
  • Falling in love for the first time (the Real Thing at last!) or with a younger man
  • Falling in love all over again with a husband of many years
  • Feeling drawn to other women—discovering the eroticism, fireworks of same sex intimacy
  • Enjoying foreplay at least as much as the act itself
  • Finding love and marriage after a divorce—a second chance to get it right
  • Seeing a “solo sex life” or companionship without sex as positive choices

Q: HOW WE LOVE NOW is filled with women’s stories and intimate details about their relationships. How did you get women to share this information?

A: I interviewed hundreds of women, used my own experience and that of my friends, and I sought out the available research. And I posted a short questionnaire on several popular women’s sites, the stories came pouring in! As I say in one chapter “Cyberspace—Where the Action Is!” the Internet changes everything; online it is possible to tell the truth without consequences and achieve intimacy without proximity. It also offers opportunities for trying on different personas, revealing intimacies we never dared share—“I can’t believe I’m telling you this…”—and finding community.

Q: What makes Second Adulthood a new stage of life for women?

A: We are not our mother’s generation, when women accepted the conventional wisdom that menopause—what used to call “the change of life”—meant the end of change and adventure. No other generation has had such an open field to play in. Statistically, we have twenty-five years ahead when our brains and bodies are still vibrant—from fifty through our seventies—to pursue work, relationships and intimacy with passion. Sex may be the first frontier a midlife woman crosses or the last, but “crossing the line,” is what sets us on new paths.

Q: What is the “Fertile Void”?

A: Around age 50, most women enter what I call the “Fertile Void”—a time of hormonal change and as seemingly confusing, creative and turbulent as adolescence. We appear to ourselves and may to others as if we are drifting aimlessly. But, we really are just giving ourselves important time-out to figure things out. Only then, can we begin to recalibrate, set our priorities, and continue to invent our lives as we go along. It is a time of confusion and of self-discovery.
Many women find themselves stuck in lifeless marriages or dead-end lives and can’t see a way out. For them, the idea of change, let alone love and intimacy at midlife is almost unimaginable. Getting unstuck is perhaps the biggest challenge of the Fertile Void. It is important not to expect yourself to transform yourself or find a hidden passion overnight; the smallest change can become the first step. From there, the world starts to look different. And you begin to understand that you are different—not who you were only older.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

A: My goal with this book was to map out the uncharted territory where women my age are experiencing love. HOW WE LOVE NOW is about how love feels different, why love feels different now, and most important: how we are different in this stage. We haven’t yet demystified this experience, but we have opened up the conversation; we are beginning to develop a new language for love and intimacy as we live it.

I want to encourage women to take inventory of the intimate connections that are already enriching their lives—women friends, work or volunteer relationships, children, children-in-law, grandchildren—and ask themselves what love means to them now. I hope that women reading the true and touching stories in this book will learn about themselves and be reassured by the knowledge that there are many other women on this same path.

Q: As the first editor of Ms. magazine, where do you think the women’s movement has had its greatest impact?

A: The freedom and expanded opportunities achieved in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies shaped our generation.

Whether a woman was politically active or totally unsympathetic, to be alive then was to be affected, When that woman reaches Second Adulthood, she has the confidence and experience to explore what is behind the doors that were opened—many for the first time.

Work has become a primary relationship.

We are the first generation to succeed at and even love our work. We also find community and emotional sustenance in the workplace even when the rest of our lives aren’t going so well—my colleagues and I once formed a “Thank God it’s Monday Club” to celebrate that gift. As we go forward, those who have been working in one area may look to an “Encore Career” —paid jobs that utilize and build on our skills, experience and passion, and provide opportunities to give back. Others become entrepreneurs or go back to school.

Women have become whole people.

Our generation opened doors for women in sports, law and medical schools, and made women’s history part of everyone’s curriculum. We’ve challenged and changed laws, taken charge of our economic lives and our health. We made ourselves heard in politics, business and the home. We created a vocabulary for the previously “unspeakable” or unspoken of: domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and reproductive freedom. So many of the issues that were cutting edge then have majority support now and are part of all our lives.

Q: What about the future? What remains to be done?

A: Women are still considered the primary caretakers.

We are the “sandwich generation” women who may still have the responsibility for children and are expected assume a primary caretaking role for elderly parents or spouses. We are only at the very early stages of being able to say “no” to some tasks and ask for and accept help with others. I see care getting as the next frontier—preserving, protecting, and defending that core where you go home to yourself no matter what.

Economically there is much to do.

Women still don’t earn what men earn in many jobs, and both women and men are struggling to balance work and family in a society that does almost nothing to support working parents. Today’s economic stresses are causing some to see young and old pitted against each other for available jobs. We all have an interest in making the workplace more flexible and reflective of how people of all ages really live.

Ageism is rampant.

And women suffer disproportionately. We are often socially invisible, and there is relentless pressure to look younger. Older women who are sexual beings are ridiculed as “cougars” while older men with younger women are admired. The medical profession doesn’t pay enough attention to the ways women’s bodies work—and age.

We are living a new stage, not old age!

Suzanne Braun Levine is a pioneer in charting the exciting territory women enter after fifty. Levine’s latest book HOW WE LOVE NOW: SEX AND THE NEW INTIMACY IN SECOND ADULTHOOD is an inspiring exploration of the many ways women are finding love and redefining their relationships in their Second Adulthood. Levine’s research, surveys, and interviews tell a story of thousands of women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are defying myth and expectations, and discovering that love can be even more surprising and fulfilling than ever.

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