The next morning or even that night come the recriminations: Was it wrong to give that person the sexual green light when you had no intention of rekindling the emotional side of the relationship?
Marilyn, a year-old single colleague of mine, recently reconnected with someone she had worked with many years ago. A few weeks later, she joined him for " a wonderful weekend " in his home state. I'm in like with him — and that's exactly where I want to be. Marilyn's casual approach to maintaining a friendship with benefits typifies the mindset of older folks who have reconciled themselves to having "great fun" even if it's "just one of those things.
In The Normal Bar, a book I wrote last year with Chrisanna Northrup and James Witte, we reported that 61 percent of female survey respondents who had partners fantasized about someone they had met. For men, the figure was 90 percent. And should they be propositioned by someone they found attractive, 48 percent of the women and 69 percent of the men said they would be tempted to have sex outside the relationship.
Indeed, many surrendered to that lure in actuality: It found that 6 percent to 8 percent of singles age 50 and up were dating more than one person at a time. The same study revealed 11 percent of survey respondents were in a sexual relationship that did not involve cohabitation. Can a casual sexual relationship exact an emotional toll? For sure, people who associate intimacy with commitment are ill-suited to sex that's as meaningful as a summer breeze; for them, the FWB arrangement would be a bad idea.
That doesn't mean all casual lovers feel emotionally bereft in the wake of a purely physical rendezvous, mind you. Many say they're getting exactly what they want and need. Is that a deplorably manipulative state of affairs?
Possibly — until you stop to consider how many of us are comfortable with being unpartnered but how few of us are willing to remain untouched. Sixty-something sexologist Joan Price, for one, endorses "gray hookups," but with a couple of strong caveats: The people involved must be emotionally capable of handling their status as noncommitted bed partners, and they must protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases. In a national study conducted in , the Center for Sexual Health Promotion found sex partners over 50 twice as likely to use a condom when they regarded a sexual encounter as casual rather than as part of an ongoing relationship.
Mature sex partners do not have the best track record when it comes to using condoms, but at least they're likelier to use them when they know very little about a partner's sexual past — or present! Personally, I think it all comes down to a very simple choice at any age: Is enduring loneliness, celibacy and extreme horniness really a better option than exchanging a few "simple gifts" between friends?
Pepper Schwartz answers your sex, relationships and dating questions in her blog. See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more. Members can get a free coupon book with discount offers from brand name retailers. You are leaving AARP. Please return to AARP.
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