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How I Got My Libido Back in My Late 60s

‘I hadn’t had sex in so long that I feared I had forgotten how’

Ann Brenoff with her partner on the beach

Ann Brenoff

Ann Brenoff and her partner, Charles.

En español | Like many women my age, my libido went MIA sometime around menopause. In my case, it was coupled with my husband having health issues that precluded us from partaking in any “rolls in the hay,” as he once so sweetly called them. What I hadn’t counted on was that when the sex in my marriage died, it would take all the romance with it.

All of which is to say that by the time I lost my husband to heart and kidney disease, I was the poster girl for what it was like to live in a sexless marriage.

We lived together until my husband's death but years before we had stopped kissing, hugging or even holding hands. Occasionally I tangibly missed how when he held open a door for me, he would place his hand on the small of my back and gently guide me through. Even that stopped as his illness led to personality changes. For the last years of our marriage, he would just charge through doorways and let the door slam on all who followed — including me. I understood it was the disease speaking and tried not to let it bother me.

The truth is, long before he offered to move into the spare bedroom, I had wished he would. There, I said it. I was in a bad place on many levels, but I recognized that every ounce of sexual desire on my part had vanished, and I never believed for a minute that it would ever return.

Boy, was I wrong.

A little while after my husband died, I met the man with whom I’m planning on spending the rest of my life. He also is widowed, and our caregiving paths followed a similar course but never collided. We reckoned that there was a good chance our spouses were both patients in the same hospital at the same time, but our paths never consciously crossed.

We were total strangers when we met on an online dating site. I was there researching a story on romance scams and Charlie was there, as he so charmingly puts it, looking for me. He’s a bit of a cornball and says things like that all the time. And I’d take a cornball over a player any day.

Charlie says that mine was the first photo he clicked on. After texting back and forth for a bit, we advanced to phone calls. Our first call lasted two hours, and while neither of us can recall what we talked about, we both left the conversation stunned by its ease.

Our first in-real-life date was at a wine-tasting bar near my house. We arrived in separate cars just like all the online dating sites warn you to do. I came with my phone’s GPS tracking system turned on so that the police could find my dead body in case my instincts were rusty. We sipped wine, we talked. He made me laugh, and I found myself staring into his eyes, hoping to find a glimpse of his soul and heart.

As the date neared its end, I surprised even myself by reaching up, pulling his face toward mine and kissing him. I just wanted to, I told him later. It was my first kiss in more than a decade, and I hadn’t planned it. But it sure felt nice. So nice, in fact, that my knees buckled and I melted a little when he pulled me closer.

“I was more than a little worried how my body would respond, even with the spirit being willing.”

—Ann Brenoff

No, we did not fall into bed right then and there. Sex is a big deal for both of us. It signifies a commitment, and we had literally just met. But that kiss? That kiss was a taste of what was to come. And I was eager for it. Mind you, neither of us were or are interested in casual sex — something that has always been a contradiction in terms for me. If I’m having sex, it isn’t casual.

Plus, there is a practical aspect to starting a sexual relationship at any age, including one between two people in their late 60s. As responsible adults, we agreed we both needed to be tested for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. And for me, there was an additional concern as well: Would I even be physically capable of having intercourse after more than a decade of not having it? Was this a “use it or lose it” situation? A visit to the gynecologist yielded a prescription for an estrogen cream to toughen up the now-thin tissues of my vaginal walls and the suggestion that I experiment with a dildo to see how things felt. “Don’t attempt this without lubricant,” said the doctor, in a voice reminiscent of those car commercials cautioning viewers not to attempt the maneuvers of the stunt car drivers shown.

I was more than a little worried how my body would respond, even with the spirit being willing. In the interim, we spent hours kissing and touching and assuring one another that the relationship would not be derailed by performance issues — mine or his, although I was the only one having them.

We lingerie-shopped together and both got turned on; I felt sexier than I had in years. We went away together because nothing beats hotel foreplay when you don’t care who’s sleeping in the next room. We bought Star Jasmine plants at the Green Thumb Nursery after they prompted us to have a public makeout session — and have since dubbed them “the world’s greatest intoxicant for romance.” We played footsies under the table at fancy restaurants, creating our own little privacy bubble even if the place was crowded. I went panty-less, ramping up our desire for one another to off-the-chart levels.

Charlie made my re-entry into having a sexual relationship easy. He says we’ve both earned our wrinkles and lovingly claims to adore my belly fat. He’s a big-time snuggler and never rushed the physical side of our relationship. He took time and gave me all the time I needed.

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