Despite societal myths about older women no longer mattering sexually, I have never met a midlife mom post-divorce who didn’t want to be appreciated and embraced as a sexual being. That’s not to say that there weren’t some women who were perfectly content to surrender their sexual identity to focus on raising their children or other things, a la Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Uncoupling. But there were many more women who were eager to have someone see them as sexual beings again — not just mothers.
It would have been nice if that “someone” was the man we married and the father of those children, but as all too often happens, women who become mothers are somehow stripped of their sexuality (in fairness, for some women, willingly). And all too often, those women rediscover it after divorce.
Like Delaine Moore, a 43-year-old Calgary mom of three who has written about her sexual explorations post-divorce and whose book, The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom, is also being turned into a TV movie. After her husband’s affair was discovered, Moore, who had been a stay-at-home-mom, sought to reclaim her sexuality by exploring, well, sex in its various iterations: she played around with BDSM, went to a sex club as a voyeur and dated younger men. Like many men, she — and a lot of other divorced women — learned to remove love from sex. Sex can be just sex.
When her story hit the local papers this weekend, it attracted the usual judgmental comments that spoke to the old sexual double standard; few have problems with a divorced father reclaiming his sexuality or having one-night stands or friends with benefits arrangements. But a divorced mother? Among the comments on the Calgary Sun’s story, people made note of her “whore-ish behaviour,” called her a “public whore” and noted that “Doting mothers don’t write about sex clubs unless they have their children’s permission.”
But she, like a lot of other divorced mothers, questions why shouldn’t we openly express ourselves as sexual beings? Why indeed.
In honesty, I would not write a memoir of my sexual reawakening post-divorce (yes, I had that, too, even though my former husband and I had a happy and active sex life right until the end) because I don’t think my kids, at 20 and 23, want to know too much (or anything, really) about my sex life. They know I have it, but I think it pretty much stops there. Nor would I want it being made into a movie, for TV or not. But I agree with Moore, whose kids are 9, 11 and 13, that “sex is not something to be ashamed of. … I openly talk age-appropriately to my children about sex.” Isn’t that healthy, given that sex is normal and natural, and that kids get a lot of negative sexual messages in the media?
If you find yourself divorced at midlife, look at it this way: your sexuality has been given a gift. New sexual partners and new sexual experiences can be incredible aphrodisiacs and confidence-boosters. There’s no history or battle scars from the typical domestic disappointments and resentments with a new partner. You’ll be acknowledged as a mother, but also as a sexual being. And that feels good.
Maybe you’ll even remember how much fun sex is, especially if your marital sex life had become routine (if you even had a sex life, that is). Having and raising kids, as joyous as that can be, changes a couple — not always for the better. Sex often becomes an obligation or something to avoid.
I recall listening to moms complain about their lack of libido as we sat together on the Little League bleachers or manned the table at the middle school bake sale. As a then-newly divorced and actively dating woman, I remember thinking to myself, their libido would be fine if they were with a new sexual partner. They hadn’t lost interest in sex, just in having sex with their husband.
I think we should celebrate middle-aged divorced women who are eager, willing and able to have a loving, sexual, passionate fling or relationship, whether they have kids or not. And if you’re a divorced middle-aged man, you’d be darn lucky to find one of them!
- Did you have a sexual awakening post-divorce?
- Did you experience a sexual double standard?
- How open should parents be about their sex life?