Single & Unhappily Celibate after 40

Professionals over 40 tend to have one thing in common:  We tend to be independent and confident.  As a result, when we are not in a relationship, we don’t struggle as much as those who are more dependent on a partner.  We rely on ourselves for happiness, and though lunch is always more enjoyable with a partner, we won’t starve without!

But what about sex?

Try as we may, women of my generation and older just aren’t quite as comfortable with the more promiscuous sexual mores of our younger sisters and daughters.  Mature and respectable men, too, it seems, have a more gentlemanly approach to sex than the younger generations.

While there certainly are folks our age who play as hard as the current 20-somethings, most of us take a different approach.  But most of us have also spent the last few decades with the same partner, enjoying sex on a regular basis. And we miss it.

Let’s face it: Being single and celibate is not fun!  Finding a “friends-with-benefits” relationship may be a good alternative, but that requires an emotional disconnect that can be extraordinarily difficult, especially for women.  And no matter how skilled one may be at self-stimulation, it can’t adequately replace the satisfaction enjoyed with the right partner.

To add insult to a complicated situation, we may have “body issues” with which we did not have to contend in earlier decades.  Our one-time-spouses, to whom we thought we’d forever be married, grew accustomed to the stretch marks, surgical scars, and drooping body parts as these things developed over the years.

But someone new, someone experiencing your body for the first time, can only now dream of what you may have looked like in your youth!  He or she will be hit with all of the imperfections at once, and we know it.  Regardless of our level of confidence, stripping down to bare for the first time can be daunting.

I Googled the phrase “sex over 40 and single” and, amid the plethora of dating sites for the mature single, I found a nice little website that looked like it might be worthwhile.  Clicking on the link, my screen exploded with pop-up ads for arthritis medication!  If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what will.

You won’t find an answer here to the problem of fulfilling your sex life while you’re single.  But it begs the questions:  How do we find a suitable life partner at this age, whether or not we ever intend to marry again?  And just what are the rules nowadays, when it comes to acceptable sexual behavior?

Keeping in mind that many of us are also balancing less private matters concerning being single at mid-life, what strategies are there for taking care of this very basic, very human need?  How long do you wait before engaging in a sexual relationship with someone you are newly dating?  What is the man’s perspective when a woman is seemingly as eager — or more so — than he is to crawl under the sheets?

For each generation, the answers seem to be different.

It’s Your Turn:

Share your experiences, thoughts, and ideas. Feel free to post anonymously if you’d like!

~ Lynda C. Watts

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13 Responses to Single & Unhappily Celibate after 40

  1. take5photo says:

    Great, I have already bookmarked this page… I don’t have enough time right now to read it all but by reading the beginning part I must say…it was a positive start .. Would love to read further too…Thanks for great post!

  2. Jenny Carter says:

    I am over 40. I am married, but my husband is away from home for months at a time. So, in all essence I feel like I am single. The difference is that I do not feel the need to go out and meet anyone. I have been in this state of being for the past 10 months. My young 20 something friends cannot believe how long my husband go without seeing each other and often remark how they don’t know how I do it. Look I am older, more mature and do not feel the need for intimacy like I did when I was in my 30’s. I have already begun the stages of pre-menopause…I say, so sex is not on my mind 24/7, as it was when I was 30. But, I have to be honest. If I became single again (God forbid something would happened to my husband) I would become celibate. I have realized that I do not need a man to make me happy and honestly without any bickering at all…I rather enjoy it! I am not saying that I am against marriage, but lets be honest, it is WORK! It is a lot easier keeping myself happy then worrying about what I said, did or otherwise, to cause conflict between me and my husband (vise versa) I have this attitude because I have been there done that. Most woman my age that have not been married desire a partner and those that have been married most of their life…well WE desire to just be alone, to do what we want, when we want.

    • lyndacwatts says:

      You bring up the “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” argument / perspective. Your comment (which I appreciate!) brings up some points I’d like to address:

      It’s difficult for you to know what you would do if you weren’t married. All you can do is imagine it, and make presumptions. And, those 10 months that you are apart from your husband have very little similarity to the life of a single over-40 adult. The mere fact that you are married, regardless of where your spouse is physically situated, provides for you an intimacy that the single adult lacks. And I’m not talking about sex. I know and understand that marriage is “work,” but — believe it or not — so is being single. It’s an entirely different kind of work, with an entirely different set of problems, challenges, and issues — issues that most single people (who have been married, and have spent many years in marriage) would prefer to do without. I disagree with your statement that “those that have been married most of their life .. desire to just be alone…” In my experience, most who are still married (not newly married) over 40 are happy with the arrangement. They will have moments of unhappiness with their spouse, but, overall, choose marriage over being single.

      It’s your position that being single somehow translates into doing what you want, when you want it — and that marriage doesn’t allow for that. Again, I disagree (respectfully). The happiest marriages are those where each individual in the marriage does what s/he wants, when s/he wants. And, for that matter, I’ve personally yet to discover how to do what I want, when I want it, now that I’m single. It was much easier when I was marriage. And, no, I never would’ve imagined this perspective when I was still married. Like you, I only imagined — and my imagination was not in line with reality.

      By the way, peri-menopausal women often have a higher sex drive than a few years earlier. The hormone chaos is the cause. A low libido is often more likely the result of a stale relationship than anything physical — and it’s up to the woman to do something about that, like spicing up the relationship. And, unlike the points made in the article regarding celibacy for singles after 40, you do have clearly defined options for sex — even if you don’t enjoy it frequently, you can engage in it when your husband is home. So, even at an extraordinarily low number, like 2-3 times a year, it’s 2-3 times more annually than the morally conservative over-40 folks.

      My personal opinions regarding celibacy over 40 are not relevant; my point was simply to open the discussion for those who do fall into the “unhappily celibate” group, to invite an open discussion on what is and isn’t “acceptable”, etc. You’ve made some interesting points, and it was nice to read your comment. Thank you!

  3. Janice says:

    Great article! I’m glad to find this blog. Seriously, it’s the best one I’ve every come across, and I spend alot of time online! I’m not over 40, but i’m getting there very quickly!! As a single woman nearing 40, i also wonder about “the rules” now. I’ve been single for almost 5 years and even though i’ve been dating some i haven’t been able to bring myself to cross that all important line because i believe there is a difference between dating and going with someone. I know they don’t call it that anymore, but for me I just can’t sleep with someone unless i’m in a relationship with him. But its almost like a man nowadays wont even get to the point of a relationship unless you sleep with him! My bff is not quite as conservative as me and she thinks i should just go for it, but my old fashioned ideas are too controling. i just wish i could find that great guy who doesn’t bail after 3 or 4 dates when he’s ready to “go there” and I’m not. That seems to be where it fizzles out for me, and it definately leaves me “unhappily celibate.”

    • lyndacwatts says:

      Welcome, Janice! I came to my blog today to find comments all over the place from you — THANK YOU! I’m so glad you are enjoying the articles, etc. and I genuinely appreciate your participation.

      Let’s us know when you hit the big 4-0 ! Chances are, it’ll feel the same as 39. LOL Let us know, too, if you find the love of your life. 🙂


  4. Laura says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been celibate for 7 years following a break up (which occurred just after my 40th birthday). My last relationship was with an alcoholic and I simply can’t go through the humiliation of getting rejected at this age. Thank you for dealing with this topic honestly for those of us that are alone. I’m frankly sick of tripping over gung-ho articles encouraging me to reclaim my youth by hitting the dating scene. I think it is realistic to be wary!

  5. Susan says:

    This article really spoke to me! I have a high sex drive, and lots of energy. Unfortunately, I also have high standards, so I’m not giving it away on the street corners. I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years just a couple of months ago. I think about sex all the time. And I miss him; we shared a huge life, and would talk many times throughout the day. But he chose to stay a committed alcoholic, and now I am single and unhappily celibate. I have a lifetime of serial monogamy, so I’ve given myself a full year to focus on myself and see what shakes out. I have had offers, but I really do want to get married eventually, and stay married. I don’t want to muddy my focus by sleeping around, and I wouldn’t want my future husband to be dogging it all over town either. So, for now, my sex life is flirting, masturbation, and hard work. It’s inadequate, and I’ve only been doing this for 2 months. We’ll see what happens next year when I try dating! It’s mildly reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
    (FWIW, I’m 45, perimenopausal, have kids at home, and I’m about to become a grandmother.)


    I have no qualms on being beautiful happy independent almost a atty. Late 30s. Pushin forty still look mid to late 20s i m told by omg everyone even daughter high school lol and i lov bein single and celibate,it is not all women or guys who hate it or are unhappy,as i m just addin this,ok and i love ur blog page,love it have to spread the word on my facebook.

    No risk of disease,scumbagz con artist,i am waitin until mr.right! Life is too short to risk it,as your gettin older we should be more prudent,i love it.
    Sure do, i m just goin to date when i want to,build a business in law as i am do daily, and keep up with my teen girls and enjoy my dog,movies,books,datin if i want,again if i want,but no sex now until i marry again if i chooose,and or am engage,not before, and so far for me women/and men here,i am goin on six and a 1/2 years,since age 31. So happy.

    Bless u all email me anytime, i will be back here to read other good comment on this great topic.

    from future attorney.
    late 30s.
    nyc.nj,mom of teens,
    been celibate now six and a 1.2 years
    goin on almost seven actually early winter 2012.

  7. Treasure Lopez says:

    heather-marie the law future attorney there i read your post wow a few x. that is incredible. to be a non-sex/to be celibate for seven years, or six, is inspiration to me who had a issue with sex in the past. i sleep with men for well,the wrong reasons,even contract STD through the HPV thing. i regret it so much. i needed chemo,got cervical cancer,stage,THANK GOD was very early stage 2B
    i am in cancer-free full remission for almost the time your still celibate,so your ainspiration to me.
    you should have your own blog on that. i am sure many will find it empowering HeatherMarie,i just email you too.thank you.and your a great woman to be able to do that. without being “unhappily”
    about it. and i like this site too,will bookmark right now. I AM WITHOUT SEX first time in life for only 1 year,but i like it,more careful now health-wise,conscious and not risking ever again my life for no man,i am also a learner of God,much more happier,and i will make him take a aids /std test next time i get into a “serious relation”if not see ya. i am fine,by walking with god each day and loving him forever,without risk.

    Pammie Wilentz,

    New York City.
    age early forties.mother of 3 boys.17,25, and 15.

  8. Shannon Van Ryn says:

    It was really nice to read this article and everyone’s comments. I have been struggling with this exact issue for about 8 months now and am alternately depressed or resolved about it. 🙂 I have reclaimed by libido after being in a bad relationship for too many years. I am scared to care about someone again and having a “friends with benefits” did not work out for me, as I cannot detach myself emotionally that way. I hope to someday find that wonderful balance that will give me emotional and physical satisfaction while at the same time allow me to remain a strong and independent woman. And by the way, if anyone comes up with the appropriate “rules” regarding sexuality, I would love to read them.

    • good post. glad to be here.
      i just want to say i was celibate
      since dating in high school till now
      early forties,i don’t really miss it lol.seriously.
      i say,,when god make it happen for me,and the lucky fella! lol
      it will.Happy to read so many who are celibate. better to be “Safe”
      than sorry.

      from syd.

      • lyndacwatts says:

        Thank you for your comment, Syd. That is a LONG time to be celibate!

        The article isn’t advocating celibacy, necessarily. Rather, it brings up the issue of single adults who desire to have a sexual relationship but who play by different rules than most people (especially the younger generations). “Unhappily celibate” means “I’m celibate, but I wish I weren’t.” The question becomes, “In today’s society, how does a single adult balance his or her own sense of morality with his or her physical desires?”

        Lynda C Watts

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