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 57-year-old single colleague of mine, recently reconnected with someone she had worked with many years ago. "No," Marilyn said with a laugh, "it's better than that: I'm in like with him — and that's exactly where I want to be." She further confided that they planned to make their reunions "a regular thing — if four times a year can be called 'regular.' But I think that's about all I really want." 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." And episodic pleasure-seeking may be more common than you think: 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.
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Many older divorced or widowed men and women are in the same boat. You're probably not desperate enough to stalk your neighbors, or to go looking for friends with benefits in all the wrong places (bars come to mind).
They feel protective of their privacy and peace of mind, but they haven't become eunuchs or hermits. But offered a chance to reconnect with someone from your past — dinner with your high school steady, for example — you might just surprise yourself by winding up in bed.
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Further evidence of Roving Eye Syndrome came from a study of sexuality in the United States commissioned by AARP in 2009: 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.
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.
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!