I hadn’t even properly disrobed in front of my ex in the dying years dating a man going through a divorce our relationship you can imagine my fear of sex with a new partner, writes KAREN GLASER. The morning found me with a slight champagne hangover and the smudged remains of the previous evening’s carefully applied make-up on an unfamiliar pillow.
It was the morning after the night I’d been fretting about for the previous two-and-a half weeks, and the prospect of which had terrified me for the past three years. I had just spent the night with Stephen – the first man I’d been intimate with since the break-up of my 15-year marriage. This was the first time in 20 years that I’d found myself lying beside a sleeping form with whom I’d shared none of life’s major milestones: not children, not mortgage, not wedding. All we’d shared were a few jolly nights out, where we’d tentatively opened up to each other.
As I mulled this over in this strange bedroom, I was overwhelmed with confusion. Here I was sharing a bed with a man about whom I knew so little, he didn’t even know whether to offer me tea or coffee. The encounter had left me experiencing such a torrent of emotion, what did it say about the new, unfettered me? Want to look as chic as a French woman? Teen model Georgina got so thin her organs were failing. But at the same time I still fizzed with the euphoria I’d revelled in the night before.
I had returned to a strange land where I hadn’t thought I belonged any more. A club to which I – a 45-year-old with a body battle-scarred by time and childbirth – thought my membership had expired. It’s a place more and more middle-aged women like me find themselves nowadays, as marriages break down and society now fully expects – indeed encourages – us to embrace the dating scene again with the same gusto we displayed in our youth. Not so long ago, a newly single woman in her 40s, with two children, would have been expected by society to put on a brave face, say nothing of the pain caused by her divorce and resign herself to celibacy. I wasn’t even thinking about dating, let alone sex, at all.
That part of me had shut down. But today, in a society where 42 per cent of marriages end, leaving thousands of women in their 40s like me, bruised and lonely, there is a belief that middle-aged women can and should find new love. I was not of that mind, though, when my husband and I split up three years ago. I didn’t expect to find love again, and, besides, the thought of being intimate with another man sent me into a mild panic. The creeping waistline, the not-so-perky breasts how on earth could I ever undress in front of someone again?
To a man who has been with you through two pregnancies, stretchmarks are one thing. The thought of a new lover appraising them on your naked form is quite another. Add to that the fact that I hadn’t even properly disrobed in front of my ex in the dying years of our relationship and you can imagine the fear sex with a new partner instilled in me. My ex and I had become more like brother and sister than Mr and Mrs, and, like many siblings, we fought like cat and dog. But the things we argued about were far from familial. They were the classic gripes of long-haul coupledom: housework, childcare and money.
In the end, the brawls became so unpleasant, so frequent and so personal that I asked for a separation. On May 1, 2010, my husband left the family home, leaving me alone with our two children, then aged nine and two. In the event, it was, thank goodness, a relatively cordial separation – when my ex visits the children, he often stays with us. After the split I felt sad for my daughter and son.
When I had planned my family, this was not how I imagined life would turn out. But I also felt tremendous relief. It was so wonderful to be single again. To have no one to argue with. To go to bed on my own. To not find dirty socks under the bed, and stubble in the sink. But, inevitably, this euphoria didn’t last.
After a couple of months, I was utterly exhausted. Every working mother with young children knows how difficult it is to do two jobs. Well, if you are a single working mother, it is twice as hard. It left me with little inclination and no energy for another relationship. My sexuality was in a Snow White-sleep, from which I had neither the courage nor the desire to wake. The wild, sensual woman I’d been in my 20s felt like a person I’d once known but no longer had anything in common with.