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Relationships   

                         January 2010

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


 

IT COULD BE YOU...

Gay Widower

Dear Maggi

I am a 69 year old widower. My wife passed away two years ago, after 44 years of happy marriage. We have three daughters and seven grandchildren.

My wife married me in the full knowledge that I had a strong erotic preference for beautiful young men in their twenties. At that time homosexuality was illegal. Throughout our marriage our intimate life was good. But in no way did it lessen the attractions that I felt, though never ever translated in to action.

However, this summer a young man of my acquaintance texted me to say he was lonely and felt the need for sexual contact with me. This surprised me, because I knew he had girlfriends, and was thinking of marrying.

For my age I still have, I believe, a very powerful libido. At that stage in my bereavement this contact proved utterly transforming, and I was overwhelmed with the joy of anticipation. We met and made love completely and unashamedly. This experience has made me feel completely liberated, after a lifetime of repression, and I have told my daughters so, who feel complete sympathy for my state, in turn putting their own eldest children in the picture.

That summer day will remain forever etched in my memory as the moment when I at last became a whole person and came completely to terms with myself.

Disappointingly, despite some early promises to visit me again, he has never been back. He now never returns my calls, so I am left "high and dry", though I weep for him often. Nevertheless, he has earned my eternal gratitude by that one selfless act, which to him must have seemed so transitory, but for me meant so much.

It would be so marvellous to find another man who might care to share my love in this way. One hears that so-called "gay" men are supposed to be a quite promiscuous bunch. I am, of course, a complete innocent in these matters, and, in a way, am reluctant to violate the memory of that one "sacred" moment. Also, I feel that no woman could ever take the place of the darling wife with whom I shared so many years. What to do, Maggi ?

 

Maggi's reply..

I was impressed by the openness and honesty in your letter. Thank you. What has passed between you and the younger man is going to stay with you as one of the defining moments of your life. It has lifted you out of the grief you feel for your wife to show you that in every ending there is the chance for a new stage of life to begin – no matter what age we are.

What you do with that knowledge is key, and I feel that is what is troubling you now. You have in no way diminished the importance of your dear wife in your life – indeed you say she knew of your attraction to young men throughout your long and fruitful marriage – so in that way you have paid tribute to her acceptance and steadfast love for you. But it is how to move on in your new-found ‘complete’ self that is not obvious for you. Your daughters too know that you have a close enough relationship with them to have trusted them with news of what has occurred. That is a sign of a healthy, loving up-bringing and is a compliment to you and your wife.

You are obviously ready to move forward in your life, having grieved the loss of your wife for two years. But that is not long when you consider how long you have been together. 44years is quite an achievement but it is also most of your adult years. While it was a happy union there was an unspoken need within you that was kept locked in. That it has been liberated now is wonderful for you but you need to proceed with care.

Most people remember their first sexual encounter. For some it is a disappointment and for many nothing will ever compare to the exhilaration and intensity of that experience. That is not to say that there isn’t better to come. There usually is. As our knowledge of our own body and emotional needs increases, so the intensity of the physical part of sex is deepened to something more profound. Your time with the young man will remain perfect for you as your first homosexual experience. But it is possible that he has had other encounters. He is very young and is searching for sensation as well as love. It is sad for you, but he will probably have not put the same importance on your encounter even though he took great pleasure in it. You have to decide which of these you want too. You will not be diminishing the importance of it for yourself if you too, move on, and find someone better suited to being in a longer term relationship.

There are many ways of looking for what you need but take time and care over this. You will have many friends, made by you and your wife over the long years together. Not all of them will greet news of your sexuality with gladness. Happily there will always be some who felt that they always knew you might be quietly gay and accept you are the same good friend as ever. I’m sure you will gradually find ways to let people know - when it is necessary - and ways to avoid the issue with others.

With so many websites and newspaper columns that are devoted to finding friendship and love, you can spend time looking through to select what feels most suited to you. Look at the way writers word their ‘ads’ and decide if the way they express themselves is attractive to you. Some can have a general air of recklessness, or focus on physical needs, or others can give a feeling that those writing are seriously want to find long term friendship or love.

You might find it easier to move on to this new and exciting stage of your life if you are able to find some kind of support group in your area and talk things through with them first. I have included two very helpful website addresses in case you have not found them already.

You have always taken care of those around you and been most considerate of their needs. That need not change now, just make sure that you give yourself the same attention. Pay great attention to your own health and happiness and be prepared for a few upsets on the way. It feels like you are about to embark once again on the journey we undertake in our teens – searching for a good partner – except that we have to do this while finding ourselves as well. You have far greater knowledge and wisdom than a teenager. Use it to follow your instinct about what you want, what you need, how others make you feel and, if possible, why.

If you can manage all that you will be well on the way to enjoying that new part of your life alongside the happiness your old life holds for you.

I wish you good fortune.

www.stonewall.org.uk
www.gaychristianonline.org

 


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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