Episode Transcript: Caller, You're On The Air
LAURA STASSI: 00:06
This is “Dating While Gray: The Grown-up’s Guide to Love, Sex, and Relationships.” I'm Laura Stassi.
Can you believe, this is the final episode of Season 3! And we have something special planned. Instead of our usual format, where we explore one specific topic, we're hearing from you -- the listeners: comments you want to share with the Dating While Gray community, and questions you'd like experts to address. So we're calling this episode something I've been itching to say: Caller, You're On The Air.
Whenever listeners send emails and voicemails, I'm reminded that while our individual experiences are so personal, they're also universal … like these two comments, and then a question.
CALLER 1: 00:57
Hi, Laura, I want you to know how much I enjoy your show. I've been listening from the beginning and enjoy hearing about love for adults my age. I'm 58 years old and have been divorced now for as long as I was married: 18 years. The marriage ended badly, and I chose to concentrate on my career and raising my three young children instead of dating. I had a lot of healing to do, and had no room to bring anyone into my life.
Fast forward to five years ago. My children started leaving for college, and I decided it was time. I joined Match and met a great guy who had no trouble embracing my multicultural, mixed-race family -- something that is obviously very important to me in a partner. We dated for three years, talked about a life together. And then he decided it was over, and he ended the relationship. That was tough.
It's been two years since this breakup, and I am now back on Match. I'm a pretty good catch. I have a master's degree, a wonderful career. And even though I shut myself off from dating for a very long time, I never thought I would end up alone. But now I'm starting to think I may have waited too long to put myself out there. The stories you tell give me hope that maybe it can still happen for me.
CALLER 2: 02:28
Hi, Laura, oh, I love this new feature -- to be able to say hello to you. Well, you're doing wonderful things. And it's super gray out here in Portland. So all I need is some dating to go along with that.
Hello, Laura. My name is Luann. And I want to let you know how much I love your podcast. I only discovered it several weeks ago. And I could have used it 10 years ago, when I moved to North Carolina from Montana after a 37-year marriage ended. But I'm 72 and I met a 73-year-old man, and I just returned from a wonderful two-week adventure with him. Part of it was on his 2019 Harley. But here's something I discovered: He does not seem to know about erogenous zones. He's 73 years old! He's been married twice and in other relationships. Is there some way to help him learn besides just me telling him? I think it would be helpful if there was something he could read. I would appreciate your help. And if you can refer me to any materials that might be helpful to him without being insulting, I would love it. Thank you.
LuAnn, I think a lot of us wouldn't mind talking about erogenous zones. So I'm turning to Jane Fleishman. She's a sexuality educator, researcher and writer. And she says she's on a mission to promote sexual wellness in older adults. I started by asking Jane if mismatched libidos, or not equally pleasurable experiences, is a common problem among older couples.
JANE FLEISHMAN: It's a common problem among everyone, Laura. You know, one of the things that sex therapists often have to deal with in their offices are people who have sort of – you used the word mismatched. That's a good word, but they have different sources of what gets them aroused and different ways that they become aroused, and then different ways that they achieve their own pleasure.
There are different types of -- why don’t we call it doors to enter, right?
JANE: Your door to enter might be this you know, beautiful buffet of fruits and chocolate and cheese
Yumminess, and somebody else's door to enter might be a great musical interlude that just gets them excited, right? You've got to find out what the doorway is. And the way to do that, of course, is to learn more about your partner. So when she says her boyfriend doesn't really understand her erogenous zones, it might be that the back of her knee is just the hottest part of her right now. But he'll never know about it, unless she teaches him.
LAURA: Okay, so it's not like there are universal erogenous zones.
JANE: No, in fact, wouldn't that be easy? And wouldn't that be boring? I think that, you know, Alfred Kinsey studied moths, right, because he thought moths were so incredibly different. And he realized from studying insects, that he could extrapolate from that to the human sexual experience. That's where he began with looking at a different, completely different world. And when he started looking at people, he realized that people have just a myriad of different types of arousal and parts of the body that really get turned on or get turned off.
So there's brakes that get turned off, things that -- you stick your tongue in someone's mouth too far. And it's just a total turnoff. And accelerators that turn them on -- you stick your tongue in their mouth just the right amount, and it just drives them right into ecstasy. So yeah, there's a lot of differences.
LAURA: We can’t assume that he just doesn't know what he's doing.
JANE: Of course not, let's not be pejorative of him, right? He's doing the best he can. And never underestimate the lack of sexuality education that any of us have. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was doing the best he could. And perhaps his former partners were doing the best they could in terms of their communication skills. But it sounds like your listener might want something more. And so have an idea. So what -- can I try this out on you?
JANE: So Laura, what if she asked him to do an activity that sex therapists use called body mapping.
LAURA: Body mapping -- tell me about this.
JANE: So the idea is that without having sex with each other, whatever they define as sex, they touch each other's bodies in an explorer’s kind of way, in a researcher’s kind of way, in a way to find out what they can discover. And they lay their hands on each other's bodies -- all over their bodies, not just nipples and penis and scrotum and vulva and clitoris, right? Not the sort of x the part that they think might be excited. But maybe the crevices below there, but maybe the in-between their toes, all over the body. And then take note what feels good and what feels absolutely like a taboo. And never underestimate that people may have trauma in different parts of their bodies. And so trauma may affect them in the long term around, like, that's a place that you can't touch. That's where I was hurt. That's where I was abused. I don't want you to go there. And so the body mapping activity could be a really wonderful way of, of touching without any preconceived notion that we're going to have sex at that time. This is just about exploring.
And then they could also do something where they make a list of all the different things that they like. And then they trade lists. And they say, okay, well, I need to have C and E, but no on F and G and H. So let's not go there. They can really find a mutuality. That could be really great. And without, without worrying too much about is this right? Is this wrong? Is this politically correct? Is this not okay? Maybe a fantasy that they could share might be something. But remember also, one thing that I really love about teaching older adults about sex is they're very forgiving about awkwardness. And so the body mapping activity might feel a little awkward -- might be like, what is it? What are we doing here? And also, sexuality, when you're older becomes sometimes awkward. Sometimes there's a body odor or something that happens …
LAURA: Noises …
JANE: Something that gets emitted from a body part that you weren't expecting. Just be willing to have some good humor about it and laugh, because we all have it. And, you know, it's just part of our aging. And thank God, we're here, right? Thank God, we're still alive and we can be with ourselves or anyone else.
LAURA: Exactly. So I want to go a little bit into this body mapping because it sounds like a lovely, fun idea for me. Is it a one-at-a-time thing?
JANE: Right, right. So I think what you want to do is to set up some ground rules, right? So if you and I were trying to this out and we were in a partnership, we would start by saying, okay, this feels really weird. I'm not sure I can receive. How about if I'd be the one who tries it out on you. I touch you. I mean, like, really check in with each other. And then you might also try another activity, which is touching the other person's hands, just your hands, the way that you want to be touched. And then switch it up and touch their hands the way you'd like to touch them, and see what happens. And then have some conversation. The conversation’s the most important thing, right? These activities are great. But you've got to have that quarter of an inch -- a quarter of an inch away from each other's eyes to be able to say, that was unbelievable, or, no way, I'll never do that. Or let's try a little bit more of this or more pressure or less pressure, you know what I'm saying? Or -- that the body mapping has to be done on your own terms, and consent would be the right way to start. Do you feel comfortable if we tried this out? No way. Okay. Good to know.
So if your listener wants to do this with a boyfriend, he might be totally game and say, Sure, what the heck, you know, I'm ready to start. Or he might say, that sounds like you've been listening to that weird podcast again. It's all about consent. And it's all about conversation. And it's all about setting some ground rules, and then have some fun with it.
So let's say she does want to bring up you know, body mapping as an activity. Is that something to talk about, you know, schedule it, or at the moment, kind of bring it up? Or how -- what's the timing?
JANE: I'm a big fan of being prepared. I was a Girl Scout when I was a kid. I really think when we're older, we can't just spring stuff on each other. So maybe use your phone and text them a sexy little text that says, hey, I want to try something new with you and it has nothing to do with us -- either of us even trying to have an orgasm. I just want to try something out. That might help us. I heard about something -- you know what I mean? Just give the other person a little information, not too much, but just a little information to pique their interest. And then maybe they'll say, wow, this sounds like it's something new. Maybe I'll be willing to try it.
Jane also has done TED talks, and she has a podcast. She said Luann could suggest to her partner that they listen together. Speaking of listening, we'll hear more comments and questions after the break.
SILVER SINGLES BREAK
A couple of episodes we did this season about online dating and May December romances prompted these three comments.
Hi, Laura, I really enjoyed the episode about the dating sites and dating apps. There's a lot more to having a good experience using dating apps. I should know, I belong to four of them. And one tip I want to throw out to everyone, especially the men, is to include some flattering photos, recent photos -- and many of us know when you lie about your age. We can all have a better experience if we know exactly what we're getting ourselves into. And I want to wish everyone luck. Thanks. Bye.
CALLER 4: 14:05
My name is Chris and I've been listening to Dating While Gray since the first season. I think Laura does a wonderful job of navigating dating in the later years. As we age, honesty is more important than ever before. At this stage of our lives, I believe it is important to be true to your age and all that it represents. Be gray. Have a wrinkle or two.
CALLER 5: 14:26
Hi, Laura. I have encountered so many people who lie about their age. I understand the temptation. Now that I'm 59, I'm getting fewer right swipes. But I really don't want to start a relationship on a lie. I've turned down dates when I found out that he's lying about his age. Seems like a sign of future manipulation.
LAURA: Thanks, everyone, for sharing. Now, here's a question from a listener who didn't want to speak. We're using a voice actor to read an edited version of her email.
VOICE ACTOR: 15:04
I'd like to hear about when to introduce adult kids to a new partner. My boyfriend and I have been together five years now, but he still hasn't met my sons. He doesn't have any kids himself. My sons are willing to meet him, but my boyfriend seems hesitant. He always asks if my sons have said specifically, they want to meet him. I've told him that they told me they'd like to, I think part of the problem is that my sons have a good relationship with their dad. Any suggestions to smooth the way to get my sons and my boyfriend to meet? My sons are 23,26, and 28. My oldest son is married with one daughter, the other two are single. My boyfriend is 53, and I'm 56. I really want my boyfriend to become a part of my family and enjoy spending time with my sons, daughter-in-law and now, my new granddaughter.
For help on this one, I talked to Carol Hughes. She's a licensed marriage and family Therapist in private practice in California, and she also works as a family specialist and mediator in the collaborative divorce process. Carol is co-author of the book “Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce.”
I was thrilled to find Carol, because there's not a lot of information out there on this subject. And I began by asking her if there are any general rules about when to introduce adult kids to a new romantic partner?
CAROL HUGHES 16:38
Yes, I would say generally, there are. And then it also depends on where the adult children are in their development just as adults, because children who are 18 or 20 aren't in the same adult developmental stages as those who are 40 or 50, let's say. And so that's part of a dynamic as well. But generally, it's best if parents wait -- at least until the divorce is over, if not longer, to give the adult children a chance to adjust. And if they have -- and their grandchildren Just let the whole family system adjust because there's a researcher in Australia that says divorce is never a neutral event for adult children.
So you know, a lot of times the parents are ahead of the adult children in terms of accepting the divorce, especially depending on when they tell them. So I would say that a lot of times, the significant others of the parents want to push to be involved with adult children sooner. And that's usually not a good step at all. So I would encourage the parents of gray divorce at some point along the road, as I said, at least for sure after the divorce is final. Because that's sometimes one to two years; in some jurisdictions, even longer. Then have a conversation with your adult children and see how they feel about meeting someone new. And if they say no, then honor that. That's really important. Because often the parents and the significant other want this, quote, new family, way sooner than the adult children do.
LAURA: Yeah. And what about, does it matter if I'm just going out to dinner with someone, or if I've been seeing them for a month? Or, you know, does my commitment level to that new person determine when I introduce him to my children?
It depends on what the parent’s goal is. I'm going to be quiet for a second and let that really sink in. Because it's easy as a parent to not put yourself in your adult children’s shoes, as the saying goes. So what would be the point of that? If you want to just let your adult children know you're not sitting at home, you know, in a depressed heap, that you're going out and meeting friends and maybe even starting to date generically like that -- that's fine. Often the adult children are happy. But what's the point if they're not even going to get to know this person if it's just a date and not a not a longer, more significant relationship?
I think what you just said also, another light bulb moment, really is putting yourself in the perspective of the kid, not what I want, or maybe what my date wants -- oh, gosh, I want to meet your kids. They sound like they're wonderful.
CAROL: Exactly. Exactly right. Because they need -- kids of all ages, frankly, need a voice, even minor children. I tell the minor children: You have a voice, not a choice. But your voice is important, and it's no different for their adult children. They're still your children, and that parent-child relationship is forever -- from the cradle to the grave.
Okay, so let's address the listener’s questions specifically.
CAROL: Of course, I don't know these people, so I have to disclaim that. But generally speaking, I would be curious as a mental health professional, to hear more from him. Why he doesn't want to meet the adult children? And then before putting them together, I would encourage the mom to really have a serious conversation with each adult child, or them together if they live nearby.
And pretend I'm the mom, now, you know, sons, I really do want to know how you feel honestly about this. I don't want to push this person on you. Yes, we've been together for five years. I respect if you don't want to meet him yet. That's, I honor your feelings and where you are in this process. That's so important for parents to do with their adult children.
Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with your children and have a healthy romantic relationship, but never combine the two?
Yes. It isn't what most parents want, of course. We humans are wired to avoid pain. And it's just part of our wiring, as I said, our neurobiology. And it is a difficult spot for the parent to be in, if their life is split like that. But the adult children and if their grandchildren and in-laws, and, you know, grandmothers and all that other stuff, none of them created this divorce, likely. I mean, maybe they've been participants in it, but instigators, and they deserve also to have the kind of family that feels comfortable to them. If you know what I'm saying. So at family gatherings, sometimes if the parents or the significant other push the significant other to be involved in the in the nuclear family and extended family of the original marriage, it becomes …the celebrations can be traumas -- that's with the capital T -- or a D, drama, rather than a celebration, you know. And so it's a lot to put on that parent to try to preserve, you know, those familial relationships. But doesn't the family deserve the best, happiest relationships they can? And the parent deserves to have, you know, the new significant other be part of the family, but it isn't good to have the trauma or the drama. It's not good for anybody, really, even the parent.
LAURA: She mentioned in her question that these are men, young men, and that they're close to their father. Do you think that has any bearing on anything?
CAROL: Likely, yes, because children of all ages feel almost always, in any even the most peaceful divorce, they feel what we call loyalty issues. So if they -- I don't know, I don't know, these, these young men, of course. But if they even, if the father never even knew that they met this new person, and that they liked him, and you know, were happy for Mom, the young men could feel guilty. Like they're betraying dad -- which is, again, why familial communication is so important. Communication is really core in all of these issues, as well as honoring the grief process.
LAURA Okay. And, again, we don't know any of these people involved. 23:33
But I'm just, you know, I'm ever so curious about this, this man who's been dating this woman for five years. And I just, I'm really curious as to why he's so hesitant. And is the relationship worth hanging on to if they never meet?
CAROL: I would let the mom be the judge of that. And maybe her significant other would be willing to meet with a therapist or even a clergy person to talk, kind of talk this out. You know, even though we're adults, most of us if we haven't done a lot of our own therapy or mental health counseling work or are in the field ourselves -- mental health people -- need expert guidance and help. These are very complicated situations. They're not as simple as most parents would like to believe. So I would encourage her to see if, you know, he would speak with someone, a professional, to help them talk about this difficult subject. It's clearly difficult on, I would say on both of their sides.
This topic is so important, and so bittersweet. And now to more listener stories.
CALLER 6: 24:45
I dated a woman who was more than 10 years my age, for almost 20 years. There are some things you lose in there. Some of the things she experienced, I wasn't even born yet. 25:00
And I think things were pretty good until COVID came along, kind of messed stuff up. But we were at the same place in life, generally speaking, until she retired. I'm still working. She retired; she had a lot of extra time. And things kind of got really squirrely then.
CALLER 7: 25:19
In 2020, I broke a five-year hiatus of non-dating to venture out into the dating world at 63. My previous relationship had ended badly, and I had needed some time to recover. I actually thought online dating would be a good idea because I assumed people would be hesitant to meet in person and it would give me some time to get to know them. But no, I found the men that matched with me, wanted to meet me right away, right away -- in person.
They didn't want to wear masks yet. I did meet some nice guys. One that I never met in person, but just met on video, turned out to be the first felon I met. The last fellow that I dated in person, before I knew the truth about him, was a pathological liar. I'm preferring to hopefully meet someone just out in the community. But if I don't meet someone else, that's fine.
Thank you for sharing. This next listener has a question related to money. And if you're a longtime listener, you know this is a topic that makes me uncomfortable.
CALLER 8: Hi, I am 55 and divorced after a 26-year marriage and have been dating for about the past eight months. I dated a guy for a few months that I really liked, but wondered about his financial situation. I will be okay on my own financially, based on the support that I'm receiving and investments, and I spend responsibly. But I was concerned about his financial situation. And I didn't know how much weight I should put on that. It's a really hard conversation to have fairly early on in dating. But I didn't want to put too much time and effort into the relationship when it was something I had serious questions about. So what's the best way to deal with this sort of concern?
LAURA: So how much weight should we put on a potential partner’s financial situation, and when's the best time to figure out what that financial situation is? For answers, I turned to Lynnette Khalfani-Cox. She's a personal financial advisor and a coach, and a financial journalist who's written a lot of books on this topic.
LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX: I absolutely do believe that a person's financial standing matters more as we get older. It's, you know, perhaps unfortunate to say and think. But the fact of the matter is that finances play a huge role in relationships. If you look at studies, you see that 7 out of 10 divorces, the partners cite money woes as one aspect of what went wrong in the relationship. So you certainly don't want to head into a very serious, committed and/or long-term relationship, or potentially marriage, knowing that there might be major red flags from a financial standpoint.
Now, having said that, some concerns are far more pressing than others.
LYNNETTE: So if the red flag is something like, this person hasn't saved as much, or they're behind on their retirement savings, or they really just don't seem to have a very secure financial future because of a lack of assets. Perhaps they're not a homeowner, perhaps they don't have a 401 k or a retirement plan, an individual retirement account, something to that effect. Those to me are absolutely not deal breakers.
LYNNETTE: It just means that the person needs to understand that that partner might not bring as much financial stability, obviously, to the table. But I certainly wouldn't rule them out at all in terms of a potential love mate, or as a potential serious dating partner. You can absolutely find love and happiness with someone who is not your financial equal. However, it may be more difficult.
So sometimes I think that God played a cruel joke on all of us because he tends to put together financial opposites. So the saver will sometimes be attracted to the spender; the person who's a planner will be attracted to and connect with the person who's an impulse buyer; the person who's a hoarder will be attracted to the minimalist. And so in all of those relationships, it absolutely can work. It just means that you're going to have to have a lot more communication around money issues. You're going to have to have a lot more empathy and understanding for the other party's money personality, and what caused him or her to be the way that they are to this day. And it also may require a lot more compromise.
LAURA: So the listener who left the phone message, I think after three months she had been dating this person. And she said she saw some red flags. She didn't go into detail. But does it make sense to just ditch the person and move on? Or are there steps that if we, you know, get along with this person in seemingly every other aspect, are there steps that we can take that either address our concerns, or ensure our own financial safety?
LYNNETTE: If we want to move forward with this person, from a romantic standpoint, there are certainly steps that people can take to protect themselves financially, and also potentially give love and opportunity to blossom. But I do think that people also need to be aware that the timing question is really critical.
LYNNETTE: Three months into a dating relationship -- I don't think that that's too soon to ask some pointed questions or potentially, if she's not feeling as comfortable as she'd like to be able to, flat out ask, you know, very direct economic questions. There are ways in which you can elicit the same information in a, let's say, a more discreet way.
LAURA: Oh, like, like how?
So for example, if you want to know about someone's asset base, right, you can ask them about their vision of retirement, you can ask them about the time in which they plan to retire. So if you're 55, for example, and you meet someone, and you ask them, oh, so when do you plan to retire? And that person says, oh, actually, you know, I'm 55 also, and in three years, I plan to retire in three years at age 58.
That's a very different scenario than the person who says, oh, me, I'm sure I'll be working forever, I'm probably never going to retire, I probably can't afford to retire -- or something to that effect. It's a different case if they say, Oh, my god, I love my work so much. I envisioned myself working part time, perhaps being a consultant, you know, but at age 60, I'll transition. Again, if you're clued into the language and what they're telling you, they really are telegraphing something about their financial status.
So you can also ask people about their hobbies, which is also I think, very telling, from a dating standpoint. Also, the types of dates that a person wants to do also tells you a little bit about their spending profile, and whether or not they're more apt to be sort of a homebody and to like to have nice quiet, you know -- perhaps in front of the fireplace just over a nice meal and a glass of wine, or whether they're sort of constantly on the go, wanting to be outdoors, wanting to be more active -- and frankly, wanting to spend more. I do think that it's okay to be very direct, especially when you both know that
we are exclusive. We want to be in a committed relationship, and we see a path forward for ourselves.
I usually tell couples to follow a three step strategy that I call, disclose, discuss, decide.
LYNNETTE: The disclose part is putting all your cards on the table. It's where you say, you know, here's where I am in my life financially. This is the amount of savings that I've amassed. Here's the debts that I owe. Here's a snapshot of my credit. My credit score is roughly, you know, 706, 820. Whatever that number is, but you're kind of putting it all out there. And in turn, you're also asking your partner to do the same.
LYNNETTE: And the discussion is about greater understanding and greater financial intimacy, and greater communication. So whatever it is, that is disclosed by the two of you, the discussion is about the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how you got there. Everybody has a personal story to tell. So it's your job to listen with as much empathy as you can muster, even while keeping your head and your heart separate. And again, you're listening for major red flags. And the sort of no-go part for me would be about a consistent pattern of fiscal irresponsibility.
Sometimes people can push your buttons emotionally, to get the financial outcome that they want. But it's not incumbent upon you, you're not required to give anybody money, to co-sign for any loans, to make any financial transactions that would potentially set you back financially, or that would be financially enabling for them. Because that's really not helping them to be a full-grown, mature adult, to stand on their own two feet, even though it may seem like a very difficult situation that they're in and it may be difficult to say, no. I believe it's absolutely in your best interest, and that person's best interest in 99 out of 100 cases, to do just that. And to say no.
LAURA: Okay. Just say no, I love it. Okay, is there anything else we need to know on this topic?
I guess the only other thing that I would say is, I recognize the almost seemingly, you know, futile way in which human nature is. You love the person first, and then you figure out everything afterwards. And so, you know, one way to do that, and to handle that reality, is to have your filters up early, as early as possible, and to be a little more dispassionate in your screening and to just really understand that you can date, you can connect with people, and you can have relationships that not are necessarily going to turn into long-term partnerships, commitments, and/or marriage, and to be okay with that as well.
Such good advice from Lynnette and also from Jane and Carol, the other two experts on this episode. I always feel a lot better after talking to professionals I've tapped for Dating While Gray. And you know what? I also feel better after hearing from listeners like you. Your willingness to be open and vulnerable reinforces the idea that we're all in this together, in a supportive and caring community. I know that I could not do this podcast without you. Thank you.
So this is a wrap for Season 3. But there's a lot more Dating While Gray just around the corner. We're launching a microcast, where we'll be bringing you outtakes and updates on love, sex, and relationships in the later years of life. And the microcast will take us up to Season 4, starting in the fall. Big thanks to WUNC and North Carolina Public Radio for making this all possible. You can keep up with all the Dating While Gray news, plus get links to resources from the experts interviewed on the show, by subscribing to the Dating While Gray e-newsletter. For more information, go to datingwhilegray.com. Bye, everyone.
Dating While Gray is produced in partnership with WUNC-North Carolina Public Radio. Our producer is Morgan Givens. Charlie Shelton-Ormond is our editor, Lindsay Foster Thomas is WUNC’s director of content, and Jenni Lawson is our audio engineer. Katy Barron edits our e-newsletter. I'm Laura Stassi. If you have a question or a comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And now you can also leave me a voicemail. Go to datingwhilegray.com and at the top right, click on “Talk to Us.” I'd love to hear from you, and thanks for listening.