Though there’s a widespread myth that to be divorced and middle-aged is to be a citizen of Loserville, nothing could be further from the truth. Young people might think they are the only ones out there having casual encounters, but it turns out the most enthusiastic sex freaks these days are the newly single thirty- and fortysomethings who are reentering the dating world with a gusto they’ve never known before.
“Jefferson,” 41, is a divorced father of three whose marriage ended when he took a three-day business trip to the Middle East that his wife was opposed to. These days, he’s living three separate lives: father, bachelor, and swinger. Half the week, he’s taking care of his kids. The other half, he goes out with friends or on dates with what he calls “vanilla” women. And twice a month, he hosts orgies at his apartment for a group of men and women he met on the swingers scene.
“After I got married, I was monogamous and heterosexual and did all the things you’re supposed to do,” says Jefferson, who blogs his adventures at onelifetaketwo.blogspot.com. “Then it didn’t pan out and I returned to my premarried life, to someone I actually was. I can be polygamous and bisexual, do all the stuff I did when I was in my mid-teens. I don’t want to put all my stock in this one other person.”
In his “regular” bachelor life, he’s found that many women are drawn to divorced men because they think they can heal them. “A couple times, I’ve said to women, ‘I’m really not interested in moving toward commitment.’ They say, ‘Of course you’re not, but I’ll take care of you.’ I have to say it over and over again. If we’ve been dating six months, the sex is great, and we enjoy each other’s company, they don’t understand how I might not want to settle down.”
One woman was so eager to integrate herself into his life that she offered to help him care for his kids once a week, but he declined. “I’m not thinking, How can I find a life partner? I got kids. I did that already. Soon enough, I’ll have grandkids. I’m guaranteed a full life.”
Ron, a 38-year-old divorcé with 4-year-old twins, found himself separated after his wife ended the marriage, claiming he neglected her. Friends began to introduce him to divorced and separated women his age. He’d talk to them on the phone, they’d exchange divorce stories, and then go out. He was surprised to find many of the dates ended in sex. “They all feel as if they’ve gone through a terrible experience with a husband who wasn’t sensitive to them, and now they’re looking to validate themselves. They’re like guys in their twenties who are just looking for one thing.”
As much as Ron’s enjoying the quick-and-easy sex, there are drawbacks. He’s still living at home, and coming back to his estranged wife and kids at 2 A.M. after a hot date is awkward. He’s moving out in a few weeks, and already anticipating the difficulties of juggling family and his new freedom. “I won’t be able to go away for the weekend spontaneously. I can’t spend every night with someone. I’ll have to meet someone whose custody arrangement is similar to mine.”
For some recent divorcées, the split can lead not only to a sexual surplus but also a sexual awakening. Gina, 43, is a New Jersey mother of two who left her husband after she found out he was having a long-term affair. “It wasn’t until my husband and I split up that I realized how unhappy I was. I got new boobs, which I had always wanted. I loved the attention. It was like being a kid in a candy store.”
For her 41st birthday, shortly after she and her husband separated, she went on vacation to L.A. and met a 27-year-old at her hotel bar. He was the first new man she’d been with in 24 years. “It was the most incredible sex I’d ever had in my life. My husband was the two-minute man, and I was happy with that. With this guy, it was hours and hours. I’m still smiling about it today.”
When she got back to New Jersey, she went on setups and did Internet dating, but she was wary. On a date at a club in Red Bank with a guy she met online, she was so nervous she brought one of her handguns. Later, she told him, and they laughed about it.
Now she’s in a serious relationship with a father of two who’s going through a divorce of his own. She’s happy but changed. “I believed that if I could be with someone for all those years and he could betray me, then other men would betray me, too. Now I’m with someone I totally trust—but I look at men in a different light.”