Finding Your New Partner at Midlife

“While desire fixated outwardly generates grasping and tension, desire inwardly felt attunes you to the pulsing power of the body’s vital centers.” John Welwood, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships

John Welwood’s beautifully written book, “Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships” is simply a must read for anyone who has ever been in a relationship, and looked to their partner as the primary source for their approval. As Welwood explains, our partners are imperfect and at times will fail to meet our needs—there will always be disappointment when we look to another human to shore us up, in lieu of self-acceptance. As a result, we need to become our own source of perfect love:

The less I depend on the one I love to fill my holes, the more freely I can see her as she is, show myself as I am, and brave the risks of real intimacy. When my partner and I lay down the frustrating burden of trying to extract perfect love and acceptance from each other, we can see our relationship in a new light: as a field of work and play that provides an opportunity to grow and transform through each other’s influence. Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, p. 150

More recently, I came across this same concept, as applied to women’s sexuality at midlife and beyond. On a recent drive, I listened to an audiotape featuring Dr. Christiane Northrup, “Inside Out Wellness.” In her talk, Dr. Northrup suggests that the best indicator of a woman’s sexual satisfaction at mid-life is getting a new partner! As someone who has been married for 25 years, I immediately wondered, “Hmmm. I wonder what Ed would think about that?” Alas, that’s not what Dr. Northrup meant….

Dr. Northrup explained that it is time to firmly reject harmful messages so often repeated and taken as truth: older women aren’t sexy any more; older women don’t want to be sexual; older women are “dried up.” It is also time to quit expecting our partners (or hoped-for partners) to shower us with acceptance and approval, and in the process, bring forth our beauty, joyfulness and wholeness.

Instead, Dr Northrup advises that women need to become their own “new partners” their own source of love, approval and acceptance. We do this through creating an intentional daily ritual of self-acceptance through which we fall in love with all aspects of ourselves: our bodies (yes, bellies, thighs, butts, vulvas, breasts just as they are), our sexuality, our skin, faces—all parts of us—deeply, profoundly. Through this process, we will generate an inner radiance and self-acceptance as we’ve never experienced before. Ironically, as we project the joyful radiance of self-acceptance and sexiness, our partners find us more desirable. According to Dr. Northrup, when women cultivate inner radiance, their partners often find the need for their Viagra disappears: a confident, juicy, happy woman is a very sexy woman indeed! “A woman serves a man best when she has her joy above all other values,” states Dr. Victor Baranco, as quoted in Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.

To start this ritual, Dr. Northrup refers to Regena Thomashauer’s “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts,” which suggests that women create a safe, private place worthy of a “visiting dignitary”—lovely fresh sheets, flowers, scents, soft light—and in this space, spend time daily looking at one’s body, gazing in the mirror saying affirmations such as, “I love you, I accept you; I am beautiful just as I am.” While there is no goal of orgasm, women are also encouraged to lovingly touch and explore themselves, while offering affirmations to oft scorned and neglected body parts.

So how many of you blanch at the thought of fully embracing all of you with love and acceptance—your body—just as it is, your skin, your breasts and vulvas, your gorgeous, wise faces? How many of you think it would be ridiculous to spend time this way? Does this feel silly? Impossible? Terrifying? If so, why? And if so, who do you think will give you this acceptance and love if you can’t give it to yourself?

As for me, I love Dr. Northrup’s message as I love John Welwood’s. For if we don’t value ourselves just as we are, we can’t expect others to do it for us—they’ll never see our radiance if we can’t see it! My earnest desire for anyone—male or female— reading this is that you make it your mission to fall in love with you—all of you—passionately, wildly, without compromise—and feel your radiance grow.