This article is by Helen Carroll is from the Daily Mail.
The party had been wonderful and she had enjoyed every minute. But as the goodnights rang out and her friends - all of them in couples - headed for the door with arms draped around one another, Susan Wilson followed behind, alone, feeling a familiar pang of sadness. Now aged 55, Susan's last relationship broke up 17 years ago and, other than a couple of brief, casual encounters shortly afterwards, she has been single - and sexless - ever since. In fact, like a quarter of all women over 40, Susan has been without a lover for so long she has almost lost hope of ever experiencing intimacy with a man again.
Susan Wilson, 55, has been sexless for 17 years, losing hope of intimacy after her relationship broke down 'Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years and, before you know it, you've gone a very long time without sex,' says Susan. 'It makes me feel so sad and lonely when I realise how long it's been since I made love with a man, so I try not to think about it. I always enjoyed sex and found it exhilarating, and I miss that physical closeness. You don't get it with any other human contact.'
According to recent statistics, 28 per cent of women over 40, like Susan, now lead celibate lives. Those who are menopausal often say hot flushes and mood swings have reduced their sex drive, according to nutrition company Healthspan, which conducted the research. However, there are many more, including Susan, a dance teacher from South London, who crave a loving relationship but unfortunately find themselves single in the 'danger zone' - that is any time after their late 30s, when most people are either paired up or cynical and wary of commitment following a divorce.
They seem left with an impossible choice: meaningless, soul-sapping casual encounters or decades of celibacy. Most opt for the latter. Susan baulked at the idea of internet dating, finding it too impersonal. And as a teetotaller, she can't even rely on a nip of good old Dutch courage when she's out to give her the confidence to chat up men in the old-fashioned way. 'I don't talk to many people about the fact I've been celibate for so long because I'm embarrassed, it feels abnormal,' she says. 'I did, however, tell a friend the other day and she looked very surprised and said 'Oh really?' And I said: 'Yes! Where's the justice in that?' 'I remember, years ago, going home after spending a passionate night with a boyfriend and my flatmate saying: 'My God you look amazing, you're glowing! What have you been doing?'. Susan assumed she would end up settling down with someone who cared about her - but it never happened.
Susan's last relationship, with a man who had an ex-wife and children, ended when she was 38
Susan assumed she would end up settling down with someone who cared about her - but it never happened. 'When you're having sex you have a vitality about you, even your hair and skin look healthier. But, at this stage in my life, I do wonder if my desire to meet a man is less about the sex and more about wanting to share something with somebody else - I'd love to wake up in the arms of someone who cares about me. 'I have to accept that it may happen for me again but it might not, so I just have to get on with life.' Most of the 'nice men' Susan has met over the past 17 years were already committed and, although she has been propositioned by a couple of them, she wants more than just sex and is too moral to contemplate an affair with a married man. Susan's last relationship, with a man who had an ex-wife and children, ended when she was 38. It makes me feel so sad and lonely when I realise how long it's been since I made love with a man, so I try not to think about it Although Susan came onto the scene after his marriage had ended, she says his ex-wife would be critical of her in front of his children and this put an intolerable strain on their relationship, leading them to break up. At the time, Susan never imagined she was consigning herself to a life without intimacy. 'When you grow up in a normal, middle-class family with parents who have been happily married for 60 years, you assume you will end up settling down and having children with someone who loves and cares about you,' she says. 'But that just never happened for me. When friends complain about their husbands pestering them for sex when they're not in the mood I can't help but think: 'You don't know how lucky you are to have someone who loves you and wants to show it.' 'My desire to feel a man's arms around me and be loved, even briefly, is so deep that I've even contemplated offering just to have sex with one. 'There must be plenty out there who would like a no-strings relationship, but I'd end up returning to my flat feeling lonely and rejected, so that's not the answer.'
Relationship therapist Val Sampson says that women in their 40s and 50s can experience just as much desire and get equal satisfaction from sex as younger women. However, older women scarred by unhappy relationships in their past may be reluctant to risk a brief encounter with a man for fear of the pain it may cause. This was certainly true for thrice-divorced Shirley Yanez, 59, who has been celibate for 15 years. Her turning point came shortly after her third marriage ended, when she fell desperately ill, due to a 8lb fibroid in her uterus. The condition, she knows, is a direct legacy of a promiscuous youth. 'Staring death in the face in that way and then getting a second chance I made a commitment to myself to only ever do things that are good for me,' recalls Shirley. Shirley, pictured here aged 27 on her second wedding day to Scott in 1986, has been married three times
'I gave up smoking and alcohol and vowed I'd never have sex - the source of so many of the problems in my life - with anyone other than a man happy to commit, love and support me. As men like that are hard to find, it was difficult contemplating the rest of my life without a boyfriend. 'So, while I'm open to the idea of meeting a man - I love men, I enjoy their company and love the warmth of feeling close to them - I don't look for one any more and haven't met any I'd risk my happiness on. 'I've realised how important I am, how important my life is, and, rather than risk being hurt, I concentrate on me and that's helped me become very successful in my professional life.' Shirley, who runs a clothing company called Venus Cow, ultimately aims to open free life coaching schools for those who can't afford to pay. I've realised how important I am, how important my life is, and, rather than risk being hurt, I concentrate on me and that's helped me become very successful in my professional life 'I teach girls that sex is a very special thing that binds you to another human being,' says Shirley. 'Sex makes you feel good in the moment because you're producing positive chemicals and pheromones, but if he doesn't text or call you the next day you don't feel very good at all. You feel used, as I often have. So sex comes with very big highs and very big lows and you have got to be able to navigate them.' Shirley, from Leicester, married her first husband aged 16 believing she had found the perfect escape from an unhappy home-life, alone with her father following her parents' divorce. But that marriage, to a man who was ten years her senior, lasted just 18 months. Aged 32, Shirley married her second husband, who owned an engineering company, at a big church wedding in Knightsbridge, followed by a month-long honeymoon in Africa. Although they were very happy and had 'a great sex life' in the beginning, the stress of trying for a baby, discovering that Shirley was infertile and then two rounds of IVF put enormous strain on the marriage, which ended after three years. Ever hopeful of finding lasting love, she married her third husband within days of meeting him at a wedding in Los Angeles. Shirley decided to move out to the States to live with him and again says their intimate life was fulfilling. She had previously made a lot of money through a head-hunting business she set up in the City of London then sold, but a few months after her marriage, she lost the lot in a stockmarket crash. Shirley felt emotionally unsupported and, realising that she barely knew her husband, divorced him within a year of their wedding. Shortly after the breakdown of her marriage to Marty Yanis in 1999, above, Shirley collapsed and needed emergency surgery. After this she vowed she'd never have sex with a man who wouldn't support her again.
Soon afterwards, Shirley collapsed on a street in LA and, after being rushed to hospital, discovered she needed emergency surgery to remove a fibroid. She returned to Britain for the operation where, with three broken marriages behind her, she decided to direct her energy towards creating a more fulfilling existence for herself. 'Rejecting advances is not something that, at my age, I have to contend with very often but part of my work is teaching young girls that sex should be a reward for men who put them on a pedestal and treat them well,' says Shirley. 'We've come a long way since the days when a woman's only place was in the home, but we have to accept our biology dictates that when we sleep with a man we want him to commit and nurture us. My passions are still going strong, so I do look at men and think 'Cor!' but I've not met the right one to settle down with 'Given my age and based on past experiences, it's doubtful I'll meet someone like that now. 'So as I value myself far too much to make do with casual sex, I have to accept I may never be intimate with a man again.' Therapist Val Sampson says women like Shirley, who associate sex with a trauma, can become so wary of getting hurt that they miss out on opportunities for relationships, even with men who are also looking for love and commitment. And once we stop having sex, our desire can quickly wane. 'Men respond to visual cues but the most important erotic organ in a woman's body is her brain,' says Val. 'Once we switch that off, for whatever reason, there's definitely a use it or lose it aspect to sexual desire.' Suzie Webster, 61 - who was married for eight years until 1990 - has been celibate since breaking up with her partner of five years in 2004, aged 50. The relationship was an 'unhappy' one, but Suzie never imagined it might be her last. Yet she has subsequently failed to meet anyone to share her life with. Suzie Webster, 61 - who was married for eight years until 1990 - has been celibate for 11 years. She runs a website, Platonic Partners, with 9,000, members where people who want relationships without sex can meet
Suzie Webster, 61 - who was married for eight years until 1990 - has been celibate for 11 years. She runs a website, Platonic Partners, with 9,000, members where people who want relationships without sex can meet 'I loved sex,' says Suzie. 'I'd be very happy to have a physical relationship now, but only when I really know a man. I'm not interested in casual sex, which so many men seem to want.' She adds: 'My passions are still going strong, so I do look at men and think 'Cor!' but I've not met the right one to settle down with.' Instead, Suzie, from Cambridge, has a happily platonic relationship with a younger man. She says she gets to experience the joy of having comforting man-hugs and even walking hand-in-hand with him on the many holidays they have had in places such as Crete, Italy and France. They share rooms but, after a chaste kiss, say goodnight and climb into separate twin beds. Nine years ago Suzie set up a website, Platonic Partners, where similar-minded people can connect, which now has 9,000 members, 90 per cent of them within the UK. She wanted to create a place where people could meet others for whom sex was not an essential ingredient in a relationship. Meanwhile, Suzie fills her evenings with art classes, dance classes and socialising with friends. 'We live in a very competitive society where if you're not having multiple orgasms and don't look like Barbie and Ken you feel you're doing something wrong,' she says. 'I try to ignore these pressures and instead take myself to places through physical exercise, where the afterglow is comparable with the afterglow from sex.' Susan and Shirley, like millions of other middle-aged celibate women in Britain, will no doubt be delighted to learn that Suzie has discovered an alternative to the love of a good man.