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Three Cheers for Second Loves

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I usually summarize questions I receive from visitors to the website when I think the answers will be helpful to more people.

An e-mail I received today, though, makes me want to say more. The message was from a 63-year-old widower who says, I “have met the second love of my life, something I thought would never ever happen again.” He goes on to explain that he’s doing research because he and his new love have enjoyed intimacy, arousal, and orgasm, but have been unable to have intercourse.

Unfortunately, time and aging are not friends of the vagina. Without ongoing maintenance—meaning regular use and moisturizers—it is typical that a woman will lose function over time. The vagina narrows and shortens and the tissues become more fragile, as this couple have experienced.

Vaginal dilators are part of the solution for many women who’ve reached this point; most women can regain vaginal function in a matter of weeks. Using a moisturizer or vaginal estrogen at the same time helps to improve tissue health and elasticity.

What I found really encouraging about this e-mail was that it came from a man, a man who took the initiative to get information to equip himself and his partner to address these issues together. “I don’t want to hurt her,” he said; “I want to make love to her.”

Making love. It’s a reminder that our physical intimacy is something we create together with a partner, and that a partner has an interest in—and can help us—to overcome or work around physical changes that get in our way. As women, we don’t have to keep secrets or try to compensate for problems on our own.

And if we find ourselves without partners? Loving ourselves is part of remaining open—figuratively and literally—to those relationships that still surprise and delight us. It’s easier to maintain vaginal health and functionality than it is to regain it, and you’ll bypass the physical and emotional pain that this e-mailer described. Even if you think you’re done with relationships and sexual intimacy… well, the patients I see in my practice and the e-mails I receive at tell me to never say never—even when you’re sure it will “never ever happen again.”

I see it happen all the time. Has it happened to you?


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