This is how we do it: ‘We had to learn how to sext - and now know all the emojis’

<span>Illustration: Ryan Gillett/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Ryan Gillett/The Guardian

Sylvia, 67

It’s indescribable how different it feels to be intimate with someone after so many years

My second marriage ended when I was 35. It was toxic; he was coercively controlling. Sex was always on his terms and I would fake orgasms to get it over with. I left him after 10 years and closed off thoughts of sex with a man.

At the time I thought: I’m great at my job, I’m a great mum, I’ll just get on with it. And I had a very happy life. I’d always given myself pleasure and enjoyed masturbating – I have no trouble having orgasms and can climax in about 30 seconds. So I believed that was going to be the extent of my sex life, and I accepted that.

After 23 years, I was just looking for companionship, but when I met Charlie six months ago there was an instant attraction. We were only about an hour into our first date when he told me he was looking for a physical relationship. I thought: “You know what, I think I am too.”

We took time working up to the first sexual experience, and talked about everything. We’d sent a lot of flirty remarks, building up the anticipation. We had to learn how to sext, and we now know all the combinations of emojis: tongues, tacos, aubergines.

He told me he was looking for a full physical relationship with someone. I thought: you know what, I think I am too

For our first time we met on neutral ground in a nice hotel. Being a nurse, I do take care of myself down there – I’ve got a pelvic floor trainer machine – but I was worried about penetrative sex after more than two decades. So we agreed to not put penetration on the table if we didn’t want to.

It’s indescribable how different it feels to be intimate with someone after so many years. We have a “yes, no, maybe” list of things we want to try. The one thing I won’t do is anal sex because my ex-husband forced me to do it without consent. Both Charlie and I are very clear about boundaries.

We have sessions where we just masturbate together, or we could spend a whole hour kissing. Depending on what time of day it is, we’ll get toys out. Some of those, like the pegging kit, take time to set up, so we’d do that in the evening. Mostly, we’re having fun and laugh so much together. And I feel good about myself now, so when Charlie tells me I’m beautiful, I believe it.

Charlie, 66

I’ve never felt so close sexually with anybody than I do with Sylvia

I was in a relationship with the mother of my kids for 35 years, but the last 10 were not happy. After we split four years ago, I accepted that I was going to be sexually self-sufficient for the rest of my life, and I’d be happy doing that. There were self-esteem issues there, too. I just didn’t think I would find another sexual partner.

When I met Sylvia, I’d been thinking a lot about what I wanted in a partner. On our first date I was quite open about saying I was looking for a physical relationship, and she didn’t seem to be fazed by that. We talked a lot about what we felt sexually, and a lot about consent, which is a big thing for me. By the time we had sex, we’d been sexting a lot, so we were very comfortable being naked with each other.

Sometimes we start making love at 8am, and we don’t get out of bed until two in the afternoon

We have a “yes, no, maybe” list, so there’s nothing we can’t talk about. There were things we agreed not to do, but there are a lot of things we’d like to try that neither of us have ever done before, which makes it really exciting. We’ve got sex toys, a vibrator and a latex dildo, and they’ve been a great success.

Sylvia said: “I’ve heard of this thing called pegging, what do you think about that?” I hadn’t thought I’d find anybody who would be interested in doing that, but it was a sexual fantasy for me. We’re just having fun, trying out new things. We’re in our mid-60s, so haven’t got that long left, and if we don’t say what we want now, when are we going to say it? That leaves you to be open. And as we’re retired, we’ve got the luxury of time. Sometimes we start making love at 8am, and we don’t get out of bed until two in the afternoon.

I use Viagra, but I don’t always get an erection straight away, and if I do it may not last for more than two or three minutes. But sex is so much more than just penetration; we’re involved in penetrative sex less than 5% of the time. I’ve probably had more oral sex with Sylvia, both giving and receiving, than I’ve had in the previous 50 years of my life.

I’ve never felt as close sexually with anyone as I do with Sylvia. It’s just about giving each other pleasure.