Frank revelations from our unmissable sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie)
Here is something I have discovered about kick-starting your sex life in your 40s: your post-divorce pets can really get in the way.
When I rewind back to my annus horribilis, the year my marriage ended, the ray of light was a fluffy blonde called Pixie. She is a cavapoochon with a penchant for stealing knickers and chewing my Jimmy Choos.
Disclaimer: her name was not my choice. I wanted to call her Miss Dior, but my son point-blank refused to shout that in the park. My daughter campaigned hard for Pixie. She did a PowerPoint presentation outlining all the benefits, promising to walk, groom and train her. I was so emotionally depleted at the time, I caved.
And now I love Pixie. A lot.
In the heartbreak recovery handbook, a canine companion has to be number one. A snuggle with Pixie deploys a serious fix of the cuddle hormone oxytocin, which made up for the fact I wasn’t getting any from a man.
Fast-forward a year or so and I have both a new boyfriend and a dog. Which is problematic as I have lapsed somewhat on maintaining boundaries with said pooch.
Pixie regularly sleeps on my bed. So she is now confused as to why, when my boyfriend comes to visit, she is barred from the bedroom. Which means a lot of whining and indignant scratching at the door. Not conducive to… relaxation.
In addition, my boyfriend has a cat, Snowball. (I haven’t asked about the name’s origins.) It’s a serious bromance. And the cat, who has been my boyfriend’s focus of affection since his own relationship break-up, is affronted by my presence. On our first interaction it bit me. Or ‘nipped’ me. Which I think we can all agree is the same thing. Forget children – in a midlife relationship it’s the pets you have to ingratiate yourself with.
Anyway, back to the bedroom. Snowball likes to maintain an observational presence whenever we are together – giving us a disapproving side-eye, which is off-putting. As is his sudden arrival on the bed.
This has led to me think about what makes surroundings suitable for romance and what doesn’t? During your teens and 20s you didn’t really care about the environment (I know the crash mats at our university sports field saw a lot of action, which kind of says it all). In my student years just managing to put clean sheets on my Ikea futon was next-level sophistication.
These days, there are some expectations within the bedroom setting. Clean, crisp sheets are a baseline. If you want to up the game, think candles (beware the man who thinks they are a fire hazard), mood lighting and possibly some pillows stuffed with the feathers of a virginal goose.
Conversely, there are some things guaranteed to kill the mood faster than Jennifer Lopez moves on. Drying laundry, for example. Or a door that fails to shut properly, thus causing anxiety about potential interruption.
Confession: this exists in my house and back in my married days there was a laborious stacking of suitcases to prevent our small children from entering the bedroom uninvited. (Or at least hinder them until decency could be restored.)
Now, in these early days of a new romance, I find myself doing a frantic pre-visit sweep of the house to hide embarrassing items that might kill the mood. I remove earplugs from the bedside table (not sexy) and reduce the mammoth pile of clothing on my bedroom chair (ditto).
And if the teenagers have been left unsupervised at home, I have to check all loos have been flushed. When you are still in the probationary period of a relationship you need to be vigilant about such things.
Now, does anyone know of a good locksmith?