I remember standing there looking at her naked body as she lay on my bed. I knew what was coming. At least I hoped. But all the excitement and anticipation did not diminish a low voice inside my head. This isn’t my wife.

I cannot describe the emotion floating through me as guilt. My wife passed away over two years ago. But there was a flinching moment when I wondered if I was doing something wrong. As I undressed more thoughts:

How do I look?

What if I do something wrong?

What would my kids say?

Can I still perform?

Do I need a condom?

How do I start?

I was nudged from my self-centered thoughts by hands touching me in a new and very stimulating fashion. As I started to give in to the sensation, my head flooded again with a thought that almost deflated me. What if things don’t go perfectly? What if I don’t …

Thankfully, she sensed my concerns and whispered how much she wanted to be close. From there on I relaxed and went forward with my first time … in a long time.

* * *

A seventy-eight- year old gentleman shared this story with us about his first sexual experience in forty-five years with a new woman. And we thought it captured the emotions that all Solos face when making that bold move forward.

For those of us who have lost our significant other after years of marriage, the first time that we decide to bare ourselves again—physically and emotionally—is extremely significant.

In the mature years, getting to that point in a new relationship is an emotional journey that has unexpected twists in the road. Understanding what other men and women have experienced—from the amazing to the awkward—will help you navigate the path back to living and loving again.

Some years ago, following my wife’s passing, I started researching how mature people coped with being suddenly solo. I brought into play my life’s work in market research and eventually designed and executed seven different research studies encompassing the views and behavior of over 1600 mature men and women who were now in that position. The results were summarized in a humorous but factual book called, what else, Suddenly Solo that in turn led to many appearances on radio and TV talk shows.

Following my five minutes of fame on The Today Show, we received over 250,000 hits on our website (SuddenlySolo.org) and continue to operate that site to provide useful information and responses to many questions on interpersonal behavior that we get addressed to “Ask HAL.” Some are further discussed on our weekly radio show of the same name that can be heard on the same site.

In the process of doing the interviews, I was told many stories about reentering the social scene: how people met, dated, interacted, perhaps moved to a sexual encounter (occasionally in great detail) and sometimes became a “couple.” It occurred to me that these personal experiences could provide insights into the varied ways these adults reconnect and the issues and problems they encountered.

These narratives, or mini-memoirs, have allowed people to share very revealing aspects about their renewed adventures into the sexual realm. Names and some details have been altered to maintain a level of anonymity. The stories are candid and sometimes graphic. We address issues that are really on your mind, and no topic is off limits. Some stories are told from the woman’s perspective, others from the man’s. You will learn from both!

These stories are shared without judgment. They are real emotions, and I am so grateful to our participants for sharing their journeys so that others may become empowered through knowledge and understanding.

After each mini-memoir, we provide our insights on the story and share some added wisdom gathered through our previous studies and many talks with Suddenly Solos nationwide.

–Harold (Hal) Spielman

P.S. Each story is derived from depth interviews with people over 55. It is amazing how much detail individuals will give over the course of two or three hours when they are comfortable and  talking about themselves. However, though each story contains the heart of the event in terms of behavior, progression, and outcome, they have been “fictionalized” to disguise the participants.  We think too that it makes them more readable.