Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

What makes you feel romantic on Valentine’s Day?  The spark is different for each of us. For some women, shared values, common purpose, loyalty, and mutual support are all they need in order to have a really good relationship. They may not want to be part of another commercial holiday that is marked by cards, flowers, dinner out, or yet another gift. Indeed, during this month the blogosphere has been full of I-hate-Valentine’s Day comments. Other women love this day for its emphasis on the gestures that underscore their interest in keeping their relationships romantic.

I asked five women who are in the decades after 40 and who cherish their libidinal spark to give me their views on romance in long-term relationships.

Barbara Fields

“I spoke by phone to this gorgeous and vivacious 83-year-old who was in Amsterdam on holiday, and queried her about her interest in romance and Valentine’s Day. She said, ‘I keep Valentine’s Day in mind all year long. Dinner at home is always with candlelight and wine. When my husband traveled so much for his work, he made a point of returning to celebrate Valentine’s Day. His presence was my present. I returned the present by making the big effort to look and feel glamorous and romantic. It was part of my routine to find just the right card for this special day. I then worked hard to find the words that would let him know how much he meant to me. Now that we are both older, the memories of these gestures mean a great deal to us.’”

Gail Sheehy

 We all know from her book Sex and the Seasoned Woman that Gail has the inside scoop on sex; she shared her views on romance with us.

 “I had a 40-year romance with the man I married after 17 tempestuous years of shared work and lots of passion. Clay Felker had a romantic streak and loved giving me flowers and taking me to hear Bobby Short at the Carlyle for Valentine’s Day. But if either of us was on a deadline for a story, then this day for romance took second place, which was fine with us both. I am now 75 and a widow of three years who feared that romance would not be in my future. I never gave up the routines that made me feel fit, sexy, and attractive. Just over two years ago I reconnected casually with another editor who is also widowed. I invited him to a large dinner party where we were not seated next to each other. At the end of the evening he took me aside and said, ‘You are the most delicious dish at this party.’  Even at 83 he was a fabulous flirt.  I had an inkling that I could make him fall in love with me.  It took two years to overcome his shyness, but I was right. We will spend Valentine’s weekend this year ‘shacking up’ in a friend’s summerhouse! We laugh together at the comical picture of us playing 17 all over again.”


“Diane B.”

This well-known sex therapist is 67 and has been married for 20 years. She did not feel comfortable using her real name, since she feels that as a therapist she should not be quoted about issues that are often central to her patients’ lives. She is, however, an unabashed supporter of romance, and her husband certainly seems to love this about her.

 “When I married this time, I was ready to give romance a chance. A previous marriage did not survive because, frankly, neither of us knew how to find time for this part of a successful relationship.  Our late 20s and our 30s were all about building careers and raising children. We had a great ‘business marriage.’  We looked good together, we had lots of friends in common, and our lives worked because it was all about the ‘to do’ list and going out with other couples and going on the school vacations with children. We forgot to keep the spark of romance alive. 

 “There was nothing really there for me when I was in my 40s, and the marriage ended quietly. I met and married a great guy in my late 40s who was smart and fun and really understood seduction and romance. We were conscious of the fact that keeping romance in the relationship was necessary to us, since it had not been present in our previous marriages. We knew it would take work. Our professional lives are as demanding as ever, but we spend much of our free time on a constant date. We don’t have a ‘business marriage.’ We bring stories of the day to the relationship at night. We both initiate sex on a regular basis. We treat each other better than we treat anyone else. Romance is certainly alive in our relationship, because we make time for it. Valentine’s Day is a day we love celebrating.”


“Nancy G.”

 Nancy is an entrepreneur who lives in the Northeast; her products are now in 10 cities across America She was unwilling to allow her last name to be used, but she has a great story— one that is all too common.

 “I am 54 and have been married for 22 years. My marriage almost ended in my late 40s, because I had checked out. I was the perfect soccer mom, the perfect volunteer, the perfect hostess and homemaker, and the perfect planner of our social calendar. Sex was fine, but perfunctory. I felt that I was not appreciated for what I brought to the relationship, and I began to be less interested in any kind of intimacy. A couple we knew unexpectedly got a divorce, and this allowed us to really talk honestly for the first time in years about what we wanted in a marriage. It turns out that we both felt unappreciated. He worked long hours in a stressful job and came home to a well-run house, but not to a romantic, engaged life with a woman who had interests outside her narrow world. Then I had a chance to go back to work doing something I am good at. Now I like myself more and am a more interesting person. The children were older, and we chose to make almost every weekend just about us. Sex became a real priority for both of us, and the physical intimacy and together time has changed our lives. We are both more romantic now. We look forward to celebrating Valetine’s Day with all the usual things:  flowers, cards, lingerie, and sex. We choose to remember what we could have lost.”


“Gerry L.”

I couldn’t resist asking Gerry for her opinions about romance, since I know she is so independent. And yet she is in a deeply committed and loving relationship—something she has managed to achieve in a somewhat unconventional way.

 “I am a 44-year-old attorney and have never married.  I have been in a great relationship with a divorced man for 10 years. He travels a lot for work, and I have always had a very full life that did not depend on the presence of a man for me to be happy.  Don’t get me wrong; I really like sex, and I like his company.  I just don’t want to live full time with anyone. He keeps his house and I keep my apartment in the city. We see each other once a week and every weekend. We are always thrilled to see each other and always have lots to talk about. Jack is incredibly romantic and thoughtful. We never bore each other.  I think boredom is the greatest romance killer. Lots of my friends have lives that are child- and other-couple centered.  They seem to spend more time with girlfriends and exercise classes than they ever do with their husbands. And there seems to be lots of drinking and tension. Since I did not want to have children, I never saw any reason to sign on for this. We both love cheesy Valentine’s Day cards, and take advantage of February 14th to have a really hot date night. Ten years, and we have never missed a Valentine’s Day celebration!  Romance adds to our life, but I do understand that it is easier for us since we place few demands on our relationship.”

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