Finding Love in Later Years

Rev. Suzanne Marlatt Stewart

Yes, I must admit I watched The Golden Bachelor. Gerry was definitely a great choice for the bachelor; sensitive, caring, athletic, and handsome. He was given very good advice in his search for a partner: “Never marry the one you can live with, marry the one you cannot live without.” What this program showed me was that seniors are romantic. Also, it’s about time the media changed how they depict aging.

Some people say that we each have a “soul mate”—that one person who is our special love—and that’s it. I personally don’t believe that. As parents, we can love our children in different ways according to their personalities; so too can we love more than one romantic partner. That scenario was the dilemma Gerry faced. My truth is that a partner represents an aspect of ourselves, a commonality of interests, a similar spiritual path, great friendship, or someone who you know will be there for you no matter what. Maybe similar values on how one views life. Another possibility is a rekindled lost love. One must decide what is most important later in life in seeking a partner.

Marriage is difficult at any age. So why bother? Men and women “bother” because they fall in love and feel young again, joyous in the presence of a new partner. They feel healthier (and new research shows that seniors who are married do indeed live longer because they feel safer and comforted). They have companionship and share new and old hobbies and interests, friends, and family. Life is richer with someone nearby to talk to, laugh with, and cry with.

Is it lovelier the second time around that Frank Sinatra sang about? Yes, it can be. There is nothing disloyal in this: psychologists have found that the happier the marriage was, the quicker the surviving spouse (especially a widower) will get remarried. Why? He enjoyed being married, so he believes in marriage. That is why it is important when we see a senior getting married not long after his or her spouse has died, not to jump to conclusions, or judge harshly.

The rising popularity of older adult cohabitation was first documented more than two decades ago (Chivan; Hatch, 1995). This early research articulated numerous economic and social benefits of cohabitation in later life. The economies of scale traditionally confined to marriage also can be achieved through cohabitation and without the legal obligations marriage involves. Couples can live together in a close, intimate partnership and pool their resources to the extent that it works for them.

“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.”—Barbara De Angelis

February is the month of love … start by loving yourself. Having a partner in your life is an added blessing.

Rev. Suzanne, a resident of SaddleBrooke, is an independent writer and speaker. She was ordained nondenominational, representing all faiths, and her focus is inclusivity. Email her at [email protected].