Seniors on the Coast – July/Aug 2019

Later in Life LOVE

My mum’s masseuse is trying to ‘introduce’ her to a lovely man. She thinks it’s hilarious and hopeless as she has long since settled into highly fulfilling solo living and will most likely happily stay that way until her end of time.

For many of her friends and contemporaries, however, the opportunity for romance and companionship is very much alive.  There is a lot happening on the ‘silver circuit’ although the landscape of love may look a bit different to what it has been before or what happens when you are younger.

Whilst the inner yearning for intimacy and shared experiences is a strong driver for seeking partnership, there is an equal desire by many in the ‘third age’ to maintain separate lives and establish clear boundaries for a relationship.  This may mean not living together.  Having set times for seeing each other. It very often means keeping finances and expenses clearly separated and ‘going dutch’. And for some, it may even exclude a sexual aspect to the relationship.

It is interesting and wonderful observing my mum’s Senior friends navigate and negotiate this territory. It seems to me a refreshingly real and responsible way to manage relationships and just another way many of today’s ‘evolved elders’ are modeling a modern, diverse and harmonious lifestyle.  They are having the conversations, clearly articulating their ‘terms and conditions’ and in the process, finding great happiness and fulfillment.

In my marriage therapy and relationship coaching practice, one of the important foundations of good healthy relationships that I share with my couples is having clear ‘agreements’ on what the relationship realm includes and what it doesn’t include.  It is about knowing the needs and desires of both individuals, as well as knowing each other’s threshold and dealbreaker aspects, and determining the best arrangements to honour those boundaries.

Certainly if you are moving into marriage and fully committed union and cohabitation, the environment of the relationship might be far more comprehensive – financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. A very holistic and intimate union. And indeed this still occurs at any age and stage of life. I just recently performed a marriage for a couple in their late 70’s.

But for many individuals in the later phases of life & love, many who have been widowed; some multiple times divorced; and lots living solo for a long time, the thought of fully integrating their life & love at this current stage of the journey, with another, is just too big.

Other factors working against fully integrated relationships include being tied into different retirement village living arrangements; different financial capacities and/or personal financial plans with pensions and superannuation; a difference or limitations with physical ability; and complex family dynamics and responsibilities.  They are also very aware of the very real implications another partnership may mean for legacy arrangements and the distribution of the estate and assets in a Will.

Later in life love can be a very deep and special experience.  Couples bring a rich life history and a mature skill set which can create relationships full of meaning and intimacy.  There are advantages for ensuring a diversity of friendships and family connections, and there is something definitely enlivening about the continual personal stretch and evolving that a relationship activates.

Love can keep us young and alive. Companionship, friendship, touch and intimacy bring purpose and meaning that help to cultivate and maintain our full potential for wellbeing.

I kinda hope my mum experiences the joy and challenges of a potential gentleman’s invitation and interest just so I can live vicariously through the exciting disruption and discovery it could bring. How delicious!  But I know she’ll be just perfectly happy as she is too. J