April 8, 2011

USA: Why Older Single Couples Don’t Marry

CAPISTRANO BEACH, California /  The Capistrano Dispatch / April 8, 2011

By Tom Blake

This week, in the middle of a busy lunch rush, a woman came up to me in Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point deli, and said, “Why won’t you marry Greta?” She was referring to my significant other of 13 years.

As a business owner, and a relationship columnist, it’s important to be gracious, regardless of people’s questions. I simply smiled and said, “She doesn’t want to marry me.”

The customer’s face turned red. She said, “Oh my,” and walked away.

Her question was based on two erroneous assumptions.

The first assumption, that people age 50-plus who are in a happy relationship should automatically marry, is old-school and isn’t reality anymore.

The second assumption, that Greta is just dying to get married and this old meanie won’t ask he, isn’t reality either.

Two years ago, I published a book titled, How 50 Couples Found Love After 50. (www.50Couples.com)

Of the couples featured, about half ended up getting married. So yes, marriage later in life does happen.

But the other half didn’t marry, although they live together. They represent the modern thinking of our generation, that older couples can have wonderful lives without tying the knot.

Carmen, 71, a high school classmate of mine from Jackson, Michigan, in making light of the marriage issue, emailed, “Sally and I have said we’d get married when I turn 80.”

I responded, “Careful, dude, you may have to deliver on the agreement.”

Marcia and Russ, Sacramento, both widowed and in their 60s, are included in the book. Marcia emailed, “We did not marry for a myriad of reasons. My grandchildren call Russ their honorary grandfather and adore him.

“We caution couples in their 60s concerning marriage as they’ve had a lifetime of building obligations and acquiring assets and responsibilities. My son thought, at first we should marry but has accepted the situation. We are happy and know that our medical is good, assets secure and we can enjoy each other at this time of life. We cannot afford to make serious financial errors.”

Mary Lou, 66, South Orange County, said, “Ten years ago, I was engaged; we broke it off before tying the knot. I was devastated, hoping that he was ‘the one.’

“Today, I am glad we broke it off because we avoided the pain of a divorce, which I believe would have been inevitable.

“I would much rather be in a committed relationship without the marriage part, keeping all finances and ownership of property separate and apart. Oh, yea, I’m a divorce lawyer. Do you think that may be part of why I have no interest in getting married?”

Frances added, “The excuse that we older ones don’t have much time left is not a good excuse. Look at the problems that marrying in haste has brought to unfortunate older people. Being single isn’t bad when compared to a bad marriage.”

Sarah, “To those who might marry to ‘save face’ or ‘avoid condemnation’ in the community and or the family, why not have a spiritual wedding and skip the legalities?”

Joel, “My feeling at age 66, and, after 12 years of dating and finding a soulmate who dumped me, is that it takes about two years of living with someone to get to know them. The difficulty, of course, is that now I don’t have many two-year segments left.”

Mary Lynn, “I am 64, divorced since 1998. I have no desire to remarry and see no reason to do so. My best friend met someone online a few months ago and will be getting married next month. She is on Cloud Nine because she has been looking for a husband for several years. I don’t want to rain on her parade, but I don’t understand what the ‘obsession’ with marriage is. If you’re in a committed, loving, mutually nourishing relationship, what more do you need?”

Married couples should stop asking their single-couple friends when they’re going to marry. The answer might embarrass them, as it did the poor woman in the deli.

Tom Blake is a San Clemente resident and Dana Point business owner who has authored three books on middle-aged dating. E-mail tompblake@gmail.com

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