THE TRUTH ABOUT LATE LIFE MARRIAGE
Towards the end of 2015 Charlotte Parratt, now 49, and Jay, 69, celebrated their regatta-themed wedding. Rowers in boaters and stripy blazers ferried 60 guests down the river near Henley-on-Thames as a jazz band played. “I wanted the wow factor,” says Charlotte, who was marrying for the first time.
Charlotte and Jay, who was divorced from his first wife, are one of an increasing number of couples marrying in later life. According to research by the Office for National Statistics, marriage rates among the over-65s rose by 41 per cent among men and 56 per cent among women from 2009 to 2014. Increasing life expectancy means women, in particular, are rejecting the idea of 30 years of widowhood and searching for a partner with whom to enjoy a later-life romance and, naturally, sex is an important part of that.
These couples aren’t just seeking a companion for their twilight years: life for older newly-weds is likely to be just as joyous as the Parratts’ celebrations. “There are fewer demands on you,” says Keren Smedley, a life coach for the over-50s. “When older couples get together, they focus on each other. Often people fall in love and want the same sexual relationship and intensity as they did in their 20s. Some of the people I work with act as if they were teenagers when they talk about their partner. Hormones and bodily functions don’t change that much.”
“Physical attraction is really important to me,” agrees Erica Johnson, who married Alistair two years ago. She was 71; he was a slightly greying toyboy at 64. The couple, both retired solicitors, live in north London. “I have friends to accompany me to the cinema or on holiday,” she adds. With children grown up and retirement on the horizon, shared interests become even more important.
Marriage rates in the UK among the over-65s rose by 41 per cent among men and 56 per cent among women from 2009 to 2014. Credit: The Image Bank
“Do you enjoy hanging out together?” asks relationship expert Rebecca Perkins. “The people I see have a sense of adventure and want to share it with someone. They might have had setbacks – illness, divorce, redundancy – and now appreciate life is for living.”
When older couples do share a passion, they might also have the maturity to avoid becoming too competitive. Sheila Davies, 68, and Daryl Giles, 65, live near Preston in Lancashire. They met through their photographic societies in 2007 and are getting married next month.
“Photography brought us together, and is still very much a shared interest,” says Sheila. “We are both retired – Daryl was an IT manager, I was a management consultant – so we have lots of time to spend with each other. We often enter photography competitions but we never compete.” The couple have planned their honeymoon to the US to fit in with their passion. “I’m into wildlife, so sea otters are on my wishlist,” says Sheila. “Daryl is interested in astronomy, so we will also photograph the night skies of Utah.”
A relationship when you are older also presents an opportunity to find out what you really enjoy. Sara MacInnes married her husband, Angus, in November. She was 56. He was 64. Both had been married before. “When my first marriage ended after 30 years, it was a real shock,” admits Sara, a research analyst from Milton Keynes. “I met my husband at 19 and married at 20. I didn’t know who I was then – and I certainly didn’t know after we separated.”
Spending time with Angus has been “a revelation”. “For the past six years, I have been unpicking the past to get to the ‘me’ underneath.” Encouraged by her second husband, Sara took up dancing. “I always thought, ‘I can’t dance. It’s not me.’ Then I realised it was ‘we’ – my ex-husband and I – who didn’t dance. Angus and I went to a few classes and it was so much fun. We now go dancing twice a week.”
But what happens when the honeymoon period wears off? Surely then an older couple faces similar challenges to a younger one – and worse, if people are set in their ways. Is an older person really more likely to put the lid back on the toothpaste or avoid repeating the story their partner has heard thousands of times before? Of course not. But the partner may have become more tolerant.
Maria, now 66, and Daniel Jacobs, 79, found this out at the start of their relationship. Maria remembers a fiery argument when they moved in together 10 years ago: “Dan’s first wife used to cook his dinner and do all his washing and ironing,” says Maria. “One evening I was ironing while he was asleep on the sofa. When he woke up, he took one look at the hangers and said, ‘The cuffs aren’t smooth enough!’ I was furious. I said, ‘I am never ironing for you ever again.’ To this day, I have kept my word.”
Maria has even gone a step further, much to her surprise. When Daniel retired from running his retail business aged 70, he started doing consultancy work from home. “I was used to having the house to myself. Dan now has the spare room, the lounge, half our bedroom and the kitchen table as his study,” says Maria. “I realised the only way to get my own space was to get out of the house and find a job. I now work at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Dan – who was quite old-fashioned when I met him – now cooks me dinner when I get home.”
Tolerance, says relationship expert James Preece, is often about confidence. “People in their 20s or 30s are often less willing to compromise because they need to make their mark. They want to assert themselves. Even if you’re used to your own routine when you’re older, you find ways to make things work. If one person likes to go for a walk before breakfast or likes to stay up late, it’s not a big deal. You do your own thing or you adapt.”
Understanding what’s important to you can also come from illness or bereavement. Charlotte and Jay know this only too well. Eight years into their relationship, Charlotte developed a brain tumour. “Jay looked after me for a whole year of surgery and aftercare,” says Charlotte. “He did a brilliant job – amusing me, driving me to appointments, talking through the fear and helping me cope with deafness in one ear. I have recovered, but it made us realise every day counts.” “We know that it’s only worth arguing over things that really matter,” says Charlotte. “I know Jay is messy and loses everything – he even lost his wedding ring. We think it’s in the garden. At least he didn’t drop it into the Thames on the big day.”
The Telegraph Article – 1 August 2018
IS IT LOVELIER THE SECOND TIME AROUND??
There’s an old Frank Sinatra song that tells us, “Love is lovelier the second time around.” I’m sure he had no idea, at the time he sang those words, that there would be as many late marriages as there are today.
Men and women are living longer, and it is more normative to remarry after being widowed. In addition, divorces are common now for people of all ages, and these men and women often take new partners later in life. A bride and groom in the 21st Century, or a senior gay couple who can now legally marry, are just as likely to be 75 as 25; love and marriage are sought by people all ages.
There are some seniors who have never married and their late-life marriages are their first, and there are also seniors who will not legally marry, often for financial reasons, but decide to share their homes and hearts with their new partners in a marital-style relationship, and I am including these partnerships under the umbrella term of late-life marriage, too.
But is a marriage begun in the senior years the same as a marriage initiated in youth? It is lovelier?
A late marriage may or may not be lovelier, but it is definitely different from a marriage in one’s youth.
When men and women marry again late in life, their children are adults. With no child support to pay and no custody or visitation problems – and probably no ex-spouses to contend with, either – one might think that these marriages would be mostly trouble-free, or at least have different issues to work through. As it turns out, two main problems are, still, money and children.
Adult children may live thousands of miles away and have their own spouses and children, but they are still able to interfere with their elder parent’s second marriage. In fact, loyalty issues may be more of a problem for them than for small children of divorced families. If mom or dad has remarried after the death of the other parent, even if the original marriage had been a happy one, the son or daughter may feel that, by remarrying, the surviving parent is obliterating the love for the deceased spouse, for their deceased parent.
It is difficult enough for many widowed seniors to overcome their feelings of disloyalty to their deceased spouses without having their grown children reinforce these emotions. On the other hand, some adult children are pleased that their surviving parent has been blessed with a partner for comfort and joy in the autumn of life’ there may also be a feeling of relief that mom or dad is getting remarried and “the burden of caretaking” is off their shoulders.
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 the new spouse. They feel healthier, (and new research shows that seniors who are married do indeed live longer), safer, 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, travel with, and cry with.
Is it lovelier the second time around, as Frank Sinatra told us? Yes, it can be. Not all first marriages are happy ones, even if they lasted. And even someone who had a happy marriage can have an encore after the spouse passes away. 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 died, not to jump to conclusions, or judge harshly.