Seniors who live together without being married. Should seniors remarry? Or, should seniors worry about what other people think. Why shouldn’t seniors remarry?
By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50
Tom’s comment: This column was originally published in 2011, when I still owned Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point, California, deli. It has been updated in 2017.
This week I heard from Champ Jill, who is in a relationship but not married. She's concerned about what people think regarding her arrangement. I had a discussion with her that should ease her concerns.
Jill: "I have a question about being in a long-term relationship as you are. I ask because I'm in one myself. How do you introduce Greta? All the usual terms seem so awkward and long to use. For example, meet my wife, turns into meet my significant other, or long term partner, etc. I always get odd looks."
Tom: This question comes up often. It is a bit of a dilemma, isn't it! Here's how my mom handled it when she would introduce my life partner Greta to her friends. She would say, "This is Tom's Greta." In that way, she avoided the issue and left it for her curious friends to figure out."
I introduce Greta as either my partner or my love. The problem with partner is then they think she's my deli partner, which she's not. Some add, "Oh, she's the Spunky in the Tutor and Spunky's deli name? How cute!"
To that I say: "No, Spunky was my wife when I opened the deli, but she flew the coop on Xmas Eve 1993. I kept the deli name because it's catchy. I introduce Greta as my love because that's what she is. A love wouldn't bail out on Xmas Eve, only a sneaky wife would do that.
"How long have you been married?" is another question I'm sometimes asked by people who assume all older adults who live together are married. My answer: "Which time?" That usually embarrasses them so much they change the subject. Or, I'll reply "Thirteen years" and leave it at that and avoid trying to explain our non-marriage arrangement.
2017 note: Greta and I were just on a tour with 11 other people to India and Nepal. We were asked how long we had been married. Our reply, “We’ve been together 18 years.” No one questioned our answer. They just assumed we were married. No harm, no foul.
Jill: "When you meet family/relatives who have children (relatives of you) present, do you refer to Greta as Aunt, even though she's not legally their Aunt or Grandma?"
Tom: No. I have no children and only two nephews. I don't refer to her as Aunt Greta. They just know her and love her as Greta and that works for them.
However, on Greta's side of the family, now that's another issue. She's got eight grandkids and three great grandkids. A couple of them call me "Grandpa Tom," which is okay with me, although I'm not much of the grandpa type.
Another likes to call me "Gramps," but he's just jerking my chain. Actually, I'd prefer they call me Tutor-or just Toot-as many of my friends do--but they haven't gotten around to that yet.
Jill: "How do you deal with family or friends who feel living with someone without marriage is sinful?"
Tom: "I have no family or friends who feel living with someone without being married is sinful. At least if I do, they haven't let it be known to me. Besides, people who try to impose their religious beliefs on others need to get a life; they wouldn't be my friends. It's the 21st Century. There are millions of adults 50+ who live together without being married. That's their prerogative and their own business.
Jill: "How do you two deal with the question of why you aren't married?"
Tom: I say that my relationship with Greta has lasted longer than all three of my marriages combined. Why get married and screw up a perfectly happy, healthy and respectful relationship and end up in an unhappy marriage like so many people I know?
It is my opinion that people who ask those types of marriage-related questions or think living together is sinful are insecure, hypocritical, or unhappy. At the least, they are not hip to what is going on in the world of older non-marrieds.
Jill, “Do people ever ask you why seniors shouldn’t marry?”
Tom, “Not often. If they did, I’d have an answer for them. Of course, one reason is when a widowed person would lose their marriage benefits they are receiving from the government or from a former employer’s package.
My comments today aren't just about how Tom and Greta feel about not being married. This week, I heard from Russ and Marcia, one of the couples featured in my book, "How 50 Couples Found Love After 50." (Amazon.com)
Marcia wrote, "Russ and I have been together four years this Christmas. Finding a loving companion at this stage in life is truly a blessing. We were both widowed from 34-year loving marriages. We met at the 'Widowed Person's Association.'
"Our life is filled with doing all the things we always wanted to do and to see all we can. This spring we moved our things together and plan to have a commitment celebration in the spring followed by our trip to China. Marriage is often too complicated for couples our age so many couples we know have religious commitment ceremonies in lieu of that."
So Jill, stop worrying about what others think. We can't predict how much time we have left on earth. Just focus on each other and have a blast. If you decide to get married, send me an invitation.