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Marriage or Live Together? What Should This Senior Couple Do?

By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50

Should This Senior Couple enjoy marriage or live together?

During the Christmas holidays, Doug, 70, a widower of two years, met Susan, 69, while shopping in a bookstore. “We’ve been dating and partners since.

Between us, we have nine children, 20 grandchildren and one great grandchild,” Doug said, and then asked, “Should we get married or live together?”

That’s an explosive question, one that puts me on the hot seat with readers. Regardless of my response, some people will object. But since Doug asked, here goes.

A major consideration is financial. By remarrying, will either party forfeit survivor benefits from a previous marriage? Will there be a pre-nuptial agreement to protect each other’s respective assets? Children and grandchildren will be particularly concerned about that, especially if their inheritances will be jeopardized.

And what about daily living expenses? Who pays for what? And what if a new spouse gets sick? Who will cover the hospital and doctor bills? And what if one of them dies, who pays expenses related to that? How will the survivor be taken care of financially? If they decide to marry, each should see a separate financial counselor.

Another major consideration is Religion. What are their religious beliefs? How do they, their kids, and friends feel about them living together without being married? Do their religious beliefs and affiliations frown on living out of wedlock?

Whenever I write that living together without being married could work best for certain couples, some people accuse me of dispensing amoral advice. One woman said, “By expressing ‘nothing is wrong’ with living together, you negatively impact behavior of our younger generation.” Others quote verses from the Bible.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Who's to say? The decision is up to the couple and no one else.

A while ago, I posed the question, “What should older couples who live together but aren’t married call themselves?” It was meant to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek column. No harm intended. Dr. Laura got wind of it on her radio program and suggested women in such relationships be called “shack-up honeys.” (Not her exact words, but similar. I personally didn’t hear what she said.)

Another consideration is tolerance. As we age, each of us has acquired personal habits that could offend a mate. How sad to marry quickly and then wake up a few weeks later asking, “Why did I get married?”

For Doug and Susan, I think it’s pretty darned soon to be talking marriage. They’ve only known each other three months. He had a very difficult healing from the death of his wife. In fact, he’s written a book about it. I think their marriage decision should wait, primarily because of the healing factor. And whether they live together or not, well, that’s up to them.

People considering marriage should know that more than 70 percent of second and third marriages end in divorce. That’s an against-the-odds number.

However, a research study crossed my desk a while back, written by Nicholas Wolfinger, an associate professor at the University of Utah, stated, "Rebounding into a second marriage is no more or less likely to increase the chance of another divorce than if a person waits a longer period of time." So, maybe waiting makes little difference.

Personally, I think older folks who meet and fall in love should cool their marriage jets for awhile. What’s the rush? My partner and I have been together for 18 years. We have lived together for 13 years. We are both very happy with our arrangement and happy as clams.

Some new couples argue they have little time to waste; they want to enjoy life and be together now. And yes there are people who’ve known each other for only a few months who’ve had successful marriages.

Living together is no stroll in the harbor, but it’s much easier to extricate oneself from a live-in situation than a marriage. And marriage can change a relationship, and not always for the better.

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