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By Tom Blake
In May, my significant other, Greta, and I took a 15-day river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. On the boat, the first question people asked us was “Where are you from?” The second was “How long have you and Greta been married?”
The boat had 190 passengers. Most of them were married couples ages 50 to 80. They just assumed that we were married. To avoid a lengthy explanation of why we aren’t married, we’d usually reply, “We’ve been together for 17 years.”
From there, the conversation would segue into “How many children do you have?” again assuming that we had a bunch of kids together.
Greta would answer, “I have four children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.” I wouldn’t answer the question because I have no kids.
From there, the conversation would turn into disbelief that Greta looks too young to have three great-grandkids. By then, I could distract the marriage conversation by commenting how good the Austrian wine was or point out a historic castle up on hill that the boat was passing.
Sometimes I am asked, “Why aren’t you married?” I suppose I could answer, “Why should I be?” But if I am feeling particularly devilish, I get out a tissue or hankie, pretending to dab my teary eyes and say, “Greta won’t marry me.” That makes the person who asked the question feel bad and they quickly change the subject.
The true reason we are not married is we like our relationship the way it is. We have been together for 17 years. Why change? We see no advantage to being married for us. Besides, we’ve both been married more than once before.
A month ago, I created a Facebook page, titled, “Finding Love after 50,” which has grown to 280 members. One member posted the “Marriage vs. living together?” question. Two men responded.
Gordon said, “At my time of life, in most cases, I do not think marriage is the best answer. Exceptions could be if you want your future spouse to be included on your health plan and they will not cover unless you are married. Living together is fine; however, if further commitment is wanted, there is always a commitment ceremony done by many churches or independently.”
Kenny said, “I’m kind of leaning toward the fastest-growing relationship style for the older boomer ‘folk.’ It’s called a LAT relationship (acronym for Living Apart Together). The premise is you love each other to bits, travel together and are totally committed and perceived by all your friends, family and social circle as a couple, but you maintain separate residences and do not mix money or children.”
Christine Baumgartner, an Orange County dating and relationship coach (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is also a member of the “Finding Love After 50” Facebook group, said, “Most people in the 50 to 80 age group I coach are very interested in being in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship and not interested in getting married. The reasons vary from financial to property to living arrangements.
“I stress to the couples who make the choice to not marry the necessity of a few legal arrangements: health directive, power of attorney, etc. If either person becomes incapacitated or dies, someone will need to be legally responsible, and it won’t matter how long you’ve been together, you will have no way to legally help your partner if there isn’t something legally in place.”
So, when you see older couples holding hands, they may or may not be married and it really doesn’t matter.