Fifty and Older: A deeply distraught senior in his seventies faces the prospect of living in marital misery “until death do us part.” The chasm between the pair has widened over the decades and may be unfixable. His wife feels the same way. What are their choices: divorced and alone or together and unhappy? A decade or so ago my best offer would be to help the couple paste together whatever shards of former friendship, history or affection they could find to make the passage of time tolerable enough. Today when faced with a similar task and questioned as to options, I offer something else: possibility.
The possibility of finding friendship, compatibility, fun and possibly passion with someone new. Despondent grownups over fifty who are trapped financially and emotionally in torturous or hollow marriages risk damaging their psychological and physical health when they don’t allow themselves to imagine other options including the benefits of the changing mores of the times. These changes include not only Viagra, hip replacements and bypass surgeries but the resources of the ever-proliferating world of dating sites and social networking. The fifty and older set has mastered technology sufficiently (after all they invented it) to jump on the bandwagon of locating love in just the right places: close to home, affordable, and potentially full of gratifying fun.
Pro-Active Approach: What has changed over the last two decades is opportunity. If you are prone to passivity, then seeking new love at any age is risky. But if you’re not, then the age of instant contact is made for you. Not only are there many dating sites for the mature adult, but also social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow people to connect with past friends, colleagues and future friends. High School and college reunion organizers can locate and entice almost anyone who was a graduate to assemble together one more time to review unfinished business or renew interests left behind. In earlier decades snail mail might not have unearthed this possibility and certainly without the Internet, cell phones and text, would have not made it so easy to sustain the connection.
The blind date motif is still a practical option, meeting someone through someone. But more often today, when you ask folks how they met, if they are over fifty, it is either through online dating, a class reunion, or a reconnection through social media.
Does that mean we give up on existing marriages for the possibility of a new like/love option? I am a couples therapist so that would be like a car mechanic telling you to trade in your current car even before you open up the hood to see if the problem is fixable – after all, an oil change might suffice. New cars are very expensive. Divorce is very expensive and emotionally costly to everyone, the Coupledom most of all. But years of clinical experience has shown me that offspring of any age are heavily impacted by the demise of their parents’ marriages, as is the extended network of cousins, friends and pets. Couples therapy is a worthy enterprise – a shared life should never be squandered. But for those who find themselves unmarried or uncoupled, whether widowed or divorced, or married and deeply miserable, the notion that one might find a quotient of happiness before the lights go out, is not wildly delusional. In fact, it is wild not to consider that alternative.
Big Love/ Big Business: Our time, mingle, cupid, harmony, match: just some of the language that bedecks the websites of dating services, all smack of possibility. If cupid were up to speed I would meet my match in harmony, to mingle together in our time happily ever after. Fingers crossed everyone can get a second (or more) chance at love. The marketplace is packed full of dating sites competing for our dollars: Christian Mingle, JDate, Match, eHarmony, Our Time and many more. This is not because they don’t work. It is because in many cases they do work, as does social media connecting for business, for philanthropy, for creativity and for love. With effort, patience and the muscle needed to withstand the predictable disappointments, frustrations and rejections (according to all reports the vicissitudes of dating at any age appear to be similar) that accompany the search for a mate, the opportunities appear to be unlimited. All you need is imagination, energy and the courage to leave something known and unfixable for the possibility that you may still be in time for love.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2013