Why Do Some People Age Faster
“We like to think we know ourselves pretty well — what makes us happy, what kind of partner will be right for us, how much life experience is needed to get a good job. But when it comes to our future partners, the real truth may surprise you. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, about half (52%) of Americans aged 65 or older are single. And while that might seem surprising given the fact that most people age 50+ say they want to be married, according to another study from the same year, only 6 percent of those surveyed were actually married. So why so many singles?
For starters, there’s an old myth out there that once you hit retirement age, you shouldn’t even bother looking at new love interests because your chances of finding someone suitable are slim to none. That couldn’t be further from the truth, says Judith Stacey, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, who studies midlife relationships. “”There are plenty of very successful, healthy, loving marriages among people over 60,”” she explains via email. In fact, about 9 in 10 adults ages 60 or older have been married.
But if you’re one of those lucky few who’ve found their soul mate after turning 40, don’t feel too smug just yet. While research shows that older couples tend to have healthier longevity than younger ones, recent data also suggests that these unions can still face challenges as they age, including higher rates of divorce.
So, before you start planning your wedding, consider some of the following key points.
1. Don’t assume you’ll find Mr./Mrs. Right when you retire. Many people do end up marrying later in life, but that doesn’t mean you should take it easy on yourself. “”Don’t wait until you are ready to’retire’ to begin dating again,”” Dr. Stacey cautions. If you haven’t dated seriously since college, try not to skip past your 30s. The more time you spend under the radar, the less likely you’ll meet someone compatible with your values, goals and lifestyle.
2. Know your type. As you age, you may become more picky about what you desire in a potential mate. You may not feel comfortable settling down straight away, and that’s OK. Go slow, and focus on meeting someone who shares your core beliefs, values and ideals.
3. Take stock of your finances. It’s important to understand your financial situation now so you won’t make any costly mistakes in the future. Consider whether you’d be able to afford living together long-term without dipping into your savings. Also, make sure you’re prepared for unexpected expenses, such as health care costs, lost income due to disability or death, a move, etc.
4. Get educated. Research indicates that education helps boost your odds of getting married later in life. Even if you’re already engaged to someone, you could still benefit from taking classes, volunteering or networking locally.
5. Make friends. Having a strong social network is essential to having a fulfilling relationship. One way to stay involved is through volunteer opportunities, which often require chatting with others several times per week. Another option is joining a support group, particularly if you live alone.
6. Be flexible. Your vision of happily ever after may change along the way. If you marry someone with different ideas and expectations, work toward compromise. For example, maybe they’d prefer to travel more frequently rather than settle down in one place. Or perhaps they’d like to start a family sooner instead of waiting until they’re financially secure.
7. Have realistic expectations. When you meet someone, keep in mind that dating isn’t for everyone. Remember that dating can involve awkward moments, rejection and disappointment. Accepting this reality may help ease your anxiety and allow you to enjoy the process.
8. Stay open-minded. A lot changes during adulthood, including your outlook on life and priorities. Maybe you used to prioritize career and independence, but now you value spending quality time with loved ones. Or perhaps you used to put off marriage until you had achieved certain milestones, such as owning your own home or building wealth, but now you realize that your partner would need to play an active role in managing your assets.
9. Protect your heart. Some experts recommend being upfront about any existing medical conditions or medications you take, such as high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, etc., especially if your date has chronic illnesses themselves. This gives them a chance to prepare accordingly.
10. Communicate regularly. Find ways to connect with each other beyond the bedroom. Regularly discuss everything from money management to household chores.
11. Seek professional advice. There are numerous resources available to help you navigate life after 50. These include local counseling centers, senior groups, financial planners, lawyers, insurance agents and Medicare specialists. They can offer invaluable guidance from a neutral party and provide referrals to additional services, such as housing assistance programs, legal aid and elder law attorneys.
12. Look for common ground. You may initially gravitate toward someone based on factors unrelated to compatibility or shared experiences. However, having similar views on politics, religion, spirituality, culture, hobbies, travel, food, entertainment, music, books, movies, pets, children, aging parents, etc. is important for fostering lasting intimacy.
13. Avoid comparing. Comparing yourself to someone else may hold you back from fully appreciating your current relationship. Instead, focus on enjoying the journey and celebrating small victories.
14. Keep things fresh. Change is inevitable, so don’t let boredom set in. Try doing something new together, such as trying a new hobby or learning a foreign language.
15. Share memories. Write letters, draw pictures or create photo albums to remind you of special occasions, vacations and memorable events throughout your lives.
16. Create traditions. Establish rituals such as lighting candles on Sundays or exchanging gifts on birthdays.
17. Focus on the present. Stop dwelling on the past and worrying about the future.
“”The best thing is to stop thinking about the next event and just be in the moment,”” advises psychotherapist Lynn Bufka, MSW, CPC, founder of The Center for Women in Transition and author of How Can I Help?: Practical Advice for Widows, Divorcedes, Stepmothers and Caregivers. “”In the moment, you can really see what’s happening around you.””
18. Celebrate anniversaries. Commemorate significant dates, such as 25 years together or your first date.
19. Learn from mistakes. Everyone messes up sometimes, but it’s how you handle those missteps that matters. Think about what went wrong, and then use the lessons learned to improve your communication skills moving forward.
20. Give yourselves permission to grow. Just because you’re no longer young doesn’t mean you can’t evolve. Work on becoming better versions of yourself.
21. Be patient. Relationships aren’t perfect; they’re bound to run into bumps in the road. Let go of unrealistic expectations and avoid comparisons to idealized images of your youth. Embrace imperfections and the wonderful parts that come naturally to you.
22. Laugh. Laughter lowers stress levels and boosts mood, making it easier to deal with life’s stresses and strains. Plus, laughter keeps the brain actively engaged, helping to ward off feelings of loneliness and isolation.
23. Appreciate differences. It’s helpful to learn to accept differences between you and your spouse, such as height, weight, personality traits, etc. Recognize that these are normal characteristics and part of the uniqueness that makes each person unique.
24. Develop empathy. Understand that your partner was probably going through his/her own hardships growing up, and that s/he wants to heal and repair their brokenness.
25. Support each other. Provide encouragement, listen empathetically, share duties and celebrate successes.
26. Respect each other’s boundaries. No matter how long you’ve known each other, you must continue to respect each other’s personal space.
27. Set aside time for self-care. Schedule regular breaks and free time to relax and rejuvenate.
28. Practice acceptance. Acceptance is vital to maintaining intimacy in mature relationships. Being open to all aspects of your partner’s character is necessary to developing deeper bonds.
29. Plan ahead. Anticipate problems and develop solutions so you can address conflicts head-on.
30. Remain hopeful. Despite the ups and downs inherent in intimate partnerships, you can build a solid foundation for a satisfying marriage.
31. Trust your gut. If you sense tension brewing, trust your instincts and pay attention to warning signs.
According to Dr. Stacey, the key to surviving marital difficulties lies within you. “”People who successfully manage their relationships in middle age do so through hard work, persistence, flexibility, humor, patience, openness, commitment, support, honesty, mutual respect, and a willingness to negotiate and adapt,”” she writes via email. “”They also recognize that they cannot control every aspect of their partner’s behavior, nor should they try to.””
If you’re interested in exploring the possibility of marriage, check out the book Love & Logic: Attracting”