Friday, September 26, 2014

The longest, long-distance relationship

On Life and Love After 50 Newsletter

by: Thomas P. Blake    September 26, 2014

            Longest, long-distance relationship thrives

Chris, San Clemente, California, has a zest for life; he is one of the most interesting men I have ever met. After a divorce several years ago, he decided to enjoy life and became a dance host on cruise ships.

In that role, he got to travel the world courtesy of cruise ship lines and in exchange, spent his nights at sea dancing with single women who were on the cruises. He was not allowed to date the women he met at sea, at least not while he was cruising. He was away from his home for nearly 150 days a year. I've known Chris for five years and admire his positive energy.

When not traveling, Chris volunteers at the San Clemente Villas by the Sea, a senior retirement facility, by dancing with the women there. For years, he's also volunteered as Santa Claus for the young children who visit their relatives at the Villas, and at the Saint Edwards preschool in nearby Dana Point.

Eleven years ago this Christmas, while on a cruise, he met a woman named Tina, who lives in England. After the ship docked, they started perhaps the world's longest, long-distance relationship.

Chris said, "Talk about being geographically undesirable, I have a picture on the wall in my office that Tina gave me last year for our 10th anniversary. It is a map with a line between Southern California and Buckingham, England, where she lives, and it says, 'Chris and Tina,5,419 miles.'"

My partner Greta and I had the pleasure of meeting Tina when she was visiting Chris three years ago. Even though Chris and Tina live far apart, they are together either in Southern California or England about eight months each year. Chris said, "Tina is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me."

On August 28, I received an email from Chris with a subject line that read, "Day Six." The email read, "Today is the sixth day since I got home from the hospital. My recovery is going to take much longer than I thought. Sometime in the not too distant future I will be dancing and traveling again."

Greta and I were shocked at Chris's news and emailed him that we were unaware that he had been in the hospital. He wrote back that he had been hospitalized for triple-bypass and open-heart surgery. He added, "Thank God for Tina who flew in from England as soon as she heard I was going for surgery and has been by my side ever since."

On September 12, Chris sent an update on his condition: "Before I went into the hospital, I figured I would be up dancing and running around a couple weeks after I got home. But, that operation really slowed me down. Maybe it's because I'm 80 now. I went to the San Clemente Villas a couple of times to visit my ladies and the residents. That is always uplifting for me."

He said, "To show you how positive I am about becoming the old Chris again, I've booked a flight to England for the 28th of December. Tina and I are taking an 11-day cruise in January starting in Singapore. We are living our lives to the fullest and after this scare with my heart, we are determined to squeeze every joy we can out of life."

This photo of Tina, Chris, Greta and me was taken this past Sunday in Dana Point. 

                                      Chris & Tina, Greta and Tom
                                                 Chris, Tina, Greta, Tom

This fine couple doesn't allow a few thousand miles get in the way of having a rewarding and happy relationship.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Are finances important when seeking a mate?

On Life and Love After 50: Are finances important when seeking a mate?

By Tom Blake   September 19, 2014

When Jerry, not his true name, reached 50 and started dating again after raising three kids on his own, he compiled a written, detailed “deal breaker” list of the qualities he sought in a mate. I am a strong advocate of singles creating such a list, so much so, I devote an entire chapter in my book, “Finding Love After 50,” to its importance. (The link to this book is listed at the end of this column).

Jerry said, “Personal finance and financial responsibility were very high on my list. In my first marriage, finances were a major issue with my ex-wife. After my divorce, I worked hard to pay down debt (divorce is expensive), fund my retirement, and manage my finances responsibly.

“But, I found that with the economic events of the past 10 years (housing crisis, recession), financial issues are abundant, it depends on what weight you give them in a relationship.”

Jerry said, “I found that my list was eliminating a large population of the 50ish-dating pool. I later read that the most important trait to look for was ‘personality.’ I took this to heart, relaxed my “deal breaker” list and put personality on top.”

Tom’s comment: I am not sure where Jerry read this. While personality is important, it does not trump financial responsibility.

Jerry continued, “A couple of years ago, I met someone who had a great personality. We dated a year, fell in love, and decided to marry (my second marriage, her third). She was easy going and a pleasure to spend time with.

“When I met her, she had a good job (we both make the same amount of income), but no home, and was renting. I was very open in the discussion of my financial responsibility (I had little debt, home almost paid off), but she was hesitant to discuss hers, as it pertained to credit card debt and finances.

“One month prior to our marriage, she informed me that she held a large amount of credit card debt ($30K-$40K), but did not expect me to help her in paying this off once we got married. I accepted this, and once married, offered to help her manage her debt payments. We agreed to split the utilities, and groceries only, which would give her additional money to pay down her debt.”

Comment from Tom: At that point, Jerry should have required a pre-nuptial agreement to exempt him from her financial obligations. I believe I am correct in saying that without a pre-nuptial agreement, her debts become his responsibility once the knot is tied. State laws may vary on this legality but at the least Jerry should have seen a big red flag at that point.

“She moved into my home. We bought new furniture (I paid a majority of the cost) and some re-decorating was done on the house. She funded curtains, blinds, etc., but these items were not expensive.

“After a year of marriage, I am wondering if I relaxed my “deal breaker” list too much. I have encountered a few bumps in the road, as far as her finances. I came to realize that a portion of my wife’s credit card debt apparently came from vacations (Hawaii, Turkey, first-class flights) and cruises. I also believe a large expense was payment for her daughter’s breast enhancement.

“We both recently pulled our credit reports, which revealed that she had not reduced her credit card debt at all for the first year of our marriage, apparently spending the majority of her paycheck on herself (she does spend money on my daughter occasionally, but it’s minimal), even though she had gained $1000 a month by moving into my home.

“I was frank in discussions with her that if her financial behavior did not change, it would create problems. I am now committed to maintaining separate financial accounts and ownership of assets (house, cars, etc.,) until I see an improvement in her financial behavior.

“Recently, she brought up the discussion of updating our wills (I travel out of the country on business occasionally). When I told her I would be dividing my estate and life insurance in equal portions between her and my children, she started crying and informed me that the wife should come first and that I should will the majority of my estate to her, then, upon her death, the children would be recognized.

“She has no financial assets other than a small life insurance policy through her work. I did not agree to her request, but did increase her division of my estate ‘slightly.’

“She will not be thrown out of the house onto the street or be penny less if anything should happen to me. I have told her I don’t expect anything from her life insurance if anything happened to her (other than the funeral expenses) and would give it all to her daughter.

“I wonder if “Finding Love after 50” has put me in trouble? Has relaxing the “deal breaker list” backfired?

“My wife is a true pleasure to be around and we have a good time doing things together. If you ignore her financial issues, there’s not a lot to complain about (It’s not costing me anything, yet.) I am committed to this marriage, but how much do you commit to?”

Tom’s response:  Finding love after 50 is not the culprit here. It was Jerry’s decision to relax the financial responsibility requirement in the deal-breaker list that started the problem.

I think his wife saw a financial cash cow in Jerry and turned on her nice personality to reel him in.

When he found out she owed up to $40,000 on credit card debt, he should have postponed the wedding until she could show him progress on reducing the debt. Now, a year into the marriage, nothing has changed.

The story about her crying because he intends to will half of his estate to his kids made me ill. With her financial track record, his kids would not see a dime of that money. It would all be gone. His adjusting the estate slightly due to her tears was a whimpy thing to do.

If the money gets tight, she will likely divorce him. Jerry needs to see his lawyer now and ensure his property and estate cannot be challenged by her.

He says his wife is a pleasure to be around and if he ignores the financial issues, there isn’t much to complain about. The problem is, finances are the biggest issue that cause couples to divorce. Jerry needs his lawyer to become his best friend.

I imagine our Champs will have some strong opinions on this situation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A finding love after 70 success story

On life and love after 70: Never give up hope of meeting a mate

by Tom Blake, September 12, 2014

Each week, I receive an average of 30 emails on the subject of love and life after age 50. It’s hard to keep track of them all. One of the great things about using gmail as my internet provider is it archives the emails each person sent.

So, when I receive an informative email from someone like Art, in Florida, who emailed me this week--with a finding love after 70 success story--I can go back and see what Art had previously written. Using historical information from a person can enrich the current information that that person provides.

Over the last couple of years, Art has sent me several emails that were always informative and helpful. We’ve quoted him a few times.

In May, 2012, Art, wrote, “I was widowed nearly five years ago, and have been on two free dating sites for about four and a half years. In that time I have corresponded with at least 60 to 70 women, and have met about 35 in person. We usually meet for lunch, and I always pick up the tab.

“I think it is important to know what you want, and who you want to meet. You must read the woman's profile carefully, and look for mutual interests, and also state your own preferences. For instance, I want a woman who likes the opera and live theater, as well as dancing and travel.

“If these interests are not mutual, we will probably never get beyond the first lunch. If someone wants to meet the new love of their life, they have to start somewhere, and the internet is a good way to see who's out there.”

This week, Art wrote, “I am now 76, and met Joanie, now 69, a year and a half ago, and I can only suggest to both men and women that it is never too late to find love again.

“I found Joanie on Plenty Of Fish, and sent her a message, to which she replied. We eventually met at a Barnes & Noble book store to talk after several weeks of chatting on that site.

“As soon as I saw her, I knew that this lady was very worth pursuing, so rather than leaving the book store with her phone number, I suggested we have frozen yogurt at a nearby shop. We spoke probably another hour there, and we exchanged phone numbers and made plans to stay in touch.

“Since that fateful meeting, we have been out to countless dinners, lunches, theatrical events, including the opera and two ballets. We recently completed a 10-night cruise, our second, and are booked for a Halloween cruise, and are planning to spend her birthday next spring in Mexico City.

“I recently bought her and myself commitment rings with the sign of infinity, and we both have found a lasting love after being widowed. Your newsletter provides a lot of encouragement, as well as advice from other readers that helped me to avoid some red flags and mistakes.

“To anyone looking for love again, take my word that it is definitely possible for a person who is willing to search, and put in the effort.”

Art knew what he wanted--a woman who enjoyed opera, live theatre, and travel--and stuck with that requirement. Seven years after becoming widowed, he is in a wonderful, committed relationship, due to his willingness to work very hard to find the right match for him.

Do not give up hope, and keep working on finding your mate.

                                            Art and Joanie

Dating old flames and losing weight

On love and life after 60: Dating old flames and losing weight

by Tom Blake

A few days before Labor Day, 2014, Anita (not her true name), age 52, a widow of two years, emailed, “What is your perspective on rekindling old relationships?” Anita had been on a career networking website when she came across an old boyfriend she had not talked to in 25 years.  

Anita said, “We have exchanged a few emails and have agreed that we would like to catch up. I asked him to call so we could chat but he said he would rather we meet in person. He wants to meet on Labor Day at a Dana Point bar.”

Anita had concerns about meeting him. Why wouldn’t he talk on the phone? Was he hiding something? Was he married? Why meet on Labor Day?

She was also concerned because of her weight. The reason she broke up with him 25 years before was he was into fitness and bodybuilding and had always tried to get her to lose five pounds and to dye her hair. She was a fit personal trainer then and found his demands unacceptable.

Anita said, “In the past decade, I have gained 20 pounds. Anyone who has been a caregiver and a nurturer, as I was for my husband for seven years, can understand how easy it is to put other's needs ahead of our own. Taking the time to care for ourselves often becomes an after-thought.  

“In thinking of meeting him, my first inclination was to starve myself in a desperate and unrealistic attempt to lose those 20 pounds. In an ideal world, he will have matured and maybe even put on a few pounds himself and even acquired a receding hairline or something.”

Anita added that she was worried that he’d think she was “…just a fat, middle-aged housewife; I am terrified of being rejected and hurt again,” she said, and added, “How realistic are single men over 50 when it comes to a woman's weight and physicality?”

She wanted to know my thoughts about her meeting her old boyfriend.

My reply to Anita:My guess is he hasn't changed. He won’t talk on the phone? How weird. He wants to meet at a bar and not for coffee? On Labor Day? Red flags. You are setting yourself up for a disappointment.”

She decided to meet with him anyway.

After the proposed encounter, she wrote. “On Labor Day, I showed. He didn't. I can't say I'm disappointed because I was having serious doubts.”  

My perspective: Dating old flames can work. After all, you shared common interests oh-so many years ago. However, there are lots of questions and challenges. Who moves if someone has to relocate? What about children? Finances? There are a plethora of issues. I am aware of situations where old flames have successfully reunited. However, for every old flame success story, there are many, many, more that don’t work.

Answering Anita’s question about weight: Men do care about a woman’s weight, even if the men have let themselves go. It’s a double standard. For Anita, as a former personal trainer, she knows the importance of getting in shape, and losing some pounds, not because of what men want, but because it’s necessary for her health. That’s the important thing. Her health! And, it will help her self-esteem dramatically.

The roller coaster of love after 50

On life and love after 50: The roller coaster of love after 50

In June, 2014, I spoke to a lovely couple (Mary and Dan, not their real names) in my Dana Point, California, deli who said they had started dating about 10 months before. They were in love and thrilled that they had found each other.

Dan was divorced after a 40-year marriage and Mary had been mostly alone for 20 years but attending lots of group and activities. Mary said, “I had met some nice men, but never the one. I was usually OK going it alone; I had great family and friends for support.”

I asked Mary and Dan to send me an email describing how they had met so I could share their information with other age 50-plus singles.  In the email that Mary sent, she concluded: “Our life together just flows. It’s as if we have a significant history together already. We are standing on solid ground. Dan fits perfectly into my life and he feels the same about me.” They were so happy that Dan had moved in with Mary.

She added, “The moral of the story: there may be a slim chance to meet someone if you put yourself out there, but there’s no chance at all unless you put yourself out there.”

On July 17, Mary sent an update about the relationship. Dan’s ex-wife had moved from the East Coast and was living in his home. He was renting it to her at a deeply discounted price. Mary said Dan felt sorry for her because she had fallen on hard financial times. Mary was not happy that the ex-wife had re-entered his life, although not romantically. “We would have never gone through this if she had stayed on the east coast,” Mary said.

Mary and Dan discussed the situation and worked it out. She said, “Both of us realize what we would be missing if we walked away…or let her break us up.”

On July 25, Mary sent an email that shocked me, “I’m lucky this relationship only lasted 10 months. He is looking to rent a room until next June when his ex-wife would leave, and he suggested we could just date until then. When I said that wasn’t going to work for me, he got aggravated and said it would be best if we never saw each other again. I went through three days of wailing and literally had no sleep, read three books, lost three pounds, and then I went to anger that kept me from feeling so sad.”

Mary said she was going to attend the Meet and Greet gathering at my Dana Point, California, deli on July 31 to meet some new people.

On August 21, she emailed, “Coming to your Meet and Greet gathering led me to meet two really great people and their input led me back to communicating with Dan, a trip to a male family/marriage therapist and discovering what I was really upset about in the relationship. Dan and I have gotten the situation settled to satisfy the both of us, so we are again living together and I think stronger for the experience.

“Maybe we needed a dose of real life to test our mettle. My kids and grand-kids are very happy to. Dan is the only man I dated who truly became a part of the family. I will let you know what is happening at the end of another year.”

Tom’s thoughts. After Mary’s story, I felt like I had just been riding the Big Dipper roller coaster at the Boardwalk Amusement Park in Santa Cruz. I guess if there is a lesson to take away from Mary’s story it’s this:

If you are in a relationship with a good person and you both love each other, for gosh sakes, try working out the issues via communication and counseling should issues surface that are driving a wedge between you and your partner. It’s so hard at our age to find a compatible mate, finding a compromise is so much better than walking away from something great.

Enjoy your Labor Day 2014 week-end.