On Life and Love After 60 newsletter
By Thomas P. Blake 10/31/14
Senior Dating: Commitment without marriage
As a columnist, I receive all kinds of questions from older singles. This week, Nancy, not her real name, emailed, “I’d like to ask you a personal question. Are you married legally to Greta?”
Nancy explained why she wanted to know: “I'm 65, and have a man I'd like to spend the rest of my life with. We've been together on and off for eight years. I don't want to marry legally, but would like some kind of ceremony of committing to each other and so would he.”
“I stayed home raising my ex-husband’s and my children for 25 years. We were divorced in 1996, he remarried. I have never remarried. After he passed away in 2009, I found out I get his SS benefits because of the length of time married to him. His second wife might get something also; they were married 13 years. If I were to marry legally, I’d lose the benefits.”
“Because I was a stay-at-home mom, my Social Security benefits will be far less than his benefits.
“Is there a way to be together with my guy without legally marrying so I don't lose SS benefits from my ex-husband?”
Before I give my opinion to Nancy, I strongly suggest she contact an attorney and/or make an appointment with her local Social Security office to ensure she doesn’t do anything to jeopardize receiving her deceased husband’s benefits.
To answer Nancy’s initial question: no, Greta and I are not “married legally.” We aren’t even married at all. We’ve been together 16-plus years, and have lived together 13 of those years, most of them in her home, and currently in my home. I dare say that we have been blessed with the relationship the way it is. We share many expenses and our life is as good as it gets.
Nancy also wanted to know if Greta and I have had any kind of a commitment ceremony. The answer to that question is no as well. Every day of our lives together is a commitment to each other and we don’t feel the need to have a ceremony. Will any of this arrangement change in the future for us? Probably not but I suppose it could.
I went to my archives to find out what other Champs have said about committed-but-not-married (cbnm) relationships.
Annie said, “I met my partner five years ago. We are in a totally committed relationship and living together. We are continually surprised at the number of our friends who ask, ‘When is he going to make me legal?’
“We don't feel the need to be married. Our kids don't care one way or the other. We have designed a ring for me. I will wear it on my wedding ring finger, and we may or may not get married. It's O.K. We are turning 65 this year; we have earned the right to do as we wish.”
Nina said, “I am in my mid-fifties, six years-divorced, (recently broken up from a brief relationship that I'd mistakenly believed could last longer, but didn't), alone, have great friends, a pretty good life, and am fine with this for now. I probably don't want to re-marry, even if I find someone with whom love is real and mutual, but I would like to be in a committed, loving relationship. If it endured beyond a few years, I might want to live together, without marriage, for as long as that arrangement was able to last.”
Jennifer, “Older people have already completed the child-raising task. They do not need to nail down a reproductive agreement. Older people have often spent a lifetime working and accumulating assets and they frequently like to keep their finances separate. Many want their children or grandchildren to be their sole heirs. Marriage or re-marriage can interfere with this inheritance plan or complicate it. Sometimes, it's simpler just to remain single, even while living together.
“Older couples who live together benefit from the closeness and companionship of a live-in partner, and probably live longer too. They can pool their money and talents, which means they will probably enjoy an enhanced lifestyle together. Those who, for religious or other reasons, are uncomfortable with this arrangement, can still get married.”
Marcia stated, “Russ and I are one of the couples you wrote about in your 50 couples book. We did not marry for a myriad of reasons. We caution couples in their sixties concerning marriage as we have had a lifetime of building obligations and acquiring assets and responsibilities. My son thought, at first we should marry but has accepted the situation and is relieved that we didn’t.
“My grandchildren call Russ their honorary grandfather and adore him. We are happy and know that our medical is good, assets secure and we can enjoy each other at this time of life.
“I have known couples who have religious ceremonies under God and outside the law and they are also happy. Some couples keep their houses (highly recommended) and some buy a new one with a tenancy agreement in case one dies. We are not in our youthful building stage and cannot afford to make serious financial errors.
Mary Lynn said, “I am almost 64, and divorced since 1998. I have dated on and off, but have yet to find that special someone for me. However, I have no desire and no reason to get married again.
“My best friend met someone online a few months ago and will be getting married next month. She is on cloud nine because she has been looking for a husband for several years. I don't want to rain on her parade - I have to be supportive - but I don't understand what the ‘obsession’ with marriage is. If you're in a committed, loving, mutually nourishing relationship, what more do you need?”
Final reminder to Nancy: Sure, have a non-binding commitment ceremony, wear a ring, whatever you choose, just be sure to revisit the social security law first.