Friday, October 31, 2014

Senior Dating: Commitment without Marriage

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.” 

“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. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Are Long Distance Relationships Viable?

On Life and Love After 60 Newsletter

By Thomas P. Blake  October 25, 2014

Senior Dating: Are long-distance relationships viable for singles 50-plus?

The Internet has changed our lives in countless ways. For mature singles, it has opened up new possibilities of meeting potential mates. For singles living in remote areas, where potential partners are nearly nonexistent, it has given them the ability to reach out across fields, prairies, mountains and state lines to locate singles they would have otherwise never met.

As a result, long-distance relationships have formed. Hopes have been kindled. Life takes on new excitement, new meaning. Loneliness is lessened.

Some couples have fallen in love even though they have never met the person face-to-face, which baffles me. In this newsletter, we recently read about a woman who moved from Wisconsin to Nebraska earlier this year to be with a man she met online but had never met in person. As of two weeks ago, they were still together but not without issues, caused primarily, by, of all things, her problems with EMFs—electro magnetic fields.

Meeting someone new online is the good news. That they live far away can be the bad news. The biggest issue: When people fall in love, they want to be together on nearly a daily basis. In a long-distance relationship, that is hard to do without one of the members eventually relocating.

Having responsibilities like careers, home ownership, family, grandkids and friends makes uprooting and moving to another city, state—or even country--difficult.

One of our Champs, Chris, whom we recently read about, has bucked the odds by having had a successful 4,500-mile, long-distance relationship for 11 years. He lives in San Clemente, California, she lives in England.

In my book, How 50 Couples Found Love After 50, 33 of the couples featured met online. At least 20 of those couples lived an hour or more away from each other. In most cases, relocation by one of the partners made the long-distance relationship work. So, yes, long-distance relationships can flourish and people can spend their lives together.

I have a friend who is involved in a long-distance relationship of about a year with a guy who lives in another state. They have visited each other often. But, in recent talks with her, I detect a bit of restlessness in her voice. The issue is she owns property and has family and grandchildren in Orange County and would really like to share daily activities with a man here. Her man friend is very locked in to where he lives as well.

Her situation made me think of an email one of our Canadian Champs sent years ago regarding a long-distance relationship she had been in with a man from the states.

Our Canadian Champ wrote, “The red flags of caution were there, and I daresay that upon close examination, which is always easier over the passage of some time, most of us know in our gut when things are a little off and we know it at the time. We simply ignore those red flags because being in love and/or having a partner with whom to better enjoy day-to-day life is really hard to resist.” She and her USA guy eventually moved on from each other.

When people meet online, and live far away from each other, early on, they need to have the discussion about relocation for one of them. If neither member is willing or able to relocate, the relationship will be hard to maintain. Not impossible, as Chris, mentioned above, has done, but difficult.

In Chapter one of 50 Couples, Bobbe, age 59, met Bob, age 60, online. He lived in California, she in Illinois. She thought, why should I write to someone in California, it’s just too far away. She wrote anyway, and eventually not only moved to be with him, but married him.

What are your long-distance relationship experiences?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Senior Dating: First date conversations

On Life and Love After 60

By Thomas P. Blake                      October 17, 2014

What do you talk about on the first few dates?

What the heck do you talk about on the first few dates? This sounds like a question from our junior high school days. But, it turns out that it is more of an issue for singles age 50-plus than one would expect.

The question came up this week when one of my deli customers, who is also a friend, told me she has had three dates with a man she met online. She said “He seems nice, but there are a couple of questions I want to ask you.”

She wanted to know if it is normal for a guy to mention his ex’s name at least 50 times in the first three dates. She said she has been reluctant to mention this to him, not wanting to hurt his feelings while the relationship is in its infancy.

Her second question: “And, when I am making a comment, before I have finished with my point, he interrupts and will start on an entirely new subject. Is that normal as well?”

I told her that maybe the guy is just nervous, and doesn’t know what else to talk about. Or, perhaps he is a poor conversationalist and/or too into himself. In either case, he just doesn’t “get it.” I suggested that soon, if she wants to continue dating him, she needs to point out these idiosyncrasies to him.

So, what do you talk about, or not talk about, on the first few dates? From what I’ve learned as a columnist, you don’t talk (or write about) religion or politics. It amazes me when people come up to me and start going off on one political party or the other, or one religion or the other, without having any idea what my political or religious preferences are. They just assume that everybody must think the way they do.

Because I own a deli, where the “customer is always right,” I don’t challenge them; I just keep my mouth shut and say, “What type of bread do you want with your sandwich.”

I think the best suggestion regarding what to talk about on early dates is to try to find out, by asking questions of the person, where he or she grew up, and what their hobbies and interests are. Of course, you may be opening the door for your date to go on and on about their dog, cat, parrot, or horse and how they let their animals sleep in the same bed (well, maybe not the horse or parrot).

The most important advice is to try to focus on the positives in life. With such terrible worldwide news these days, it’s easy to get into discussions that focus on all of the negatives the media bombards us with. It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about those things, it’s just that we shouldn’t constantly dwell on the negative.

Try to be considerate of the other person and have empathy for how he might be feeling. Don’t judge too soon. In my deli friend’s case, perhaps once she’s had a conversation with him, he might turn out to be a good match for her.

On early dates, being a good listener is important. Don’t dominate the discussion just because you are so wonderful. This point makes me think of my old friend George Mair, who has passed on. George used to live in Hollywood before moving to Dana Point years ago. He told a story of one of his women friends who had a first date with an actor.

The actor dominated the discussion telling George’s friend all of the wonderful things about himself. She couldn’t get a word in. And finally, he said to the woman, “So, enough about me.”

She thought, “Oh, how nice, I will get to tell him a little about what I like.” Before she could get a word in, the actor started right in again, “What did you like about my last movie?”

They never went out again.

The last piece of advice regarding early-date conversations is to just be yourself, which makes me think of a verse from “Just The Way You Are,” a Billy Joel song from The Stranger album in 1977.

“I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.”

What do you talk about on the first few dates?

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Last Cowboy Song: the end of the meet and greets

On Life and Love After 50 Newsletter

by Thomas P. Blake      October 10, 2014

The end of the Meet and Greets

For two and a half years, Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point, California, deli has sponsored a Meet and Greet on the last Thursday night of each month for singles age 50-plus and beyond, in some cases far beyond. People in their 90s have attended and one nice gentleman, Dave, at age 92, met his significant other there.

Attendance has varied to a high of 120 to a low of about 20, which was the dismal number two weeks ago at the September Meet and Greet. I think only four men attended. The average attendance was usually 45-50.

As far as I can determine, about 15 couples have formed as a result of meeting there. It’s hard to get an exact count because what happens is once a couple gets together, they don’t return. One guy I saw in the Post Office who had attended a few times said he didn’t attend anymore because his new main squeeze didn’t want him to be socializing with other women.  

At every Meet and Greet, the women always outnumbered the men by at least two-to-one, but at times by four or five-to-one. There was one exception. Four months ago, the men outnumbered the women by more than two-to-one. I knew something strange was brewing that night when the first nine people to arrive were men.

I mentioned that phenomenon in my local newspaper article. At the next gathering, new women poured through the door while the men recoiled so we ended up having a lopsided women-to-men ratio. That may have been the beginning of the end.

It is a fact of life that women always outnumber men at singles functions for people ages 50, 60, 70 and 80. Most women accept that fact but there are others who don’t understand. At each event, we usually have a break in the action when new people can come to the microphone and introduce themselves. I recall when a woman took the microphone and instead of saying something like, “Hi, I’m Susie, I live in Dana Point and have been a widow for five years,” she said, “Where are all of the decent men?”

I quickly took the microphone from her and suggested she needed to have a more positive attitude. She stomped out and later emailed me that she had never been so humiliated in her life. She never came back.

This week, I received an email from Jean, who attended the September Meet and Greet. Jean wrote, “I wanted to comment on something said to a group of women at a table with one of the men. Dick said that there were at least 10 men he knew of who were staying home because the women clustered together, dressed for one another and came to hear each other, while the men came to meet ladies. I told Dick that I attend to hear male conversation but have never met anyone I have been smitten with. I simply think the gals are dressed up anyway and make the best of an evening visiting with one another sitting in groups. I personally attend alone but have been joined by a female in the past.”

I emailed back to her that the guy Dick she commented about usually sat with three or four of his buddies and barely ever acknowledged a woman. So there you have it.

One new woman who attended September’s event came in and wanted me to turn the TV on to the MLB (Major League Baseball) Network so she could watch Derek Jeter’s last game in Yankee Stadium. I apologized for not subscribing to the MLB. She disappeared in an instant, perhaps making her way across the parking lot to the sports bar where the 20 to 30 year old crowd hangs out.

Our October Meet and Greet will be the last one, at least until next spring. In ending two and a half years of Meet and Greets, I can’t get a song out of my mind that The Highwaymen sang (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristoffersen, and Waylon Jennings), titled, “This is the Last Cowboy Song.”

This is the last cowboy song:
The end of a hundred year waltz.
The voices sound sad as they're singin' along.
Another piece of America's lost.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Senior Relationship Challenges and Issues to overcome

On Life and Love After 50 Newsletter

by Thomas P. Blake      October 3, 2014

Senior relationship faces challenges. But not the kind you’d expect

On April 4, 2014, this newsletter featured Ruth, 70, who was moving from Wisconsin to Nebraska, to live with Gary, 68, although she had never met him in person. Ruth and Gary had spent a year and a half communicating by email and telephone getting to know one another. They found each other on Green Singles, a website for people who seek a “green, organic lifestyle,” which they both wanted.

In that newsletter, Ruth said, “I am moving to Nebraska because it fits my need to be in a dryer climate for my health. We both have similar health issues and are empathetic with that aspect of our relationship. I have so much to gain by doing this, much to lose if I stay in the rut I have been in. Gary and I agree that after all of this time, we will be happy if it turns out to be friendship only. At our ages, that is a huge blessing in life.”

Because Ruth and Gary had never met face-to-face, most of our Champs had doubts about the relationship working out. I sure did. Ruth promised to keep us updated.

On May 2, Ruth sent an email that included a photo of the two of them sitting on a hill in a pasture with this caption: “Beautiful day, sunny weather, and glad hearts to share.”  I thought, wow, so far, so good.

On August 13, Ruth sent another update, which indicated there were relationship issues to work out: “The relationship is good when we keep the lines of communication open...we have our ups and downs due to extremely hot weather and not taking enough time away just to relax and smell the roses.

“Tolerating each other's idiosyncrasies is the biggest challenge, and since we are together much of the time, irritations do come up, especially for me. I tend to thrive in a relationship where the emphasis is on the positive, giving each other positive feedback on how we do things, our strengths, etc. My friend can get rather negative if things aren't going well all the time and he may say something that hurts my feelings without even knowing he is doing it!

“That is where the communication comes in. We talk and usually get on a better footing after that; it tends to be a pattern for us. We are committed to making it work as a couple and are making plans for autumn and beyond. My family has been out to visit us and we had a wonderful time together. Likewise, I have met his sisters and one of his brothers and was nicely received.”

Two weeks ago, Ruth sent another update that revealed a major issue has arisen that is challenging the relationship. But, it’s not an issue one might suspect. Rather, Ruth has developed a health condition.

She wrote, “We are facing a huge challenge together, with my electro hypersensitivity (EMF, aka electromotive force). We will have to go to an “off-grid” lifestyle where we outfit the house with solar power (a huge expense that we don’t have the money for), or I will have to have a trailer bought in to use as a safe place to sleep, another big expense. Meanwhile, what can I do so that I can get sleep?”

Ruth said she had this radio-wave sickness caused by high frequency signals in Wisconsin due to all of the cell phone towers that emit radio frequency waves. However, she did not expect a similar issue in Nebraska.  But on August 8, the local electric company put a ‘smart meter’ on the electrical power pole for the house, which emits EMFs. In addition, they had a new, water well installed, which also has a high frequency system in it. Ruth says, “I literally have been set back two years.”

She added, “This is a love story that is filled with challenges right now, and our good natures and love are holding, but there are days when tempers flare—mine mostly due to never getting quality sleep and thus having constant head pressure and tinnitus from the meter and pump.”

Ruth said, “When we go for a trip or drive to the store (30 miles away), I have to sit in the back seat since the EMF levels are lower there. (Apparently, the car engine emits microwave radiation as well). You may have never heard of any of the things I am talking about, but let me assure you that there are thousands of people in this country who are experiencing the same nightmare from overexposure to EMF. There are websites devoted to this, e.g.,

“Will this relationship withstand these kinds of life-threatening challenges? Stay tuned.”

Tom’s comments: Can you imagine? A senior relationship being challenged because—of all the things that could happen--microwave radiation? A condition many of us may have never heard of.

I checked the above website and found this paragraph:Studies document impacts on public health from microwave radiation, including: poor sleep quality, insomnia, headaches, tinnitus, skin rash, facial flushing, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures, neurological disorders, memory and cognitive problems, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, and Autism, to name a few. Children are especially vulnerable to microwave radiation.”

It is quite frightening what can happen to people and birds due to these transmissions. When Ruth moved to Nebraska, she thought she had escaped microwave-radiation sickness, but now, it’s caught up to her again. What will be her next action?