Love in later life

Mar 26


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Helen Whitten

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Love in later life

Finding love in later life is both a great gift and at the same time an interesting challenge.  As you may know, David and I moved in together on my 60th birthday.   Inevitably, when this happens, each of you has built up a life over some 40-50 adult years.  You have found ways of doing things inside the home and outside that suit you and yet these can be different, so the need to compromise is greater than when one gets together in early life when one’s habits are as yet unformed and you work things out together (for better or worse!) without really thinking about it.L

I suspect many of you reading this may also have come together later, perhaps after a first marriage, perhaps where both of you have children separately, together, and maybe grandchildren as well.  And so each of you will be bringing to the party not only families – sisters, brothers, parents, children, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, great-nieces and nephews – but also friends, as each of you will have created friendships separately over your lifetime.  And that’s not to mention work colleagues and clients too!

The number of people you have to juggle is far greater, therefore, than for those who have married young and stayed together.  In this case your friends are more likely to have been built up together and you only have one set of children and grandchildren, all of whom are your biological relations, to keep happy.  It tends to be a simpler equation!

As I have been rather a busy bee throughout my life I have often felt that I was squeezing time with those I loved in between trying to run my business, Positiveworks.  I never felt I really succeeded in giving enough attention to family and friends when I was working.  Yet as soon as I retired and sold the business, I got together with David and the number of people to love and support more than doubled as David has 4 sons and 7 grandchildren and I have 2 sons and 4 grandchildren.  Yes, that makes 6 sons and 11 grandchildren between us.  That’s apart from brothers, sisters and more … Help!

Then of course one is also trying to adapt and adjust to life after work.  Where do we find meaning?  What do we want to do with our time?  What volunteering might we wish to get involved in?  Do we do these separately or together?  How do we take care of our health as the joints begin to creak?!

And then there’s the fact that we are now together 24/7 with no daily routine of going out to work.  So we’re together far more than couples are at other stages of life, and yes, even for lunch!  It can be fun and yet it can be tricky to carve out enough time alone in individual pursuits plus time together doing things we enjoy.

In the end we have worked out that we will each do our own individual pursuits Monday-Thursday, spend Friday together doing something special that we enjoy (at the moment we are exploring London’s village walks which is fun), and weekends are for family and friends.  It isn’t a rigid routine but it does free us both up to pursue interests and yet make sure we share experiences we both enjoy.

But I still end up feeling overwhelmed, somewhat exhausted and guilty that there aren’t enough days in the calendar to spend time with friends or family who are further away.   So sometimes we just have to go our separate ways to our separate families as otherwise we find ourselves spending more time with our non-biological family and not enough time with those closest to us. 

There’s another reality one has to take into account and that is that one has less energy as one grows older and so we have to conserve that energy for the special times and retain enough balance to be able to truly relax and do nothing.  Having spent 20 odd years living mainly alone I got used to sitting in the garden doing nothing or sitting on my balcony in Nice looking at the stars.  With so many people around us – and even more delightful folk now we have moved to Kew – those times of sitting doing nothing are hard to come by.  And yet necessary.

My feeling is that each of our now-grown-up children enjoy seeing us on our own from time to time.  It’s relaxing and the conversation can roam over mutual memories and more personal issues.  David’s grandchildren love to see their Grandpa.  I don’t think they mind very much whether they see me: biology seems to make them deeply aware of their family bond.  Perhaps it is in the pheromones or in the way that our sons talk about each of us.  Somehow they know who their actual relation is.

The trouble is that everything on offer is wonderful, really.  We are so lucky to have supportive families, interesting friends, amazing things to do in London and beyond.  But it’s like a child with a bowl of sweeties; one has to choose, not over-indulge oneself, and ensure that there is enough solitude and downtime to refresh the body and soul.  One has to make the time for yourselves as a couple and ensure that each of you make time for your own children, grandchildren, siblings, friends and family, with all their ups and their downs, so that no-one feels short-changed.  It’s a tricky balance but it’s certainly churlish to complain when many others are lonely.  How lucky are we to have such a challenge.


One Response

  1. Yes Helen! You high light a real issue. I find there is an amazing bonus in finding kindred spirits in later life when one has the time to enjoy discovering one’s loved one’s quirks and stories and all the wealth of experience and another life lived. Such a privilege to find a wonderful soul to walk the last part of the journey with. But as you infer, one does have to wisely juggle!

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