Falling in love and having an intimate relationship is critical for life satisfaction and it isn’t reserved just for the young. Everyone wants and needs to feel love and that desire doesn’t change as you age. However, as your needs and preferences evolve over time and as life experiences shape you for better and for worse, having love later in life may look different than during your youth. Death and divorce of loved ones effect our ability to have loving relationships but does not eliminate our ability to love. The desire to have and give love doesn’t necessarily wane with age. Even with life’s traumas, the need for both grows stronger as we get older.
Despite that intense need, the confidence of our teen years may have been dashed by difficult life and love experiences. But when we are open to finding love later in life, we need to remind ourselves that we do have the ability to renegotiate our life plan regardless of age, including who and how we love. Finding love later in life reminds me that if we had it once, we can have it again. Especially among those who’ve experienced loss and widowhood, the fear of dating and finding love increases with age. Fears also exist around sex and intimacy in new relationships. However, once we acknowledge and become aware of our fears, it becomes easier to deal with them.
A distinct difference in later life love and romance is that most view the preliminary activity or dating as a recreational activity. A lot of older adults are looking just for companionship, someone to watch movies with. Of course, there are complications that come with dating as an older adult. For individuals who have been single and lived alone for a period of time, may feel more set in their ways and therefore less likely to develop new love. Children and finances are the top two detriments to developing new loving relationships. We all have different life goals, desires and behaviors. Therefore, it is very important in a loving relationship to have similar life goals. We have to want the same things and see life in a similar way, or it won’t work.
When we look at love in later life, it’s important to move past instinct and pay special attention to the personality and character of the other person. Such character elements that need alignment as kindness, honesty, and loyalty, to name a few, are critical to developing love in later life. We need to identify the traits that each person has and the commonality. Then ask yourself if these types of character traits are a good match. In addition, acknowledging that a new lover will be different from any previous ones is important to success. We can’t make them into something they’re not, nor should we discard parts of ourselves. We need to honor the differences between a current lover and a past one. Rather than pretending that you or your partner are someone you’re not, allow yourselves to be who you are and to celebrate that instead. We are all unique.
To find a real, authentic love in later life, we first must know and love ourselves well.
However, along the way we might have been through a divorce or lost a partner to death. Major events like this can make it hard to escape the roles we played for many years. We cling to them for comfort in a time of change. To find a successful love later in life requires that we present ourselves accurately to others. It’s essential to present ourselves to others who we really are.
Given that we are older, it’s pretty likely that we’ve had one or more loving relationships. This means we have a pretty good idea of what we want and don’t want in our relationships. Hopefully we learned how to develop a true loving intimate relationship or maybe we did not. Clearly, we may already think we know how to love, but we really never stop learning because life never stops teaching. As a lover in later life, we have some knowledge and years of experience. Therefore, we should know what we want and how to achieve it, making the development of a new lover potentially easier, but we still grow in the process.
As we get older our agendas become different. So, as we develop into later life dating, our agendas are different than in our younger years. It’s likely we’re under less financial pressure if we’re retired and since we most likely already have children and grandchildren we’re not under the gun to settle down, get married, develop a career, and have children. Instead, we’d rather focus less on work and more on enjoying life. The location of kids is still important.
As we amerce ourselves in later life love it becomes important and to a certain degree easier to be honest with others and ourselves. We don’t care so much what others think of us. If we are comfortable with who we are, it makes it easier to be honest with others. In turn, when we’re honest, it makes us more attractive to our fellow late life lovers.
One of the important components in later life love is to make sure that it is fun. Most of the characteristics I mention above make later life love more fun and rewarding. Society accepts a wide range of relationships that cross cultural, racial, age, sex and religious lines. Older women and men have plenty of stories to share that we didn’t have as youngsters. Stories are fun to share. When we meet someone and have fun, even when there’s probably not a chance for a relationship, we don’t take it as a failure. It’s fun. We get to meet a new person and see a unique perspective on life and the world. There’s a richness in meeting new people and having fun with them. Healthy fun can be an end unto itself.
As we age most likely we become more emotionally mature. As older individuals all of us can say we’ve been through some emotional love issues. If we have learned anything, we have learned to not let our emotions rule our behavior and decisions like we did when we were younger. After all, emotions are powerful but fleeting. With later life maturity we get the sense to pause and reflect about emotions before acting. It makes for a peaceful life and a more powerful and successful loving relationship. What better way to “add life to years”.