Nick and I hove been seeing each other constantly for three years. I am 72 and he is almost 80. We’ve been talking about getting married, but after a visit by his out-of-state children, now he only wonts to live together. We love each other, but I would rather be his wife than his roommate — Feeling Hurt
Dr. Mason says:
For the first time, there are more unmarried senior couples than married senior couples. The rate rose 50 percent in just the past few years.
In the ‘60s, it was still unusual to see hyphenated names on a mailbox, but when you did, you could be reasonably certain it was a young couple 30 and below. Today you are just as likely to knock on the door and have two seniors answer.
A good reason for this involves finances. Once you reach retirement age, it is unlikely that you are going to see any increase in income. This calls for a conservative approach to spending and the last thing you want is to suddenly find yourself responsible for the past debts and future bills of a new spouse.
And on top of that, in some situations, tying the knot can have a negative effect on taxes, pensions, insurance costs and credit ratings.
It may seem as though walking down the aisle is a path to security and stability, but keep in mind that, first and foremost, marriage is a legally binding contract that can turn you into a “nurse with a purse.”
Then too, there is the possibility of children claiming their inheritance and grandchildren demanding loyalty.
While seniors should have greater wisdom, they can also be set in their ways and come with lots of excess baggage.
So while marriage later in life can be seen as an escape from boredom, it might just entail a whole lot more excitement than you really want.
Of course, you are feeling hurt. It’s like the rug has been pulled out from under you. No doubt, you are also feeling Nick cares more about his children’s opinions than he does about you.
Brace yourself: there may be some truth to that. After all, he has known you three years; and them, their whole lives. No matter how deeply Nick loves you, a child’s commitment to an aging parent can be vital to a peaceful older age. And the last thing you want is the drama of forcing him to choose between them or you. Ultimately everyone loses.
The most important factor in living together, with or without a marriage license, is legal protection. Too often, death leaves the surviving spouse vulnerable when the heirs immediately want to sell her home. Grieving for one’s partner is bad enough; being homeless at the same time makes it intolerable.
So whether Nick is planning to move in with you or vice versa, clearly state in your wills that when one partner predeceases the other, the survivor can stay in the residence — if wanted — until his or her death. Also stated should be a clear division of money and property acquired before your relationship. If Nick does not agree to this arrangement, I would not deeper entangle yourself in what could turn into a family feud.
In addition, when couples are not married, unless legally stated, they have no input into end of life issues. Many have been left heartbroken when adult children take over without consulting them. So be happy, be in love, but take care of yourself .