Why Older Couples Don't Need to Get Married to Have Good Relationships
Why older couples needn't marry to have great relationships

As a young bride, Rochelle Ventura, an election consultant, says she felt like a domestic slave. Her living arrangements are with Phil Doppelt, 82, a retired software engineer. Initially, I explained that it wasn't my responsibility to prepare dinner every night.

The couple splits their time between her home in Los Angeles and his home in San Jose, keeping their finances separate. Despite not marrying, they've been in love and joy for over a decade now. My marriage made me feel like I was not my own person, she says. I felt stuck. You can now leave if you want. With Phil, I can't imagine wanting to leave.

Doppelt and Ventura are riding a wave of social and demographic change. Older adults are at the forefront of family change, according to Bowling Green sociologist Susan L. Brown. She says divorce rates doubled between 1990 and 2010 and remain high today. The result? More older singles.

Couples are meeting in unprecedented numbers and in unorthodox ways, whether online, at the gym, or at church. In the past two decades, the remarriage rate has remained steady, but cohabitation rates have more than tripled among people over 50, according to Brown. The number of long-term committed couples living apart together is scarce, but sociologist Huijing Wu of the University of Western Ontario found that about a third of unmarried but partnered adults in Wisconsin over 50 are LATS.

These couples are different not just because of how they partner. sociologist Deborah Carr has conducted preliminary analyses of re-partnered couples and concludes they are likely to be more financially equal, more autonomous as individuals, as well as freer of gender roles than older couples. Carr says that this seems to apply whether the couple is engaged or cohabiting. Carr has not studied LATs. The very structure of living apart together builds in autonomy and equality.

In addition to changing social attitudes, Carr points out. When cohabitation was stigmatized, it was said that it was a sin or a less worthy relationship than marriage. Some older adults may still disapprove, but most do not. It's not easy being 60 years old, but I'll do whatever I like.

They are really different because what they don't do is raise children or build their fortune together. Although many couples are married, they keep their finances separate. Approximately 75% of her clients agree with that conclusion, said Tammy A. Weber, a certified elder law attorney in Pennsylvania. Most parents wish to leave their assets to their children. It's not uncommon for some people to retain Social Security benefits or alimony received from a former spouse. Their separation of funds is driven by more than just fiscal impacts.

Financial planner Maryan Jaross, 68, of Louisville, Colo., for instance, built a successful career following a divorce and with it, independence and autonomy. It wasn't easy giving it up. I can buy a pair of shoes regardless of the number of pairs I have. A 65-year-old salesman working for an industrial construction company, Tom Lepak, lives with her happily. Due to this and other reasons, she has built a legal barrier between their finances.

Many women like Jaross are economically independent, able, and determined to have equal relationships. Although Lepak loves to cook, she handles the cleaning and laundry. He makes the bed and takes care of the yard, which he enjoys. In order to do what neither wants to do, they hire people. Because we don't have kids and obligations, it's huge, she says. In the modern world, being in a couple involves a different mindset.

They also do not feel obliged to go on holiday as a unit whenever they travel, visit family or friends. Jaross and Lepak, for instance, see some of their children separately while other children share their time together. Hell visits his brother in the East for a week; she will spend a month with her mother in New York. As Doppelt and Ventura sometimes travel separately, they sometimes travel together. In the fall, while Ventura travels to Cuba with women friends, Doppelt will hike in South Dakota with five other men. He told me it's OK to travel separately. That is not how I would have felt when I was married before.

It is most common for couples who expect to continue living in their own homes for their entire lifetimes to have less traditional relationships and more freedom. They should be able to sidestep conflicts over all the habits, needs, and people they've accumulated over the years by living apart. She sleeps late and he's an early bird? No problem. What makes him miserable if the thermostat is at 65 and she's miserable if it's 75? Not an issue. Occasionally, her grandkids run riot over her house? Hey, its her house. Some have lived on their own for years and need solitude and space.

Looking Forward podcast host Jeff Ostroff lives separately from the woman he calls "the second love of my life" in suburban Philadelphia. Ostroff, in his late sixties, keeps a busy schedule, spending time at work, on social media, exercising, volunteering, and seeing friends. He and his girlfriend of more than six years talk and videochat several times a day, sometimes for more than an hour at a time, but they typically see each other only at the weekends. The solitude he enjoys during the week means he can focus almost 100% of his energy on her.

The emotional texture of their relationships really sets these couples apart, whether they marry, live together or apart. dating sites for over 50 have experienced major changes like having a child or an empty nest that often alter them. These people are aware of who they are and what they need. They know what is important to them and what isn't. According to University of Colorado Denver sociologist Teresa Cooney, older couples that remarry after their first marriage are more adept at problem solving and argue less.

Although older adults do not feel pressure to re-partner again, if they do, they choose a partner who fits what they are now. I once spoke with a woman whose husband she assumed would make an excellent father, and he did. He was, however, not the right mate for midlife and beyond. The relationship, companionship, and emotional support are the only things that unite couples who partner later in life.

According to psychologist Chaya Koren of the University of Haifa, in the older remarriages she studied, each spouse felt more individual within their relationship, fostering both greater equality and deeper intimacy. Stockholm University sociologist Torbjorn Bildtgard studied romantic unions after age 60 and noted that time has a paradoxical effect on old couples. It is true that they spend more time together. They also know there are only a few more years left together. They feel extremely grateful to have found each other. They cherish their love.

Lepak expresses it this way. Instead of worrying about our end, he says, we try to make the most of the time we have together. Thank you for finding our soul mate.