8 Million Strong
Along with 8 million other boomers I dated online before I met my partner two years ago. We've both been married and divorced and our focus has been on co-creating a workable, long-term relationship. While we'll always be working toward that goal, we've reached the same fork in the road as many boomer couples.
Not A Fantasy Decision
Whether to marry, live together, or just continue to date are the three options we've discussed the past several months. I've either watched or heard about lots of starry-eyed boomers who marry again quickly only to discover that second or third marriages aren't necessarily any easier. The sky-high divorce rate for remarriages should give boomers pause. What's a boomer couple in love to do?
The Legal Noose
I watched a few friends' remarriages become cautionary tales, which I admit makes me balk at the notion of tying any legal knots. I'm hardly alone since the comments on my dating articles indicate fewer boomers than ever are interested in marrying again. The burdensome legal process is often cited as a reason. The sting of the legal divorce process is difficult to forget. But boomers seem almost as wary about living together even though it doesn't involve the legal process. Red flag issues around moving relationships up a rung abound, and savvy boomers know that if they ignore these warning signs they do so at their peril.
Oh Yeah, Caregiving
Interestingly, one of the first issues boomer women most frequently mention regarding remarrying is not wanting to become a caregiver to an ill partner. But both genders are concerned about potentially caring for someone they haven't known most of their lives. My partner is a therapist who specializes in counseling senior caregivers. What I've gleaned from the stories she's shared with me is that senior caregiving is fraught with problems that have to be faced and resolved in order to avoid disaster.
Does being married automatically make caregiving an obligation? Are partners who live together responsible for each other? And if partners live apart how does that affect caregiving? And this is just one issue in a very long string of potential problems boomers need to consider before upgrading the level of their relationships.
A Private Decision
I urge boomers to ignore any pressure to marry again quickly, whether from a partner, friends, or relatives. This is your life and it's entirely your decision. Neither my partner nor I choose to marry, but we both feel living together is a viable option. We just don't see any reasons why marriage would be better or bring us closer together than living together. We're having quiet, frank, frequent discussions regarding where to live, medical directives, who pays for what, privacy, workspaces, and a host of other salient issues in the hope these conversations might enable a smoother transition.
The stakes are high for boomers considering taking the next step, and the margin for error is low. There are lots of issues that need to be ironed out in advance whether you decide to marry or live together. Take all the time you need to get comfortable with any decision you and your partner make, and I suggest keeping these conversations private until you've reached a decision. I don't feel living together is any less meaningful than marrying at this stage of our lives, and it isn't in any way a half-hearted choice. Friends and family might greet your announcement in different ways, and your resolve should be unshakable.
I'm well aware that a good number of boomers are comfortable remaining single, living alone, and spending time with friends and family, and I don't have any judgment about that. I'm just in a different camp. I'd like to live with the woman I love. And while boomer men are often painted with a broad brush regarding their need to be in a relationship, my preference isn't related to gender. Like other boomer men I've done the requisite emotional work to be an equal partner in a relationship. The reward seems worth the risk.
Earlier on Huff/Post50: