Love may be lovlier the second time around, but it's not without its own set of unique challenges. As baby boomers age, many are remarrying in their 50s and 60s and discovering they face a very different set of issues than those faced by younger couples.
One of the biggest adjustments new couples face is balancing independence and togetherness. When couples get together later in life, they bring well-established interests into the relationship that may not be shared with their partner. Taffy Clarke-Pelton, a licensed marriage and family therapist located in Ashland, says "I'd urge couples not to give up all the things they enjoyed doing during their single lives. If you love dance lessons and your partner doesn't like to dance, make dance lessons part of your 'personal time'." At the same time, Pelton says, couples need to create new rituals in which their relationship is the focus. Whether it's a family hour at the end of each day or a formal "date night," this time together as a couple is vital to building a strong relationship.
The challenge of blending families is another common scenario faced by mid-life couples. At any given time, a couple can find themselves juggling the demands of aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, as well as work on sustaining their own relationship. Good communication is essential here, as is flexibility and - occasionally - a sense of humor. Pelton suggests discussing your family priorities early in the relationship. "Start by sitting down and listing your top five personal and family values, and begin to negotiate your differences, clarify your roles and formulate who takes the lead in which areas of family issues."
Another delicate issue older couples need to negotiate is deciding where to live. "People can be very attached to their own homes and find it difficult to move into the other partner's home," says Pelton. "The solution I have seen work the best is when both partners agree to let go of their old homes and buy a new home together."
There are also financial issues to consider. Nancy Sash, a certified financial planner with KDCO Financial Services in Medford, says "If you'll have a mortgage on your new home, be sure to discuss how you'll continue to pay the mortgage if something happens to one of the spouses." If you decide instead to move into a home one of you already owns, Sash recommends reviewing your homeowners' and liability policies with an insurance agent or a financial advisor, particularly if your new combined net worth exceeds your current liability coverage.
Sash goes on to say, "It's important to talk about your financial assets and liabilities before getting married. Having a detailed financial discussion before marriage and putting your wishes in writing in a prenuptial agreement can reduce serious misunderstandings later on." At minimum, Sash suggests the following: 1) Have a detailed discussion of one another's assets and debts. 2) Discuss your household budget: Will your assets be combined or kept separate? Will you set up a household account? How much will each person contribute? 3) Update your estate plans with an attorney and discuss if wills or a trust is the best avenue for you to pursue. Sash recommends coordinating this process with a tax advisor and financial advisor, if you have one. 4) Review beneficiaries on all assets and policies. Sash says she has seen cases where a previous spouse received a large insurance policy because the original beneficiary of the policy was never changed. Also, how should the money be divided among the adult children of each partner if one partner should die? "It's difficult to talk about money," Sash concedes, "but addressing these questions before you marry will help create a strong foundation for a wonderful new future together."
If all this sounds daunting, take heart! Pelton has some good news for new older couples. "The greatest advantage of mid-life marriages is the life experience, maturity, and self-knowledge that each partner brings to the union. By now, most people have already experienced success and loss in a relationship, learned important lessons that can be applied to the new partnership and are clear about their values and direction in life. This is a time of greater freedom to enjoy the richness of a new relationship!"