Love after 50

Are you still healthily in love? Are you enjoying your love relationship after 50 as much as you did in your earlier days? Not certain? You’re not the only one. Consider the following:

“Americans over 50 are twice as likely to get divorced as people of that age were 20 years ago. Back in 1990, fewer than 1 in 10 persons who got divorced was over the age of 50, but today, 1 in 4 people getting divorced is 50 or older.

One reason for this is the increasing economic independence of women. Many no longer have to choose between a bad marriage and poverty. Also, divorce can be the collateral damage from increased life spans.”

Such are the facts, figures and findings of sociologist Susan Brown of Bowling Green State University.

It appears that more and more people over the age of fifty are falling out of love and choosing to go their separate ways.

“When you retire and you no longer have any children at home and you’re spending 24/7 with your spouse, if this is someone that you’re not too fond of anymore, you might want to get divorced,” Brown says, “because you realize, hey, I could spend another 20, 25 years with this person.”

In an unhappy, unfulfilling relationship.

So what is love?

According to Wikipedia, “biological models of love tend to see it as a mammalian drive, similar to hunger or thirst. The conventional view in biology is that there are two major drives in love: sexual attraction and attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to its mother.”

This “sexual attraction” is the love of procreation and lust, while “attachment between adults” appears to be one of dependence and nurturing.

This may be why so many women are divorcing. After multiple years of partnership, many find the sexual attraction and lust factors have significantly decreased or disappeared altogether, while the care-taking and nurturing factors have increased. For many women, the man is the child who hasn’t grown up yet, and doesn’t want to. The last child to be tended to.

The child that may stick around another 25-30 years.

This particularly is true if her newly retired man has put his entire self-worth into his title and job description that no longer exist. Overnight, the rigid time schedules, repetitive daily habits, and ingrained self-discipline needed to get through the last 30-40 years no longer is pertinent. If his habit of spending free time in the past consisted of watching television, bowling with the guys, and napping on the sofa, chances are these activities will only increase during retirement. Especially if he has no hobbies, outside interest, or goals to speak of.

What Is Love?

Trying to describe what love is has been a challenge since the early days of man’s existence. Philosophers, psychologist, artist, scientist, scholars, clergy, and poets have all tried their best to describe it, shape it, express it, and define it.

Love is a force of nature that’s deeply rooted within our cells and being, and nearly impossible to fully describe and comprehend with words alone. It just is, not unlike the ubiquitous force of gravity that grounds all life, or the bright rays and soothing warmth of the sun, which bathes us day after day.

Unhealthy Love

To get a better understanding of love, it may be best to find out what it isn’t.

  • Love Is Not Manipulative: Love is not something used to get what you want. It is not self-serving. Withdrawing love as a punishment, or using it with strings attached, is selfish, unhealthy, and manipulative. Using love to gain control of – “If you really loved me then you would…” , isn’t love, but a means to control situations and outcomes. Withholding sexual intimacy to get needs met, making promises rooted in self-serving desires, or feigning hurt feelings, helplessness, and wallowing in self pity are ways to manipulate others.
  • Non-Acceptance:  Asking someone to behave in a certain way not true to their inherent nature is not healthy love.  Demanding a person to change who they are because of ego needs is not being true to the other persons nature. Having dinner parties week after week and expecting your spouse to participate when she’d rather have a quiet night at home with a book or go to a movie is unfair. Although compromise may sometimes be necessary in order to honor the person you love, it ought not to be expected or demanded from the other person. Someone who is in love with you will never ask you to change who you are in order to be loved.
  • Love Is Not Cruel: As many of us who have been in long term relationship can attest, there can be a very fine line between love and hate. Passions can become inflamed and build to volatile levels with someone you love, but using cruelty in the form of verbal, mental, sexual, or physical abuse is not honoring love.
  • Love Is Not Lustful: The chemistry among people in love can border on lust in a healthy manner, yet when feelings of self gratification overrides the care and concern of your partner, it becomes unhealthy. Physical attraction is healthy, but self-serving motives bordering on disrespect for your partner is detrimental to love. Having and expecting mechanical sex is not gratifying to either party. If lust can be contained within the parameters of trust, respect, and concern for your partners well-being, then lust interwoven with love can be very healthy and fulfilling.

Healthy Love

Healthy love is something that needs to be nurtured, fed, cultivated, and fostered.

  • Love is Compassionate And Caring:  For others, for yourself, and for the world around you. It’s caring about the struggles and challenges other people face, and the struggles you face. It involves risking your own comfort level to care enough to inquire about others. It involves viewing and reframing the challenges life may bring you, choosing instead to see the possibilities rather than any short comings. It’s loving yourself and others. It’s understanding that we all do the best we can do with the tools we have available to us.
  • Love Originates From Within: Love comes from within and cannot be falsified. We can fool ourselves and others but deep within we know on some level if it’s real or not. Love cannot be bought or sold. One can buy companionship, partnership, attentiveness, nurturing, loyalty, and an orgasm, but you cannot make someone love you for any amount of money. Love is not a commodity nor a product one can purchase, but comes from the grace and spirit that lives within each of us.
  • Love Is Magnetic: Attraction and chemistry creates the cohesion that bonds individuals together. Sometimes it’s difficult to define what that chemistry is: looks, aura, personality, humor, care, respect, etc., but more often than not it’s a combination of factors that allows people to come into union, creating a deeper bond. It’s important to cherish and nurture this chemistry and not let it dissipate over time. Without this attraction and chemistry for another person, a relationship is likely to slowly falter and die over time.
  • Love Is Being Committed To Each Others Happiness: When it comes to being in love, your partners happiness is just as important as yours. It involves respecting and honoring the person in front of you, and being committed to creating mutual happiness. It involves making the conscious choice to show and display affection, attentiveness, kindness, and nurturance to your partner. Knowing your partner cares for you, supports you, and is committed to fostering a healthy relationship regardless of the challenges encountered is priceless.
  • Love Is Communicating Openly And Freely: Having a relationship where each partner can share freely, openly, and intimately is foundational to healthy love. Sharing dreams, fantasies, secrets, your dysfunctional past, strengths, weaknesses, fears, and personal quirks while not having your partner judge, criticize, or berate you is a true sign of a healthy relationship.
  • Love Is Being Intimate With One Another: Intimacy is a crucial component to healthy love. Gratifying and accommodating your partner with his/her sexual desires regardless of their nature (without compromising your values) is a powerful display of love, as is touching, holding hands, kissing, and hugging. Public displays of affection should not be avoided, demonstrating that love is something to be cherished and celebrated.
  • Love Is Being Truthful, Honest, and Trusting: Healthy loving relationships are based in truth and honesty. If you wish to live a life of integrity, it’s important to be upfront and honest with yourself and others. Once a lie is told, additional lies always follow in order to cover up the first. Once trust is compromised, regaining trust can be a very slow process sometimes taking months, years, and decades, if at all. It’s better to speak your truth up front and put all your cards on the table. As difficult as this may seem at times, in the long run you’ll come out ahead both with your partner and with your own sense of integrity, character, and self-worth. It’s important to trust yourself and be a person of your word, a value quite often absent.

Love is bigger than you are. It builds on itself and grows when nurtured and cared for. To leave a struggling unhappy marriage after spending so much time and effort is a very scary and unsettling decision. On the other hand, continuing to live your life emotionally, mentally, and physically boxed in with no escape from the stress and pain can slowly kill your sense of freedom, love, and spirit. Listen to that voice within that speaks to you. Find outside help. Seek counseling and guidance from someone who has experienced what you’re going through. Do everything you can do to take care of yourself.

After all, this is your life, and the sun always rises after the darkness.

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