Dr. Paul Standal works with couples who are marrying and having children later in life. It is very common for him to work with couples both contemplating marriage and having gotten married into their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and later. Many have had previous marriages, but, for a significant number, it is their first marriage.
This cohort of older couples have all the same goals of a happy marital relationship that younger, first-time married couples have. However, in some ways they have unique strengths and challenges present. For example, older married couples tend to have more patience and maturity when it comes to understanding the realities of marriage. At the same time, they seem to have more difficulty in working through independence/dependency issues, particularly when combining households and where they have had long years of self-control and self-sufficiency.
For many, they have had to take care of all the roles in their lives, so they tend to have greater trouble adapting to change, giving up control and redefining roles, a process that can cause great anxiety. It is common to combine households or to have one spouse move into the other’s space. A frequent problem, though, especially if the home has been a long-time family residence, is that the memories and possessions that make the home meaningful to one spouse can make the other spouse feel like an outsider.
Such typical later-life scenarios as caring for an aging parent or having an adult child temporarily move in can further complicate adjustments to a combined household. Emerging onset of health conditions requiring increased care and attention as well as entering retirement can also lead to stress and anxiety.
Money and the management of financial resources is one of the most contentious areas of adjustment in any marriage, but particularly with older couples getting married. The values we hold about our money and finances are particularly inflexible. Consider how these scenarios may pose problems for older newlyweds:
One man holds the traditional view that men should handle investing, retirement planning and other money matters. His fiancée, however, has been supporting herself and managing her finances for more than 30 years.
One woman wants to retire early, even if that means having less money in retirement. Her husband-to-be, however, is a carefree spender and enjoys many expensive hobbies.
An essential part of pre-marital counseling to any couple considering marriage, and particularly older couples, is a discussion of such financial issues as lifestyle preferences, attitudes about saving and spending, and attitudes about inheritance and retirement goals. Dr. Standal tends to recommend a joint account to deal with daily, fixed expenses and co-responsibilities such as mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, medical costs, and entertainment etc. He also recommends that each partner have a personal account for his or her own personal needs, like a round of golf for him or a hair style for her. Some older couples draw up a prenuptial agreement that, among other things, determines what property is owned individually and jointly and the division of the estate upon death, including savings in pension or profit-sharing plans. An agreement is especially useful if one or both spouses have children from previous marriages.
Although child rearing is seldom an issue for later-life marriages, adult children from previous marriages can cause stress for older newlyweds. News of a parent’s plans to remarry rouses concerns for many adult children. Opposition to the new marriage usually stems from hurt or loss over a deceased parent, concern over the new spouse’s intentions or concerns about inheritance or who will get special family heirlooms. Parents need to be patient with adult children, giving them time to get to know and adjust to a new stepparent. At the same time, however, parents need to support a new spouse and not tolerate an adult child’s immaturity, selfishness or unfairness. To help an adult child adjust and welcome a new stepparent into the family, parents should consider being open and upfront about such issues.
Additional Recommended References
Late Love: A Celebration of Marriage After Fifty by Eileen Simpson. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.
Young at Heart: The Mature Woman’s Guide to Finding and Keeping Romance by Rachelle Zukerman, PhD. Contemporary Books, 2001.
By Christine Martin (Note: you have an author listed here, but no material title or source referenced.)
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