This is is the third and last installment on living together. In less than 10 years, the number of people over 50 that are living together has just about doubled to more than two million . As I mentioned in my previous blogs, for older singles that have already had children or been through a divorce, moving in together is often their final goal. They are interested in companionship and not in building a whole new family life. Is sharing digs a good move for these singles? Will it help or hurt the development of a deeper dedication and caring in the couple?
Before we answer that, let me share a story: Janeen, a 51-year old glam event planner met Julio at her local AA meeting in Greenwich Village. Julio was a 53-year old dead ringer for the singer Marc Anthony, definitely not the Nordic type she usually went for. But Julio glowed with born-again energy when he presented his AA qualification, the story of losing it all and finding a Higher Power. Julio had destroyed his marriage through heavy drinking with his broker buddies and their clients. Then he lost his job when his firm was taken over. Julio realized that he had messed up his life and reconnected with his church, AA and finally a new career. Now reborn as a yoga teacher and clean for three years, he radiated hope and compassion to the members of his 12-step group. Janeen herself had been in recovery for two years.
Janeen and Julio had much in common as they both went about their mission of sponsoring newly-sober group members. It was inevitable that they would start dating and with their sponsors' blessings they eventually became exclusive. Then Janeen's company went under in the wake of the recession and she lost her job. Finances were tight and she could no longer afford her pricey Village digs. Julio sprang into action and found a tiny but decent one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. He jokingly got down on one knee and presented Janeen with a cigar band, asking her to live soberly and happily ever after with him.
Janeen wasn't sure. But they discussed all the ramifications-how they would handle his visitation with his 15-year old, where she would get to smoke her cigs (outside). They talked about dividing up household chores, finances. They shared their dreams, fears and visions of a future together. And even talked about who, if things tanked, would move out. Janeen eventually said yes.They rolled up their sleeves, gave the place a good painting and moved in.
The question for you, dear reader, is there likely to be a great Moonstruck ending here? More specifically, based on the latest research on cohabitation, are Janeen and Julio likely to:
a) Live together happily for a long time
b) Get married and go through a yucky divorce
c) Live together unhappily ever after
d) Part ways after about a year and a half
e) Get married and live happily ever after
Well, the latest research on living together shows that older cohabitors form happier and more stable relationships than younger couples . They have fewer arguments, less conflict and spend more quality time together than younger couples. They also stay together longer, five years vs. under two for their younger counterparts. And as we said earlier, marriage plans don't seem to be a big factor for older couples.
In addition, even when older partners are compared to married couples, while marrieds often are happier than their cohabitating counterparts, there is no significant difference in general satisfaction or well-being.
Tip from my book, Love in 90 Days: What we know from studying healthy long-term couples is that when there is planning, discussion and a clear commitment to a relationship where differences are discussed and worked out - lasting love is more likely.
As for boomer couples, they often have less of a need to tie the proverbial knot or to share assets if the emotional commitment is fully there. So if you picked a) Live together happily, you are probably right.
Diana Kirschner Ph.D.'s bestselling dating advice book, Love in 90 Days, is the basis for her PBS Special on love. It's just out in paperback with a new chapter on Dating Games Men Play. Dr. Diana is a frequent guest psychologist on The Today Show. Connect with Dr. Diana and get her free relationship advice E-course at Dating Advice TV.