Retirement relationships can be complicated

If you saw the 2009 film, It’s Complicated, with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin, you have some idea of how confusing relationships can be for the 50+ crowd. Blended families, grey divorce, on-line dating, Viagra and Cialis use, and sexually transmitted diseases are all on the rise among the elders among us.

Calling it quits

The only age group in Canada with rising divorce rates is the 50+ as the Zoomers are zooming out of often long term marriages. The reasons are varied but the shock of the empty nest causes a shakeup and it is happening later as adult children stay home longer. When they finally do go, the couple may find they have little left in common. They may choose a future of stony indifference, mutual misery or parallel lives but many are going for the new start. Retirement is another reinvention and renegotiation that may cause a reassessment and drive to the lawyer’s office. At least one member of the couple does not relish facing the final years in that couple’s reality.

January, that time of new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions, is the most popular month for the initiation of the divorce. Two-thirds of those divorces are prompted by the women in the flagging partnerships.

This trend is happening in Europe, the U.S. and even in Japan. In Japan, they have support groups for women suffering from “retired husband syndrome”. The term for retired husbands translates to “wet leaves” as they tend to cling. For better or for worse but for lunch every day? Give me a break! Or a divorce!

The fall out of falling out

Many remarry but it is complicated by children, estate planning issues, blended finances and assets like homes and cottages. The brave, new start may result in serious financial consequences, particularly for women. Many find themselves alone, lonely, and depressed as expectations of the new freedom are not met. The multiple coffee shop meetings of on-line meet-ups fall short of expectations. The realities of sexually transmitted diseases among the 50+ are sobering as this generation may not have gotten the full force of the No Glove, No Love messages. This issue of STD’s has been called “the silent epidemic”. No new partner may appear. About 24% of the adult population has no partner with the majority of this group being women. It’s complicated.

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With a life expectancy of 83 for women and 78 for men, we need to figure out how to negotiate this time together or apart or both. Some are trying out the LAT option of Living Apart Together. He has his place and she has hers. The date, travel together, text, talk, entertain but maintain their own spaces, their own finances and do not scare the children with estate-planning complications. Some of these folks are actually married to each other as well but choose to live apart or do so because of work locations. A recent article in MacLean’s featured this choice as a way to “have it all” with freedom and independence as well as companionship and intimacy. This may become a more and more popular option for those 50+ without dependents.

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Others are doing common-law relationships with contractual agreements each with independent legal advice.

Make sure a good lawyer looks at each parties’ situation prior to agreeing to cohabit! Why? Because it is complicated!

Do you have experiences or stories about couples or going it alone in retirement?

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