Are you ready to take the leap and date again?

Are you ready to take the leap and date again?
January 26
09:33 2024

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

When my husband died in 2018, I accepted the fact that I would wear the title “widow’ for the rest of my life. At my age, the thought of dating never entered my mind. I planned to live the rest of my life alone and fill that void with family, friends and other interests.

There’s an old adage that goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. 

Through happenstance, I met an interesting man who joined an organization I belonged to and we became friends through our mutual love of writing. It wasn’t long before we were spending more time together and six months later we became a “couple.” Until that time, I only knew of one other older person who was “dating” and, bless her heart, she was in her 80s.

Thinking about the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I began to wonder about other older couples and how their relationship was different than when they were younger. I found two other older couples who were willing to share their experiences, along with my boyfriend, David, who chimed in on our relationship.

The participants. I asked each couple ten questions about love at an older age. The ages ranged from Michael, who is 48, and Abigail, who is 56; Rose, who is 72, and Harold, who is 76; and my boyfriend, David, who is 72, and me, at 75. I found that many of their experiences were similar, and all positive. Here is what they shared.

How they met. Abigail met Michael six years ago through a dating app and met in person for the first time at a coffee shop. Rose and Harold have been together two years, but have known each other for many years through belonging to the same church. Their children were involved in youth activities together. 

What drew them to each other. The question, “What first drew you to your partner,” brought some interesting answers. Abigail said she found her boyfriend to be “a really calming, strong presence. He’s warm-hearted and it comes across. He’s also very handsome!” Michael said of Abigail, “Her enthusiasm; she has so much energy and is fun to talk to … and she is beautiful.” Harold said, “A thank-you note to Rose for her attention to my deceased spouse over the course of her affliction first drew us together.” I must also acknowledge the “power of the pen” as I found myself first attracted to David through his beautifull, descriptive poetry.

What their relationship is like. What I really wanted to find out was the couples’ feelings about being in a relationship as older, mature adults. Rose shared that she had found, “a clearer understanding of how we relate to each other and refined coping skills. A deeper understanding of what it means to be in love; learned skills in conflict resolution; total acceptance of each other ‘as we are,’ and unconditional companionship and friendship.” Harold echoed Rose’s comments. 

Abigail and Michael had similar comments. Abigail said, “I think the expectations are different because of this stage of life we are at – it’s more about enjoying our time together than having to be a functioning, working entity, which is what it feels like when you have small kids. He and I don’t have kids together, and my kids are older, so it’s not having to work from a family calendar … dealing with parenting in general. … This takes a lot of pressure off.” Michael commented, “When you are younger, you just don’t know what’s going on or what you really want in a relationship. At our age, we have a good idea of who we are and what we stand for, what we want in life. We are not asking for or expecting anything, and the things we want are aligned.” 

David chimed in with similar comments. “I am much less conscious of appearances and what others may think. I’ve accepted myself at this stage of life.”

How long did it take to become “a couple?” I was also curious at how long it took couples to commit to an exclusive relationship. Harold was a widower and Rose was unattached for many years. They found that “we have so many common interests, accompanied by a physical attraction to each other.” 

Abigail said that she and Michael had been dating for about six months, but “I knew right away that I was not interested in anyone else, and he told me the same thing. … I think I knew we were exclusive when we had each other on Life360, like what I had my kids on. He could see where I was at all times, and vice versa. That is a level of trust that goes along with an “open phone” policy. 

David said that it took just six months for us to become a couple, “which was when we changed our Facebook status to ‘In a relationship.’ This was during the pandemic so we created our own ‘pod.’ I think that is when we decided that we’d found someone with whom to spend a life.” 

Telling the kids. A question that had plagued me in the beginning was how to tell kids and the family about the relationship. I admit I was fearful of being made to feel I was being foolish dating at my age. I remember telling my niece about David and how worried I was to let family members know. She replied, “Good Lord, Aunt Judie, you’re 70 years old! Who cares? Just go for it!” And she was right. My son also agreed and said, “I’m glad you’re not alone anymore.” David shared, “After a year, we spent a week at the beach with my extended family (children, grandchildren, brother and his family) and the grandchildren screamed with great delight, ‘Pops has a girlfriend!’ That brought a smile to my face.”

Abigail’s children were also supportive. She writes, “I waited until about six months until I introduced him to my kids and there has never been any awkwardness, thankfully. In fact, Michael and their dad and me all sit together to watch my daughter play field hockey, which is something I wish more families felt comfortable doing. It shows that I chose well with both my partners, because they are both kind and mature.” 

Rose expressed a similar experience. “My family has accepted Harold quite well and they really love him.” 

Sharing new interests. One of the benefits expressed by each couple was having someone to share experiences with. Abigail noted, “I discovered that I actually LOVE football … I never paid much attention to sports, but now I really love it. But we also enjoy sitting by the fire, listening to music, watching movies, cooking, etc. He has learned that he loves British detective shows (ha!) because that’s what I love.” 

Rose said that she and Harold especially enjoy travel, sporting events, plays and musicals, and just spending time with each other visiting family. “We’re finding that we’re discovering new interests together, like paddle boarding, exercise, going to the mountains, taking casual walks.” 

Like the other couples, David mentioned our shared interest in sports, primarily Virginia Tech football. He added, “We have introduced each other to a variety of new things, such as her introducing me to the enjoyment of films and theatre, new genres of writing … I’ve introduced her to new music and a new look at a town where she used to live.”

Partner’s surprises. Any relationship is bound to bring surprises and I was interested in what couples had found most surprising in their partners. Michael said of Abigail: “That she is so open-minded and willing to consider lots of different points of view, even if not ones she agrees with.” And Abigail said of Michael: “That he has a good sense of humor about himself – he will laugh at himself when other people might get defensive or self-conscious.” 

Harold said, “Rose is just a sweetheart, kind to everyone, and always thinking about the other person and their needs.” Rose responded: “I discovered Harold is really a down-to-earth person, very caring of family and friends.” 

One of the first surprises for me was our first dinner together and David asked if he could say the blessing. And afterward he took the dishes to the kitchen without being asked! 

Ready to take a chance on love? Are you ready to step out on faith and look for that special person to share your life with? Are you willing to risk rejection for a second (or third) chance for love? These parting words from our couples may offer you some advice.

Rose & Harold: “Don’t be afraid to venture forward, trust God, and have faith. Make sure that both partners are friends first and ‘in it’ for the same reason.”

David: “Put aside some of one’s preconceived notions about what makes you happy and explore some new feelings and new possibilities. Early on as older adults, we put on blinders as to what we expect to do, we get in ruts, and we have a hard time changing expectations. Take off the blinders!”

Abigail and Michael: “I also think that dwelling on past hurts or mistakes can rob you of enjoying things in the present. I think it’s important to not feel that it’s ‘too late’ to find a new relationship later in life. There isn’t an expiration date on our capacity to love, to learn and to have fun. We might not be able to go rock climbing with our love interest, but we can still sit on the porch and enjoy the days we have together.”

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