“Happy is the husband of a good wife,
for the number of his years will be doubled”
Random thoughts on the quest for intimacy in older age.
When I started my blogging I stated as a purpose to reflect on various aspects of ageing. This time I have written in a different style and it only minimally touches on my own life. Yes, intimacy is something I do yearn for but of course intimacy can be found in many ways and also expresses itself in many ways and I would not wish to limit myself to what follows. It saddens me that one writes about older people in this particular field as if we are somehow different from others.
Older people have many fears and amongst them is the fear that the one you believe has an affection/love for you is only ‘doing good’ in case you are lonely. It sits side by side with that other fear that medical treatment will be withheld from you because you are old.
Few people have written about these fears but there is a vulnerability in being older that you understand when you get there. It diminishes us to feel as one woman said to me, ‘ I need someone to fight for me’ There are political issues here that need attention.
What follows does not reflect the insecurities that flow from all this, important though it they are. This is about considered choice: how you choose to think about it and maybe what you will choose to do about it. If you dare not commit or risk being let down that is your choice. I believe that if you never risk your emotions you may avoid the most terrible of hurts and if you dismiss an opportunity to commit to another you will be rejecting one of life’s God-given joys. Love always involves risk…whether its loss of a parent or the death of friend or partner…the hurt will come but real love is good and worth any amount of that risk.
I write as a woman
My Biblical passages, this time, are there to enrich the reflections that follow.
Quotations are mainly from Ecclesiasticus: for meditation
The Joy of a Good Wife
“Happy is the husband of a good wife;
the number of his days will be doubled.
A loyal wife brings joy to her husband,
and he will complete his years in peace.
A good wife is a great blessing;
she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.
Whether rich or poor, his heart is content,
and at all times his face is cheerful.” Ecclesiasticus
What are the Options? Where will he be found?
New partnerships where both are older
Roots in friendship
For older people the ideal is a partnership rooted in friendship where the potential partner is known and trusted possibly over many years. Intimacy grows with this trust.
The woman who wishes to remarry or indeed marry for the first time does well to look at those around her who fit this pattern but however good these unions are there are many women for whom this is not a possibility. There are still fewer single men around than women.
Sometimes there are hard hurdles to be jumped as children are often reluctant to see a parent remarry. It changes the family unit with which they are familiar and can falsely assume a disloyalty to their other parent. This of course does not always happen but it is surprisingly frequent. Those of us who have conducted the marriages of these, oh so lucky folk, who have found this kind of love later in life, will have often helped them work towards a family acceptance.
Those to be envied are those who have close friends, probably also widowed, who find a love after the death of both partners.
Built on a meeting of hearts and minds they will be surrounded and supported by a network of acquaintances and friends ready to support them and children who will accept.
There is also a happiness to be found where chance meeting, probably over a shared interest, leads to the same result.
Friendship is the basis on which relationships can be built.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright,
for as they are, so are their neighbours also Ecclesiasticus
However this is not the experience of all people.
So what about Dating web sites?
Three weeks ago I had the joy of meeting a couple both in their sixties who had met through that most modern way of courtship…the computer.
They told me all about it.
The woman had been afraid. After all how do you in your later years set off to meet a complete stranger in a public space? (And do make sure it is public for the first time at least) How do you know the person who advertises will even look the same as his photograph? Is he telling lies?
My informant, lets call her Sheila, had two false runs. In one case he had not turned up. How embarrassing and how vulnerable that must make you feel…? The next had simply not felt right. Her third attempt? Well on this occasion Sheila felt lucky. There was an instant liking which some months later had ended with two people sitting together on my settee talking about hymns for their wedding.
On the surface not much in common but there was no doubt about their love for each other.
I envied them their confidence, their daring. Both Christians, they were grasping at life and a fresh start.
They will be fine. I sensed they were both prepared to commit, both willing to risk, and both very excited.
Why am I such a wimp I thought? Why run away from the idea of a complete stranger?
Perhaps a new generation will not be so wary
Be daring if you are hesitant, and be careful.
It is likely to be the common practice in the future and if you are really looking for a partner there is a high chance of success.
He is seventy, she is fifty. What about age?
A seventy-year-old man can form an intimate relationship with a woman aged fifty whereas it is extraordinarily difficult for a 70-year woman to fall in love with and subsequently form a relationship with a 50-year-old man.
In our society there is a common expectation that the woman will be younger than the man.
Why should this be so?
Is it based solely on a perceived, if not always real, expectation that a man will go for the youngest, most beautiful and nubile woman he can find? (does nothing for the self esteem of women) Or… It has always been that way; men go for younger women? Does it assume that the older man wants to be nursed or perhaps is seeking a trophy wife? None of these thoughts are fair on the modern man although it still most certainly applies to some and is the expectation of many older people.
Where this is true it always militates against women, as it sees them primarily as sex objects and makes assumptions about the desirability of older women who then fall into the stereotypical pit of old age. It is however one of the reasons more men than women find new or second partners.
These assumptions are not necessarily true of women who are often attracted, as they get older, to men who fall into a wider spectrum of age. Most women want maturity in their friends and partners. Age in the second half of life is not an issue as far as maturity is concerned.
So….To turn the illustration round…..
Assumptions are made if the woman is 70 and the man 50.
Cougars…therefore predatory (although some women see it as sexy!)
Frustrated mothers (not for me!..I’d rather love the adult male with an equal tenderness)
Few women are actually what either of these assumptions simply imply.
The man who at 50 chases the 20 year old and who rejects the older woman may well be gaining a physical beauty no longer found in the older woman but loses those gifts which potentially offer much more.
So what are these gifts?
The older woman is likely to be mature and bring a life experience that knows how to value and express a deep physical and emotional intimacy which is genuine and gentle. She is likely to be sensitive to the varying needs of the other, does not see sexual expression in terms of performance, has learned a kindness and has a recognition of the need to support her partner in his varying interests and concerns. She will be supportive of his career and not deprive him of the pleasure gained through interests and other friendships. She is likely to have a confidence about her which will bring a strength which is mutually enriching. Nearly all women value most the warmth of an intimacy which may or may not involve intercourse but majors in the knowledge of being loved, in mutual trust and sharing, of waking up in the arms of that same person knowing that whatever adventures fall that day, that mutuality will be an ongoing feature of life together even when physically apart. It is indeed a covenant relationship which is deep enough to embrace those around them.
Ooh la la. French president Emmanuel Macron is 24 years younger than his wife, Brigitte Trogneux.
This kind of relationship relies on the same things all relationships hinge on: finding a person who shares your interests, beliefs and principles. And if it scandalizes onlookers — all the better!
- These notes have been set as between a man and a woman but would also be true of a same sex relationship.
- The views are my own and at the end of the day express my own thoughts.
- I recognize the many generalisations but believe the issues to be real. I know also that not all women or men are models of perfection but age does tend to bring a greater wisdom in choice, a liberality of views and a knowledge which is perceptive of the needs of the other.
- In any union or friendship where there is an age disparity there has to be an acceptance that there is a likelihood that one will die much sooner than the other.
- These thoughts also assume that there is no desperation, no assuming that to have a partner is the only thing that matters in life. If this is so, it will all end in tears…an expression my gran used frequently…….
- I do believe that we were created by a God who knew that he designed us for close companionship.
Ode to a Capable Wife
“A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all her household are clothed in crimson.
She makes herself coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the city gates,
taking his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her happy;
her husband too, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.’
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.”
Try writing this with the man you wish for as its subject.
“A capable man who can find
He is far more precious than jewels………”
(the Bible is not very good at this but you could be!)
Do older women still want physical intimacy?
Yes…despite what the young think! There is a new freedom. No childbearing, privacy, and most physical issues can be sorted for both men and women. We know we feel better and even look better when we love.
Do women still want to forge close friendships
(intimate or not)
Yes, of course they do. Real friendship cannot be replaced by ‘occasional visiting’ Friendship is companionship, it is trust, it is a knowledge of loyalty, it is a commitment.
Of course all men and women are different. They are different from childhood onwards. Some want a greater closeness than others. Some have never been fortunate enough to find a person to love deeply. This blog stated by talking about older people. All of us as we age, men and women, learn a deeper acceptance of others and we grow more understanding and are usually less prone to anger and intolerance. Most men and women are better at relationships as they age
Perhaps we even grow more loveable. What is true is that our basic humanity does not change. Fulfilment is usually found in holding out our hands and accepting the joy that comes by giving ourselves freely to another. If it comes your way accept it with that joy.
Yes of course there is risk…..choose wisely…but what have we to lose? My marriage only lasted six years and it was all a long time ago….I would do it again for there was not only someone to be with but someone to love and care for. I received that love and care in return. I knew I was special. There is nothing quite like it.
It would be good to know in older age that my love was still welcomed……
“The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation,
and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.
The fear of the Lord delights the heart,
and gives gladness and joy and long life.
Those who fear the Lord will have a happy end;
on the day of their death they will be blessed.” Ecclesiasticus.
Perhaps I’ll try on line dating after all????
Written on Trinity Sunday 2017 with faith in the God who is, himself, in relationship