SEPARATELY TOGETHER: A Coupling Option for Third Agers

SEPARATELY TOGETHER: A Coupling Option for Third Agers

By Dr. Julia R. Galosy

man and woman love


The kids are grown. Your partner has passed on—in one way or another. You have found your tribe and your social life is flourishing. Your home is exactly as you want it. Your time is yours. Suddenly Cupid drops by and shoots an arrow into your heart. No, you don’t coo and smile. In fact, you panic. You tremble with fear. You pull up the drawbridge, batten down the hatches, inspect the new person in your life for every imaginable flaw, congratulate yourself when you succeed in pushing her/him away and just basically have no idea what you are doing or why.

Every research study published for eternity presents data that strong, intimate connections contribute in every way possible to well-being. So why do we, as Third Agers, fight so hard to keep them at bay? As one of the five life-tasks for wellness, the life task of love tends to be intimate, trusting, self-disclosing, and cooperative.1 Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Apparently yes.

I would suggest that the reason for this seemingly self-defeating response is simply that we are channeling old patterns of relationships and as a Third Ager, they don’t fit.

As young people, Cupid dropped by and was welcomed by us. We looked for our soul mate. We connected easily and often. We married or found partners who lasted as long as they were meant to last. But in all instances we were looking for our other half, as if we weren’t whole. In between dramatic coupling we may have tried the Friends with Benefits options and that was probably fine for awhile, such as it is. Now we arrive at the Third Age.

Two independent beings with no need for each other come together. The days of finding the soul mate are long over; no need for other halves. For Third Agers the option of connecting is simply to enhance our lives.

In my classes on Understanding Human Behavior, I tell my students that any interaction between humans means that two people experiencing something together will be viewing the interaction from totally different perspectives and will try to describe their shared reality, or worse, impose it on each other. Good luck with that. (Think of the disparity among eye witnesses to an accident).

The enhancement with Third Agers is that we have decades of experience and reams of words which each of us can use to describe our view to the other. Imagine being able to describe your reality to another person. There may even be understanding. What a gift!

The enhancement. Each brings a whole new life to the other. New music. New books. New artists. New travels. Who would have believed at this late stage we could find so much that is new? Thanks to our new, OMG what to call her/him?

It was so easy when we were young and coupled. Girl friend, partner, main squeeze (Did you ever actually use that?), honey. I was once introduced as his heartner (Don’t gag, it was sweet). Now we search for a term that works to describe an intimacy shared exclusively by choice and when requested or desired. Nothing assumed.

Keeping our independence and sharing intimacy is a delicate balance. It is more than possible to achieve, however. The underlying benefit is that two individuals sharing intimacy will create awe that is the result of the energy each has put into the connection. This energy will then be available to both and will be more than the sum of the energy contributed separately: Together they will create synergy.

We don’t have to interfere in the relationships of our partner. We don’t have to move in together. We don’t have to go to holidays with his/her family.

As Third Agers we do not have to lose our individual selves in the creation of the we. We can celebrate our independence while enjoying the fruits of our connection: To be known and understood without being judged; To be regarded with affection and respect without being used. These powerful attributes of strong connections. Third Agers have a real opportunity to find them, if we lower the draw bridge and let them in.

*1 Witmer, Melvin and Thomas Sweeney. A Holistic Model for Wellness and Prevention Over the Life Span, Journal of Counseling and Development: JCD Alexandria Vol. 71 iss 2 (Nov, 1992) 140.


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