my marriage

65+ and Single

 

photo shows a person in silhouette sitting on a mountain ridge

While a lot of retirement planning information seems to be aimed at couples, statistics show that large fractions of those in the 65+ demographic are single. Pew Research reports that 21% of men and 49% of women in that category are single (i.e., not married nor living with a partner). 

Some are single by choice. Others were not planning to be single in retirement but are, due to death or divorce. When decades-old assumptions about our future become obsolete, it can be disorienting. My work has given me the opportunity to learn from many of you in that position.  

Adjusting our long-held plans can be a mixed bag. More than one person has expressed to me the joy of answering to no one but themselves, having the freedom to make decisions without debate. A year into widowhood, another person sold a home of thirty years and moved, expressing the sense that the new place was truly theirs. It was the only dwelling they’d ever chosen solely for their own reasons. 

My wife and I were nearly a decade into a snowbird lifestyle when she passed. I thought I would always live in Florida at least part-time, as we had been. After being adrift by myself for more than a year, the clouds parted and I saw an answer I never anticipated: I came back to Nebraska as my full-time home. 

And then again, others remain in the homes that had served them in life as part of a couple, because the same dwellings continue to serve them well. 

Adjustments are often needed in many parts of our lives. Recreation and hobbies we enjoyed as couples may not work for us as singles. Our decisions about work may change. How we eat, exercise, and travel may shift as well. 

The pain of sudden surprises like death and divorce remind us that life is always a mix: joy and pain. On the worst days, it pays to remember the duality—there are two parts to that notion, and joy and pain aren’t whole concepts without each other. 

When these periods of transition arrive, it seems pretty universally helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of, to review plans and planning with, and to talk decisions over with. From a practical standpoint, the loss of a partner often means losing the person with whom we used to talk things over. It’s a sensation many people have told me about.  

All this is to say, clients, you can talk to me. I’m here to listen when you need to kick an idea around, or rethink something that needs to change because circumstances have changed. Been there, done that – we are all on different journeys, but I’ve been on some of those same roads. Email me or call whenever you might need to talk. 


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Play the audio version of this post below:

One of a Kind

cathy

I wasn’t picturing this day back in the 8th grade when, playing the role of Charlie Brown to her as the little red-haired girl, she didn’t know my name. Nor on the first day of freshman year in high school, when the divine miracle of alphabetical order put Cathy Livingston’s locker next to mine. Nor on the 4th of July the following summer, when our long romance began.

Not when we married, and certainly not when the babies came, four in all.
But seven years ago I learned this day was coming–and here we are. Football players strive for ‘yards after contact.’ Cathy battled to get ‘years after diagnosis,’ and she got them. She saw kids get married and she met her grandbabies in those hard-won years.

She’s gone, but not. She lives on in the intelligence of her children, the determination (stubbornness?) of her grandchildren, the formative influence she had on me, our children, the kids she cared for, and in a thousand other ways. This lover, child enthusiast, Disney fan, dolphin watcher, mother, and grandmother endures in our hearts and memories.

At the end of our life together, I am filled with an abundant gratitude, not regrets. Sad, and hopeful. Who wouldn’t be? On a ventilator, unable to speak, nearly paralysed, in her last hours she communicated by writing. One of her messages to me: “You have a lot of wonderful life left.” One chapter ends, another begins.

My work for you is not done. I don’t have the option of curling up into a ball, there is too much to do. I’ll need a little time and space—but I’ll be back. After all, making the most of it is one of the things I learned from Cathy.
Thank you all, again, for everything.