HE WANTS; SHE WANTS
I’m a widower who has developed a romantic relationship with a wonderful divorced woman. I get along well with her grown children and grandchildren too. As a couple, we’ve traveled together and enjoy each other’s company—in all ways. I’m ready to move it to the next level and get married or at least move in together. Whenever I bring it up, she puts me off with lame jokes. It’s beginning to be the only thing that we do argue about. Frankly, I don’t enjoy living alone and want the companionship. Am I wasting my time? Should I look elsewhere or persevere in trying to win her over?
You don’t say how long this relationship has been going on, which could be a factor in your friend’s hesitation. If this is a relatively new relationship, her caution may be simply wisdom born of experience and age. So, keep that in mind, but let’s take a closer look at the issues.
When we are younger, one of the purposes of marriage is to establish a framework for having and raising children. Ideally, we combine our physical, financial and emotional resources with our partner to give our child the best chance of a good life. While that isn’t the norm in many American families today, it is still the best scenario whenever possible. Among the other reasons that younger couples may choose to marry are financial concerns and expectations from family and society.
You are in a new life stage now and those purposes no longer carry as much weight. Instead of moving lock step toward marriage, older couples are negotiating and often renegotiating the ties that bind them. Your lady friend may have a number of reasons to hesitate. She may not need financial support, may enjoy her newfound freedom, or may have other misgivings that she has not yet shared with you.
In order to make a decision about the future, you need a frank and open discussion about this issue. Choose a time when you are both relaxed and begin with something positive, such as citing how much you value your relationship. Be clear that your purpose is to have a serious talk so that you may understand her views about your future as a couple. Make it your mission to understand rather than to persuade her to your point of view. At a later time, you can make your case, but pushing that now will only lead to defensiveness. This is the time to gather information. If she cracks jokes, remind her that this serious to you and bring the conversation back to the matter at hand.
Once you have your answers about her reluctance, you can re-evaluate the situation. Perhaps her reply exposed an issue that can readily be resolved so that you can move toward greater commitment. On the other hand, she may be adamant that she desires no further attachment and seeks only intermittent companionship for social events.
Is that a deal-breaker? Only you can answer that for yourself. If your desire for live-in companionship and commitment are paramount and her resistance is unshakeable, then it may be time to seek other relationships. But first, you need answers and then you owe it to yourself and to her to be candid about your own intentions. If she continues to stonewall and refuses to discuss the matter, it will be a major clue that this relationship is probably not going to go the distance.
Remember there are many types of relationships that can meet our needs. Some couples, at this stage of life, are content to live separately with parts of their lives overlapping to varying degrees. These couples value their time apart as much as they value their time together. They report that it keeps the excitement and interest fresh and reduces conflict. Others need the stability and comfort of steady companionship and commitment. And the needs of partners may change over time, perhaps enjoying independence today and moving toward interdependence at a later point, requiring further negotiation.
It’s interesting to note that older men are more apt to prefer permanent arrangements, while women of the same age tend to guard and cherish their independent lives. Typically, women have cultivated deep and meaningful friendships which meet many of their social and emotional needs. In contrast, men suffer from more loneliness and are more likely to seek to replace their absent partners. As a man, consider building up adjunct relationships with friends and family to buffer you against isolation and dependence upon a partner to meet all of those needs.
Your future with your friend is a call you must make together, with eyes, ears and hearts open, and only honest intentions upon your lips. With that in mind, you can settle upon a relationship that will enable you to enjoy this time of life without guilt and demands.
Vicki is a licensed professional counselor and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at Victoria2write@aol.com