During later life, romantic partnerships are different from partnerships in earlier life. Watch this lesson to find out more about marriage, cohabitation, remarriage, and divorce in later life, including their unique benefits and challenges.
Glen and David are very happy together. They've been partners for almost 30 years, and now that they are both retired, they are enjoying the extra time together.
Glen is 68, and David is 71, which means that they are both in late adulthood, or the time in life after age 65. During late adulthood, many things change in both big and small ways. Couples, like Glen and David, find that they have more time to spend together, which can be both good and bad!
Let's look at some of the differences in romantic relationships in late adulthood versus other times in life.
Marriage and Cohabitation
Last year, David got very sick with pneumonia. He ended up in the hospital for a while, and it was touch-and-go for a few days. But David is healthy again now, and though medicine and his doctors undoubtedly helped, he credits Glen's support for helping him pull through.
David is probably right that Glen played a role in his recovery. Marriage and romantic partnerships offer support during times of trouble, like when David got sick. Having a partner or spouse can give people the emotional boost they need to recover from all sorts of ailments, physical and emotional.
In fact, romantic partnerships are the single biggest source of social support in late adulthood. People in late life who are married or in other long-term couplings report that they have bigger social circles than single people do. This is important, because people with strong social networks tend to be happier and healthier, especially in late life.
Notice that I said that support in late adulthood comes from romantic partnerships. There are many types of romantic partnerships. Marriage, or the legal and sometimes religious union between two people, is one common type of romantic partnership, but there are others. Remarriages are marriages that are not the first marriage for one or more partners. For example, David's sister Billie has been married twice. Her second marriage is a remarriage.
In addition, many older adults choose not to remarry, but instead to cohabitate, or live with a romantic partner without marriage. There are many reasons to cohabitate. Some people find that they just don't see a point in getting married in late life. Others, like Glen and David, live in states where same-sex marriages aren't recognized, so they live together instead.
Remarriages and cohabitation for most of adult life are not as solid as first marriages. That is, they end in divorce or break-ups more often. However, remarriages and cohabitation relationships are stronger in late adulthood than earlier in life. This might be because of the wisdom and stability of partners in later life. For example, Glen used to get very upset at every little thing, but as he's aged, he has grown more mature and relaxed about things, which makes his relationship with David much less tumultuous.
Same-sex couples, like David and Glen, face unique challenges in late adulthood. For example, in states where same-sex unions are not recognized, the health care system can pose challenges. When David was sick, the hospital wouldn't let Glen visit him for the first few days because Glen wasn't legally a family member. It wasn't until David was moved to another, less critical wing of the hospital that Glen was able to visit. Sadly, this is all too common.
Of course, marriage and romantic partnerships may offer many advantages, but they don't always last. Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage.
Less than one percent of divorces occur in late adulthood, though this number is on the rise as the baby boomer generation enters late adulthood. Because the baby boomers don't hold divorce with as much stigma as earlier generations, there has been a slight uptick in divorce rates in recent years.
Still, divorce is relatively rare in late adulthood, but can pose some unique challenges. Take Billie, for example. She's going through a divorce right now, and it's taking a toll on her.
Compared to younger divorcees, people who go through a divorce in late life find it harder to separate their identity from that of their former spouse. Billie has been a wife to her husband for so long, that she's not exactly sure who she is without that relationship.
Further, people who go through a divorce during late adulthood tend to carry more of a sense of personal failure than younger divorced people do. Billie can attest to that: she feels like her divorce is a reflection of what a failure she is. This sense of failure can cause depression, for which Billie should see a professional for help.
Late adulthood is the time of life after age 65. During this time, marriage and other types of romantic partnerships can offer a strong sense of support.
Remarriages and cohabitation tend to be stronger in later life, compared to earlier in adulthood. But gay couples face some challenges when their union is not recognized by the government, especially when it comes to the healthcare system.
Finally, divorce is more rare in late adulthood than earlier in life, but can cause some people to have trouble separating their identity from their former spouse and to feel a sense of personal failure for the divorce.
When this lesson is over, you should be able to:
- Understand the importance or romantic relationships
- Describe the types of romantic couples
- Recognize the rarity of divorce in late adulthood