Divorce, Marriage, and Cohabitation in Late Adulthood

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  • 0:02 Late Adulthood
  • 0:40 Marriage & Cohabitation
  • 3:36 Divorce
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

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.

Late Adulthood

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.

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