The pros and cons of senior adult marriages

Love is eternal and blind, isn’t it?  Afterall, we learn from the immortal lyrics in Time After Time, a song made popular by often controversial 80’s songstress, Cyndi Lauper, “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, Time after time.  If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting.  Time after time.”

From those lyrics, we presume that we all have someone waiting to catch us when we fall…that one true love…but the truth is this world is broken and marriages do not last like they once did.  According to statistics published by strictlyweddings.com, the world’s largest free directory of wedding venues and suppliers, an average of 94 weddings occur each day in Missouri, but an average of 46 divorces also occur each day.  Our society has gone so wrong and become so broken that about 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and about 80 percent of the divorces are initiated by women (about 90 percent if they are college-educated). Women – the same beautiful creatures that the first man Adam once jubilated about by saying “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23).

As senior adults, it just is not that easy to accept past experiences and marry again.  The hurt and pain of divorce and the exhaustive duty of shared parenting really takes its toll on us.  But if you really love your partner and are willing to give it another try, then and only then, there may be a point and time when a catch follows your fall.

The pros of senior adult marriage. Some would say if you were lucky enough to have found that forever someone, why would you be afraid of having the relationship you have always wanted? Afterall, does a relationship in your senior years require more work than when you were younger?  No, they all require demanding work. But as mature adults, seniors know the issues and are better prepared to take the plunge.  The following reasons support senior adult marriages:

  1. Combining incomes may improve financial situations. When two seniors already have assets and property, their combined financial situation may improve and they may garner tax breaks and other benefits single senior adults lack. One household could be liquidated, and the net receipts could be used to travel and purchase those assets seniors have always dreamed of like second homes, sports cars, and country club memberships.
  2. Maturity prepares seniors for relationships and problem solving. Laurence R. Samuel, Ph.D., in his 2017 article, Are Older People Wiser? purports that wisdom is nature’s form of compensation for the body’s insistence to age. “The association between wisdom and aging has a basis in biology: as humans get older, the mind further develops, a direct byproduct of simply having lived longer and experiencing more things. Older people are usually more proficient than young people in certain dimensions of cognition, particularly those that involve different ways to solve problems, as well as life planning, and making future goals. Those deemed as “wise” are considered to have greater empathy, be more correct in their views of others’ emotional status, and be more thoughtful of the wellbeing of other people. Wisdom thus appears to incorporate a kind of “emotional intelligence” focused on relationships, accounting for why it so revered.”
  3. Longer lifespans. A recent article in Fortune magazine entitled Married men are healthier than everyone else. Here’s why they get the best end of the deal indicates married men and married women live, on average, two years longer than their unmarried counterparts. One reason for this longevity is the influence of marital partners on healthy behaviors. Apparently, the article’s authors found that married people are influenced by their partners to eat better, smoke less, and drink conservatively. 

The cons of senior adult marriage.  According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, the number of adults older than 50 who were living together outside of marriage more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, from 1.2 million to 2.75 million.   It is not entirely the fear of commitment that causes senior adults to avoid marriage.  Rather, they are afraid marriage will cause them a myriad of issues including the following:

1.      They believe fairytales do not exist.  By the time many people reach their senior years, they have already been married.  For those that are divorced, many of those believe the fairytale of everlasting love does not exist, or they feel as though their one shot at a fairytale ended with a previous marriage or relationship.

2.      They fear decreased pensions, benefits, or military perks.  Some seniors have a predeceased spouse who left them a pension or Social Security benefits that could decline if they marry again.  Getting married may affect the amount of money and benefits they currently receive.  Still others may be receiving maintenance (f/k/a alimony) payments from  a previous judgment and order of dissolution that would end if they remarried. Widows or widowers of military members often receive benefits such as health care, pensions, and the ability to shop on military bases for food and consumer goods at a significant discount, all of which can be lost when remarrying. If one of the seniors is a Missouri HealthNet beneficiary, the likelihood of being kicked off the program is very high if they decide to get married.

  1. They desire asset protection. Many seniors wish to pass their assets to children or grandchildren after death. Although there are legal protections that a remarrying senior adult can take, such as creating trusts and establishing non-probate transfers, it is much easier to remain single and just cohabitate. Afterall, it is not unusual for seniors to be frugal and avoid the expense of an attorney to modify estate plans or create prenuptial agreements.  Moreover, for those seniors who are divorced, they already know the financial costs of a failed marriage could be enormous.
  2. Their loved ones oppose another marriage. While a senior adult may be in love with their new partner, sometimes their adult children are not.  Grown children often feel entitled to weigh in on a choice of partners.  As a result, it is not uncommon for seniors to forgo remarrying because they want to observe the wishes of their existing family members.  There are times when adult children, grandchildren and other family members dislike who their elderly loved one is dating so much that marriage is taken off the table or avoided to keep the peace.
  3. Seniors have trust issues and enjoy independence. Seniors who are divorced or who lost a spouse may be hesitant to do it again, according to dating and relationship coaches like Amy Schoen, creator of the site MotivatedtoMarry.com. It’s not only young people who are scared by commitment. Some seniors aren’t interested in the idea of dealing with the confines of marriage relationships. For those seniors who enjoy financial independence, finding a potential marriage partner with similar financial independence can be incredibly challenging.  A recent survey by Clever, an organization that helps people make smarter real estate decisions and save money, just 1 in 8 American retirees (12%) have at least the recommended $555,000 in savings for retirement.  Commingling finances can have a variety of consequences, including impacting a good credit score if one partner has poor credit, and seniors often decide not to remarry in order to avoid the financial responsibility for their spouse’s healthcare expenses.
  4. Getting Married Is Simply Too Much Trouble. Sometimes getting remarried at an older age is just too much trouble. The change of residences, banks, friends, and annual schedules is exhausting for anyone, and simplicity is usually key in your older years.

So the choice to marry as a senior adult is a difficult one.  Should you combine resources and seek to fill that void in your life with someone who may be your hero, or ride out the remainder of your life independently and without the risks inherent with taking on another spouse.  As one unknown author was quoted, “A good marriage is one where each partner secretly suspects they got the better deal.” At the end of the day, marriage is a somewhat scary and unknown adventure that many find to be the best decision of their lives.  What is certain is that marriage provides no guarantees and the world will continue to encourage divorce and the separation of any Godly advancement in our lives.

Todd Miller is a monthly contributor and regularly writes and speaks on various legal topics including bankruptcy, estate planning, probate, and elder law.  He formed the Law Office of Todd Miller, LLC, 1305 Southwest Blvd., Ste. A, Jefferson City, Missouri in 2006.  He has been awarded the Substantial Contributor Attorney Award by the Missouri Bar and ranked as one of the “Top Attorneys in Missouri” by The Legal Network.  Mr. Miller earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1999 and graduated with honors from Lincoln University in 1991.  You may find him at www.toddmillerlaw.com (573) 634-2838 or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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