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Planning Retirement Online



Relationships - June 2018

A tricky situation.

Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at 
for her to respond in the column.

A tricky situation

I am in a tricky situation. I'm 53 and have lived alone for six years since divorcing the father of my three children. Over the last eight months I've being seeing a man and we've become very close. He's also a divorcee and has two children. At the weekend he proposed to me. It must have been the romance of the Royal Wedding. I was surprised and caught a bit off guard.
The thing is he's ten years older than me. I want to say yes. I can picture us spending the rest of our lives happily together. We do love each other. But I'm just not sure if it is a good idea to marry.

His children are obviously older than mine and not that close to him. I have met them quite a few times and they are polite and welcoming, though not that warm. That worries me. Are they worrying that I might get in the way of their father's generosity. He often funds their travels and helps out with their house expenses. I really don't want to be seen as a step-mother to someone else’s adult children and can see problems arising with who pays for what. If we move in together whose house will we use? If we sell and buy one that is just ours how does that affect the inheritances etc?  I’ve always done everything to ensure whatever saving and investments I have are there for my kids and they know that.

There’s so much to think about I don’t know where to start or what to say. I don't want to drive him away. Help please.

A gloriously sunny May weekend brought the spectacle of a royal wedding. It was watched by millions across the world.  Even those who are jaded or vehemently anti-royal were charmed by the difference in this couple’s simplicity and obvious love for each other.

That  weekend seemed like a feel good time for a many people.

And your man might have been one of those who succumbed to the romantic moment. It certainly sounds like it. I suspect he has been thinking about it for a while but needed that little lift to give him the courage to propose. I can pick up in your email the anxiety and confusion it has created in you.

Deciding to marry when we're young and without children is a big enough decision, but after a divorce, into our middle age and with children from a first marriage, there are so many more things to consider if you are thinking of a marrying again. Add to that having a markedly older partner with family and those considerations multiply.
This is a situation I can relate to personally as my husband is over a decade older than me and has two adult children who are quite naturally protective of their father, whom they both love greatly. It took him three offers of marriage to me over the period of a year before I was ready to accept his proposal. Each time he asked me we talked about how we might make marriage work happily and successfully.

I tell you this because I recognise your uncertainty. I too loved my partner and could easily picture a happy life with him. What made the decision hard was the recognition of how our life might develop over the coming decades. I hesitated because I needed to be sure our ways of life were truly compatible, and that I'd be strong enough to continue to love and care about him when that might be joined to a different aspect of care...that of being 'the carer'.

Though that has not yet happened I needed to find in myself the strength to cope with possible future changes in the balance of our relationship.
It would be good for you both to talk in depth about how you see your life together, think together about ten - or even twenty years hence, you'll be 73 and he 83 years old.

  • How will life in your home look?
  • What will retirement hold for you?
  • What are your plans?
  • And, more important, what are your fears?
  • How will it feel if one of you becomes infirm?
  • Can you picture being more carer than a wife who has equal energies to you husband?
  • Can you partner imagine the reverse scenario?
  • What happens when sex is no longer the deep pleasure it can still be in one's 50s and 60s? 

When you are in your 70s and 80s, things function less efficiently. Hearing becomes a problem, which strains and tires the sufferer and can exhaust the partner. The possibility of failing sight or mobility difficulties with arthritis biting at our joints becomes more likely as we age.

Speak to your partner of what your worries are about these issues, talk about his and your children and what you know of their expectations too. And be very aware that you cannot be a step-mother to adult children...unless at some point in the future they choose to give you that honorary title!

At your ages both of you will be set in your ways of doing things, of spending and saving and problem solving. (Money incidentally, is a powder keg that needs great honesty and foresight to explore and make safe. You need no surprises!)

I cannot tell you whether or not to accept your partner's loving proposal. You don't have to marry of course, unless that state is important to you. What I can suggest is that you are open with him about your concerns, and that you talk and talk - and listen - about the future you expect as a married couple who love each other; and about the hidden boulders you might have to navigate your way around (or learn to live with). You both need honesty, acceptance of difference, a clear and unflinching knowledge of your own capabilities - and a very sure love for each other.

My husband is now in his 80s, very fit and reasonably healthy. Our relationship has inevitably shifted a little. Some things have become less important to us, but we regularly discuss our respective children and share each other's worries over them and the pleasures too. We plan what we'll do with money and possessions when we no longer have need of them. We talk of issues around illness and death occasionally, now as it has crept a little closer. But I see my husband still as the loving man who has cared for me as much as I care for him. He is still, after twenty years of marriage, my supporter and the one who has faith in me. He is tough and I see him as virtually indestructible. Though a little battered by inevitable workings of older age, he lives life to the full, brings me my morning cup of tea, walks our dog and is always loving and encouraging.

I hope you - and the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, keep working on building a life together with love, openness, acceptance and strength as your cornerstones.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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