Love in older age: he wants to get married but I worry I'll be his carer
Tell Me About It: I wonder if I should say yes to his request for marriage and sex so that I have companionship in my life
He has asked me to marry him and I find that I am upset by this as I feel I am being unkind in my thoughts.
I am in my early 70s and I have a companionable relationship with a man 10 years my senior for about five years now. We get on well and while I enjoy his company, I am not madly in love with him.
I have been lonely for a long time now since my mother died about 15 years ago – I was her main carer. He has asked me to marry him and I find that I am upset by this as I feel I am being unkind in my thoughts.
I am worried that I will end up caring for him as I did for my mother and I do not want to go through that again. Yet I also know that he would like me to inherit his house and any money he has – he would rather his extended family did not get this as they have not been great at visiting or remembering important events in his life.
I know my own family are very fond of him but they share my concerns. I am aware that it is also likely that I will be the one who becomes sick and needs care and if this were the case he would look after me well and this makes me feel doubly bad. I also know that I will not meet another partner at this stage in my life and so wonder if I should say yes so that I have companionship in my life. There is one more thing, he would like us to have sex (with the help of Viagra) but I don’t know if this is something I want to do – or if I would feel foolish trying.
You are worried if you are being unkind in your thoughts and it would seem that you are being honest in your feelings but worried that you will lose your companion and the good things that this brings to your life if you verbalise the truth. Being married requires that you commit for sickness and health and you seem very clear that you are not prepared to do the sickness part. Perhaps this comes from a long drawn out experience with your mother and as this is relatively recent, it is not surprising that there is a wariness and caution on your part. However, the central point is that you do not love this man, you do not want to have sex with him and you do not want to care for him if he becomes ill.
Five years is a long time to be in a relationship and you should have ample knowledge of each other in order to make a decision. Your companion seems very clear in his intentions: he wants to marry you, create security for your future and have a romantic and intimate relationship with you. He does not sound like someone who feels that he has nothing to offer or that he is willing to settle for less at his stage in his life. He deserves honesty and respect and it would seem deceitful to marry him for companionship and then refuse intimacy with him.
Of course, there is nothing at all wrong about suggesting that your relationship continue as it has done for the past five years but this question of marriage makes it clear how different your stances are. You are offering friendship but no commitment or loyalty and your companion needs to hear this soon. It does not seem that he has close family or others in his life and he may need to plan for his own care in his later years while he is still vigorous. He wants to have sex and there is a chance that he still has time to find someone who is willing and attracted to him. Indeed, desire for sex is an expression of aliveness, regardless of what age it is experienced at. Sex at later life can offer many things: a willingness to feel foolish and playful, a disregard for the body’s fragilities and the possibility of long, slow love-making without the youthful need for instant gratification.
There is also the question of the offer of inheriting a house and income and this might be a consideration in your decision. Many people in the world marry for the stability and the status that this can offer but your partner would have to be equally aware of this and agreeable to the conditions. The transaction would be that you get financial stability and he gets sex and someone to stay with him through the end of life. If you agree to this, it behoves you to honour the contract and not back out of any part of it at a later stage. Now that you have been asked to marry, you cannot go back to the old relationship and must find an answer soon.