Are We Too Old for Boyfriends in Our 60s?
Years ago, most widows didn’t remarry or even date again after the death of their husband. Although this choice is right for some women, others want a new next chapter that includes life with another partner.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B” describes her heartbreaking experience as a widow. But her encouraging message shines through – that joy, and even possibly a new romantic relationship, can be found again.
A New Love in the Next Chapter
My spouse died a decade ago. Although I will always love my late husband, I didn’t want to remain alone forever after he passed. I hoped to share life’s adventures in the years ahead with a new partner. And that’s what I’m doing now.
At the age of 64 I met Charlie, a wonderful widower. We’ve been together since then – now in our seventh year of a committed romantic relationship. But I’ve sometimes struggled with how to introduce him to others. Most people assume we’re married because that’s how we behave.
We live in the same house, enjoy a blended family with our several adult children and grandchildren, participate in social activities together, have a joint checking account, travel together, take care of each other when we’re not feeling well, snack from the same popcorn bowl and much more.
We love each other dearly, but we don’t plan to marry. Perhaps, since we grew up in the 1960s, we still feel a part of the counterculture. Been there. Done that marriage thing already. In fact, more mature couples like us also enjoy unmarried bliss today, compared with decades ago.
What Do We Call Our New Man?
I recently interviewed many mature widows who are in a committed long-term relationship but not remarried. This was part of a larger scholarly international study focused on widows, resilience and money issues.
I readily identified with a big challenge several of these women faced – how to introduce the new man in their life. Like me, none of these women were keen on the term “boyfriend.”
As one woman said, “Goodness, I had boyfriends in high school and my 20s, but I was just a kid then. At age 67, I’m too old for a boyfriend now. Sounds so immature. I certainly don’t introduce him to my friends this way.”
Questioning her further, she said they had tried various terms, including “significant other,” which seemed too formal for their sense of humor.
They didn’t like “companion” either because “that could just be a dinner companion.” After stumbling over the term “life partner” several times, they eventually agreed on “my steady honey.”
So Many Alternatives for “Boyfriend”
I asked all these re-partnered widows what they called the new man in their life and was amazed at the dozens of terms they offered. These mature widows felt that “boyfriend” just wasn’t appropriate for their relationship, at their age and stage of life.
I’ve summarized their alternative suggestions, along with several others I researched on the Internet. Some are humorous, a few are academic, and others are downright descriptive!
Bedfellow, best buddy, better half
Cohabitant, common-law husband, companion, consort, co-vivant (I liked this French term, but it didn’t fly with my guy)
De facto partner, domestic associate, domestic partner
Fake husband, faux spouse, fiancé, fusband (combines fake husband and future husband)
Life companion, life partner, life mate, live-in-not-spouse, love of my life, lover, loving companion
Mate of __ years, my beloved, my man, my other half
Paramate, paramour, partner in crime
Significant other (or simply SO), soulmate, special friend, spousal equivalent, steady man, sweet honey
The one I’m in a relationship with
Undocumented husband, UPIARR (unmarried party in a romantic relationship), UPLIS (unmarried person living in sin)
The U.S. Census Bureau even got into this quandary of what to call unmarried partners in the late 1970s. Do you remember the term “POSSLQ” (person of opposite sex sharing living quarters)? Didn’t quite catch on or last long.
What’s the Best Term?
So how do I introduce the man I’m sharing my life with? I generally just use his name, simply saying, “I want you to meet Charlie.” Others can readily see that we’re together on more than a casual date. Sometimes I add, “We’re great partners,” if I think a bit more information would be helpful.
Do you think that it’s possible to find love after 60? Are you enjoying a later-life romantic relationship after the death of your spouse, divorce, or life as a never-married single woman? How do you feel about the word “boyfriend”? If you don’t use this term, how do you refer to your partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP®, CeFT™ is passionate about inspiring her “widowed sisters” and their advisors through her speaking, writing and research. She wrote the award winning book, “Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows.” Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, CNBC and more.