Shifting Perspectives on love as we age
By Gretta Stone, retired FCE Leader Couple, March 2023
For many years my partner Jacob and I served as Friends Couple Enrichment leaders, accompanying (and occasionally nudging) couples through their partnership journeys. Our own relationship was thoroughly entwined with those journeys. Together we and the participants passed through, recalled, or anticipated several life stages. We shared values, priorities and dreams and worked through conflicts and misunderstandings that can get in the way of building a relationship that nurtures both partners.
We retired from the ministry of couple enrichment in 2017, but our own relationship has continued to evolve. Jacob and I are now in our late 70’s. We have observed in ourselves, and in other couples of the same vintage, a shift in perspective that impacts our partner relationships in several ways.
Our inevitable losses and diminishments impose limits on what we can do now
and what we can reasonably plan for.
Partners can grow apart if they get wrapped up in their own worries and fears.
But we can also work to adjust our priorities and focus on our relationship in new ways.
As I write this Jacob is recovering from recent major surgery. He needs to ask for help often and his sense of independence and competence is challenged. My independence is also affected, as I need to plan my activities around his needs for now. Of course, couples may experience this at any time in their lives, but it becomes increasingly common as we age. We are grateful that our situation is expected to be temporary, but many couples experience this as a permanent change in their lives.
Our inevitable losses and diminishments impose limits on what we can do now and what we can reasonably plan for. Partners can grow apart if they get wrapped up in their own worries and fears. But we can also work to adjust our priorities and focus on our relationship in new ways.
Jacob and I find that we are now more tolerant of our differences, we accept that some conflicts will never be resolved, and we make peace with our dependence on each other and on outside help. Our previous focus on resolving conflict is replaced by a focus on mutual support, both physical and emotional. We are more open with each other because we don’t have time for maintaining fictions or deceptions. Concerns and dreams about the future don’t seem to be as important as finding ways to enjoy being together today.
Our love for each other now
is not a work in process
but a prize we treasure,
along with our shared history and the stories we tell each other about ourselves.
Have we given up the quest to enrich, deepen and improve our relationship that figured so prominently in our couple enrichment workshops? Or are we celebrating what we have accomplished together? Our love for each other now is not a work in process but a prize we treasure, along with our shared history and the stories we tell each other about ourselves. We are still engaged with family, friends, music and volunteer activities. We still use the communication model we learned in Couple Enrichment as well as brief daily check-ins. And we are still discovering new things about each other!