Dating at Midlife/Distress
I am a 60 yo female, dating a 63 yo male. We have been together for about 2 years now. We have talked about the future and when we have those conversations he says he sees us with a long term future (meaning marriage). Says he is content right now with the relationship we have, that he thinks we are in a good place.
I live with him in all respects except that I keep a separate house. My clothes, toiletry items, everything remain at my house and I take what I need every night to his house. Only I find that I am getting passive aggressive about this. I am getting tired of carrying things between houses every day. When I mention that, or get fussy about it, he says "we can spend the night at your house some times if it is easier". It is actually easier to stay at his house because he has cats and dogs to tend to and when he is at my house they don't get to eat on the schedule they are accustomed to. So every time he offers I find myself saying "no that is ok we will go to your house".
He is very active in his church. When the conversation comes up about my moving in, his concern goes back to the church. People finding out that we are "officially" living together. So, instead we continue to just live together every night and day but as long as my stuff is at my house..... we are not living together.
However, I find myself becoming passive aggressive about it. I am ok hauling my stuff back and forth for awhile, then I hit a wall and I just get frustrated and angry. Then I behave like I have a chip on my shoulder about it and then with time I even out again and rock along for awhile.
I have made it clear to him that at some point I will want more from this relationship if we continue as is. He says he understands and feels that we are headed in that direction, but he can't tell me if it will be in 6 months, 6 weeks or a year. But he believes we have what it takes to make it work.
After two years, I get to the point where I am just not sure what to do when I get there before he does. What if I get to the point where I want marriage before he does? How do I back off and wait until he is ready too?
And in the meantime how do I keep the level of frustration down with hauling my stuff back and forth every day? He wants me there with him and by his side every night, but he is happy as a lark at my just going between houses. And some days, I am just not.
I will say that I have been interviewing successful couples for the last five years or so and with a collaborator, we'll have a book out at the end of the year about how people create new and enduring relationships when they are in late middle age.
One of the surprises of our research was how often couples keep separate houses. One couple got together in their sixties and when he had to go through cancer treatment she moved in with him until he was okay and then she moved out again. Oh, but when he was okay, they got married and then she moved out again. And just in the last four years (she is now 82 and he is 76) she allowed.... yes, allowed him to buy a condo in the same building as hers. She's on 12 and he's on 9. But we heard many versions of this dynamic.
So you are in good company and I could into the reasons for it, but they varied. A lot of times folks need that combination of intense togetherness and then real separateness.
The problem for you seems to be the convenience of hauling your stuff.
One solution is that for the next step up in intimacy, you have some of your stuff at his place, maybe in your own closet. It's probably important that the space your stuff occupies is like a an embassy in a foreign country. For example, the American embassy in the Canada capital city is, technically, American soil So technically, the closet in his house is "your property." and then do the reverse for him.
It's an interesting little ritual and it has some symbolic meaning. The symbolic meaning is important. It says that you do, in effect, occupy a corner of each other's mind and that the roots there are somewhat permanent.
I also suggest that you are not with at his side every night. That too is a symbolic gesture and a witness to the state of your relationship.
And then you let things go like that for a few months and see how it shifts your thinking.
As to the church community, it is perhaps as important if not more important than the question of stuff that you find a way which is mutually acceptable for referring to your relationship in that context. My guess is that that will be a more significant challenge.
If you wish to discuss this further, please contact me at email@example.com
Let me know how you receive these suggestions. Thank you.
Good luck to both of you
Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.