Friday, March 14, 2014

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Old People Lovin’: It’s About Second Chances- guest author Barrie Evans

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This is a post about falling in love when you’re over fifty. I know it’s possible because it’s happening to me right now. I’m engaged to be married for the second time. I’ve felt the same desires, restlessness and even yearning that I felt when I fell in love with my first wife over twenty-five years ago.
There are differences, to be sure.  After all, I’ve had children, owned a house and been through divorce—enough real-life stuff to know that I’m going to be OK no matter what comes next. My fiancé and I are both more realistic and have fewer illusions about love than when we were in our twenties. Kim has told me more than once, “This ain’t my first rodeo, big shooter.”

We know what it’s like to fall into the routine of bill-paying, house maintenance and “did you clean out the cat box” domesticity. Yet, after three years of monogamy I’m still coming up with pet names for the girl. I feel a goofy-grin excitement of seeing her if we’ve been apart for a day. When we’re out in public we still hold hands and kiss. I’ve heard someone mutter, “Get a room,” more than once at the mall. I guess it’s my sense of shame that’s faded, not my need for affection.

I’m writing this is to tell you that romance is an important part of life even at my age, when dietary fiber has become an issue. When I got divorced in my early forties I felt I had failed at marriage. And I guess I did. But, what is life without second chances?

It took years for me to get to the point where I really believed I deserved a second chance. I was afraid I wouldn’t find anyone to love again. I thought that romance wouldn’t be the same for me as it was in my twenties.

And it isn’t, thankfully. It’s better.

I’d say that I’m more deeply in love now, the second time around. And it has everything to do with finding out that being in love for a lifetime doesn’t just happen.

I don’t think that believing in love that lasts a lifetime isn’t foolish. I’m not here to sell more cynicism to you. There’s enough of that in the world. In fact, I’d say belief in lifelong commitment is necessary. And wholly possible. We don’t quit loving our parents, do we? Or our children? We’re well aware that our parents and children aren’t perfect, so why do we expect it from our spouses?

Thinking that our spouses are supposed to be perfect and give us perfect love is actually poisonous to that love. In my first marriage, I didn’t think it was possible for us to fall out of love with each other. When I couldn’t admit to myself that such a deep wound was possible, I was blind to the things that made heartache inevitable.

Kim and I decided to go to couples counseling together. I wanted to avoid the same mistakes I’d made in my first marriage. Kim’s circumstances are very different from mine. She lost her husband when he died unexpectedly when he was only 41. She, too, wanted our life together to get off to a good start.

The counselor we saw was a good fit for us. She challenged us to be open with each other about what we wanted from our relationship. Kim and I both hate confrontation, but our counselor said sometimes the price of getting along is knowing how to fight respectfully. We’ve taken a lot of this to heart. We don’t let things get bottled up as much. And we’ve agreed to make an appointment once a year as if it were an annual physical for our marriage.

I’m not advocating counseling for everyone. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. I just know that I needed it. When I was twenty-five, I thought the romantic feelings I had for my first wife would last forever. I thought that being a husband would make me happy. And that my wife’s love would fix anything inside of me that was broken. At fifty, I know that’s an impossible task to lay at the feet of the one you love.
Photo by Pauline Schulz
Our second chance at love and romance doesn’t have to be fragile. I think Kim and I make it stronger with some of the simplest things, like empathy, respect and forgiveness. Talking about disappointments is hard for us. Asking for what we need from each other is tough, whether it’s housework or love-making. We feel lucky and blessed to get a second chance at love. We’re willing to do the work.

My wish for everyone is to give each other a second chance before you wear out the first one. It’s never too early. And while you’re at it, give yourself a break, ask your spouse for help when you need it. Take a risk, admit that you’re imperfect.

And when the spirit moves you, kiss each other. No matter who’s watching.

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Barrie Evans works as a security guard on the overnight shift. He has worked as a technical writer, managed a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and worked with both adults and adolescents as a counselor. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 2013.

Photo by David Ulicni