Monday, 19 November 2012

Over 50 Romance

A new Radio 4 rom-com started last week called 55 and Over  - about 'the modern 50+ generation'.  There are so many good signs - it stars wonderful Juliet Stevenson for a start, and it nods to the 1960s and 1970s baggage our generation still carry around with us. (The husband is in the music biz and the couple have a slightly squirm-making open relationship - i.e. he sleeps with other women; she tolerates it. )
For me the  problem is the title. Would anyone dream of calling a rom-com '35 and Over'?  There's a suggestion that it's a bit weird for the over 55s to have anything going on in that department beyond the standard male mid-life crisis stuff.
Yet the stats indicate that for a lot of people this is one of the most exciting - if turbulent - phases of their emotional life.  There are studies which show that many marriages improve when the kids leave home, because couples have quality time with each other.  And if things don't improve the stats show that people do something about it (i.e. divorce - it's the one age group where divorce is rising). And it's often women, not men, who want things to change. The sad thing is that the over 50s tend to be reluctant to seek relationship counselling.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I interviewed fathers for my book and discovered how much thought they had given to keeping the relationship alive once the kids left.  They had huge insights into the dramatic effect the empty nest would have and had all sorts of ideas about how to move things forward  - from instigating simple rituals like a game of Canasta after dinner to making more ambitious plans to move house or see the world. One of them said, 'We need to make sure our relationship is strong enough to get through this. Because this is when people hit the rocks, if they run out of things to say to each other.'