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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Feb-March 2013
COVER STORY MEET THE FAMILY Introducing a new partner to the family doesn’t get any easier with age, in fact, older children can sometimes prove more difficult than your parents ever were. Lyn Fletcher from Relationships Australia said the best scenario for a newly single parent is to have adult children with a mature attitude who are more concerned about their parent’s happiness than feeling displaced or threatened. “Hopefully, as they get older they don’t rely on the family’s stability as much because they’re creating their own stability,” she says. “However, introducing a new partner too quickly can put you on the back foot. You might be ready for a new relationship, but are your children?” The key indicator of whether your children will accept someone new at your side is to quite simply determine how they see you: as a single person or still the spouse of their other parent. “It usually takes years to move through the phase of an absent partner,” Lyn says. “Your children have to see you as a single person and not part of a couple before they can adjust to someone else.” Lyn says building a shrine to a parent who has died prevents anyone from moving on. “I’ve seen a table place set for grandma ten years after she died,” Lyn says. “That stops the living spouse from becoming single in everyone’s mind and makes it very difficult to introduce anyone else into the family.” Acrimonious divorce where one partner moves on more quickly than the other can be even more tricky. “Men move forward more quickly, an average of just six months in fact, and usually remarry within two years,’’ Lyn says. “This is because they have fewer social networks than women, and because wives previously provided that balance, they look to replace it.” However replacing a divorced parent too quickly can alienate the children and grandchildren. “Don’t bring a new partner to social events such as birthdays, Christmas or weddings during the first year,” Lyn recommends. “Instead, introduce them during stages, the first in casual conversation. It may be talking about how much you enjoyed a movie and then mentioning casually who you saw it with. Start with the low-level stuff and normalise the relationship as part of your life.“ Lyn said the best way to get around grandchildren was for the new partner to make them feel special and important. “Young children generally are very egocentric. The more it can be about them the better.” criteria to join Seniors Contacts are strict and nonnegotiable: “They can’t be married, they can’t be living with someone and they have to be legally separated,’’ she says. “Nor can they be looking for marriage and a visa.” First-date nerves Lyn Dragnus is hoping for the best when she meets with Della. Married at 21 and divorced at 40, she retired just over a year ago with plans to completely overhaul her life. Her first step was to join Probus and broaden her social network; her next was to join Seniors Contacts. ‘’I’m not thinking about marriage or anything long term at this stage,’’ she says. “It would just be lovely to enjoy someone’s company at dinner or the theatre.” Online dating or trawling bars or clubs had no appeal, so Lyn opted for a dating agency to ensure she’d be matched with someone meeting at least some of her expectations. I’ll be nervous the first time, but if I’m dating someone my own age, they’ll probably be aware of what it used to be like. “The last time I dated was when I was 21, in the 60s,’’ she says. “Of course I’ll be nervous when I go out for the first time, but at least if I’m dating someone my own age, they’ll probably be aware of what it used to be like as well.” Without doubt the hardest thing for newly single people is social isolation. Divorce can lead to a loss of identity and social status, while the grief of losing a partner can inhibit the desire to socialise. Another complication for over-55 singles, particularly women, who outnumber the men 60:40, is the ‘hand on the knee’ syndrome. “A client was telling me recently that when she chatted to a married man, his wife would put a proprietorial hand on his knee to let her know he was off limits,” says Della. “After a while the invitations dropped off. She realised she wasn’t going to meet anyone through friends, so she came to me.” Join a group Although online dating and agencies work for some, Lyn Fletcher, operations manager of Relationships Australia, believes there’s nothing better than meeting a partner through shared interests. “Everyone has something they enjoy, whether it be crossword puzzles, sport, movies or walking,” Lyn says. “There are plenty of opportunities to find that niche group, 26 | www.probussouthpacific.org
Active Retirees Dec-Jan 2013
Active Retirees April-May 2013