Finding Love in Later Life
When Carol Denker interviewed me for her magnificent Autumn Romance, she started with this prelimary questionnaire. I came across it today and wanted to share it with you, as Valentine’s Day approaches:
CD: What advice would you give to individuals over 50 who are looking for love?
JP: Participate in social activities that you love, and you’ll meet people with similar passions. In my case, I loved line dancing — in fact, I taught line dancing.
Friends told me, “You’ll never meet a man line dancing!” It was true that 90+% of line dancers are women, but one evening a magnificent white-haired man came to my class. When he turned his ocean-blue eyes my way, I had to remember to breathe. When he started to dance, his movements revealed a lifetime of dance training
That was how I met Robert Rice, the love of my life, a man who happened to be looking for a new place to dance in December 2000.
CD: What have you learned about love from this relationship?
But I learned that the ways I needed to change to be bonded to Robert were exactly the ways I wanted to grow – and he learned the same.
We were so in love that our differences stopped mattering, and then all but disappeared, as we learned from each other and grew together in love.
When Robert was sick and on his journey to death, I learned how selflessly I was capable of loving. I learned to be less demanding and more giving. I learned to savor every moment, knowing we were on borrowed time. All that mattered was how precious he was and doing all I could to make his last months, weeks, days as comfortable, peaceful, and love-filled as I could.
Near the end, we learned to say “I love you” through squeezing each other’s hand. When I touched his chest softly and he murmured in response, we were making love.
On another forum, a reader asked me to tell more about how we compromised and changed. I'd like to respond to that here, too:
We were both fiercely independent the first year or so of our relationship, after years of single life and living exactly as we pleased.
I was noisy, he was quiet. I was outspoken, he had trouble expressing what he needed. He got angry in order to express himself, I was afraid that anger meant he didn't love me.
We seemed so different — yet love drew us, beckoned us to suspend our insistence on "my way or no way" and really let each other in.
We both learned to listen fully, really hear the other person and think about what was expressed.
I learned to be quieter; he learned to talk more. He learned to be, as he put it, "a loving man" without need for anger. I learned that if I stopped insisting on what I needed, I was more likely to get it!
We both learned to play together: laughing, being silly, expressing love with invented words and games.
In our last two years, we could barely remember our differences, we became so much alike in the important ways. Now that he's gone, the parts I remember and miss most include what he taught me about beauty, nature, love, and silence.