Love late in life: Part two: The Bad and The Ugly
by Sharon Simpson
Before you read further, go back and read Part One here – Love Late in Life: The Good. (Feb 2020 Light Magazine). You need to read it because it’s hopeful and helpful and lovely. It balances what is written here and helps find a way forward when you find yourself in love, or supporting someone who has fallen in love late in life.
Love late in life is complex. There are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Late in life, people are established. They are no longer becoming something – they are something. They are wealthy, they are poor, they are ill, they are healthy, they are lonely, they are happy, they are bitter, they are vulnerable.
When a person is in their 70’s or 80’s, they have experienced life. They have generally lived in and through numerous circumstances. In each of these circumstances, they have learned a truth about life. These learnings have served them well in making decisions – important decisions, fair decisions, weighty decisions. This is why it comes as a surprise for a senior to find themselves swept up in emotions that alter their normal decision-making processes. No matter how mature or how grounded a person is, the first wave of romantic love by its very nature places us square in the middle of vulnerability.
The senior who chooses a path of romantic love late in life should carefully weigh the possibilities of what may be lost – from relationships to a lifetime of assets.
This article is about the Bad outcomes and Ugly outcomes of love gone wrong late in life.
An elderly man returned to this province after a lengthy time away. He started a new life and reconnected with a love from his past. When they were young, he hurt her deeply with his actions, and his rejection. He now returned to make amends. She fell in love again. Recently widowed, she was eager to find a companion, a soulmate. She wasn’t wealthy, nor was he. There seemed to be an equality about their lives that made good common sense for them to marry. The wedding was small and came after her daughter warned her mother that this man seemed to be after her assets. When her health was ailing, he was a faithful caregiver. During their marriage, she signed over all of her assets to him, including the title of her home in which her daughter lived. After her passing, her new husband sold that home and kept all of the proceeds for himself. Her daughter began a lengthy legal battle that never came to a conclusion as she passed away with cancer.
Did this man love the woman? Maybe. Was he seeking to take her assets from her only child when he married her? We don’t know. What we do know was that he was an opportunist and a selfish man after she passed away. This woman did nothing to protect her assets from an outcome that brought great emotional and financial pain to her only daughter. She never considered herself wealthy enough to have these types of problems. After all, she was a blue collar labourer with a modest pension. Her home sold for over $600,000. She was, in fact, a wealthy woman.
What could have been done by the new wife to protect her only daughter? She could have trusted either her daughter or a friend with the details of her financial estate. She could have ensured that an additional signature was required on every financial decision she made. She could have gifted her daughter with the house before she married this man. The most significant thing that she could do in all of this would have been to involve one trusted person in her finances – her accountant, her daughter or a friend. She did not.
The Bad? Accidental financial loss that doesn’t reflect the heart of the mother for her child. Accidental in the sense that she didn’t put into motion her financial wishes when she was able.
The Ugly? Financial abuse took place. A vulnerable woman lost all of her assets to a man who did nothing to provide a legacy for his late wife’s daughter. This is financial abuse. It puts into question his entire motive for reconnecting and marrying her late in life.
There was a widowed woman in her late 70’s who became romantically involved with a wealthy man ten years her senior. They were both in great health and enjoyed ten uneventful and happy years of marriage together. In her 80’s, the woman began to lose her eyesight. Her husband dutifully cared for her. His children were local and helped as well. Her children, on the other hand, had scattered across Canada and visited only occasionally. It wasn’t long before her medical needs, doctor’s appointments and surgeries tapped dry the support from her step-children. They began to notice their father declining in cognitive capacity and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. He lost his ability to live independently – or to care for his wife. One of his children became his Power of Attorney and took over his finances. He was moved to a long-term care home.
Her distant children were unaware of many of the hurdles she was facing in life without her husband’s support. His children were exhausted. One day, in a burst of frustration, his children phoned hers and exploded in anger. They said that they were “done” and “it’s time for you to care for your own mother.” They rearranged his finances to pay for his care and left her destitute.
Her children immediately picked up the task of caring for her from outside her province. She didn’t live near an airport. She no longer had a vehicle. They asked their mother to move closer to them, thousands of miles away from her husband. She refused. Many flights, hotels, rented cars and thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent by her children as they took turns travelling to support her. When her husband no longer recognized her, they “tricked” her into moving home with one of them. Legally blind and morally crushed, she lost her will to live. How could she break her marriage vows? She was overwhelmed by the guilt and sorrow.
The Bad? The lack of communication between the two sets of children. Having never known each other prior to their parent’s wedding, they did not have the strength of friendship to help them communicate and negotiate their parent’s care.
It did not help that her husband didn’t clearly designate funds for her care for the duration of her life. This left her more vulnerable than he may have expected.
The Ugly? Children who left their step-mother financially destitute. It’s hard to imagine, but their reasons included the major increase in his expenses when he went into a care home. They said he could no longer afford to support her.
So, is there hope for love late in life? The answer is yes. Unlike young love, the best outcomes for love late in life involve open conversations and legal documentation. The work is all in the pre-marriage decisions and communication, sometimes difficult conversations.
Don’t let your romantic vulnerability, stubbornness, or pride, stop you from changing your mind about marrying.