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Redefining What Makes a ‘Relationship’ in Our 70s

A great part of getting older: You can make up the rules

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At my age, the term “boyfriend” is too cute, and when applied to Jonathan, it’s most inadequate. We met on when I was 60 and he was 58. First came our G-rated no-mance, then time off, then a reunion. The night he announced he didn’t want to be just friends anymore, he confided a worry — that women he’d dated after his divorce eventually asked, “Where is this going?”

“Ha!” said I, widowed after 34 years of marriage. “You’ve come to the right place!”

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Ten years in, we both feel as committed as two unmarrieds can be. We live in separate Manhattan apartments, a mile apart, on a bus route that brings us from door to door. We spend weekends together 60 miles north of Manhattan, in a house on a lake, and we were isolation-mates there during the pandemic.

Whether cohabitating for 18 COVID-conscious months or just on weekends, it works. He is excellent company, an excellent listener, cheerleader, bed maker and appreciator of my cooking. He sets the table and does the dishes. He is a neatnik, but in the best way. He notices grime where I don’t. I remember looking out the window in awe, watching him hose down the chrome canisters that held the toilet brush and plunger.

I know some couples believe that sharing hobbies and sports is critical. Not us. If Jonathan announces he’s going on a hike, I say, “Fine! Enjoy!” We share the same values, the same religion, the same politics and the same view of wall-to-wall togetherness: It’s overrated. Do I mind that this ex-Liverpudlian can watch soccer matches all weekend? Not at all. When I disappear to write, does he mind being left to his crossword puzzles, his books, his own work? No. If there’s a secret to our success, I think it’s this: love between two reasonable people who appreciate their comfortable proximity.

Back in the city, we have a standing Wednesday night date; when not together on other weeknights, we have cocktails via FaceTime. If Liverpool has a weeknight match, we watch in tandem, remotely, and text our commentary.

He is my partner, my significant other, my confidant and my emergency contact. I coach him from time to time: “If one of us is in the hospital, who do you say you are?”

“Your husband.”

Correct. Just as I’d say, “I’m his wife.” Is anyone going to demand a marriage license? I think not.

Early on, when I invited him to some future event, I’d add coyly, “That is, if we’re still together …”. To which he’d always say, “I’m not going anywhere.” He still says that, but now it’s to make me laugh, mocking the early days when I was afraid to take endurance for granted.

Nine years ago, a neighbor stopped me in the lobby of our building after one of Jonathan’s visits. He said, grinning, “When you two saw each other, your faces illuminated, and you both lost 15 years. This is the real thing.”

Thank you, kind and observant neighbor. Thank you, life and your cosmic algorithms. Thank you, Jonathan. Because years later, all that we have fashioned is still the real thing.

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