Many couples will have happy and treasured memories of their first few years together, swept up in a whirlwind romance when everything is still new and exciting.
But it turns out more over-60s are happier in their marriages or long-term relationships later in life than they were at the start, with most saying their bond, passion and intimacy have got stronger with time.
Starts at 60 readers shared their thoughts as part of an exclusive online survey, with 64 per cent of people revealing they’re happier in their marriage now compared to when they first started dating.
One reader admitted finding financial comfort later in life had a lot to do with her growing contentment and said: “There is nothing now like the financial stress that clouded our early marriage, three small boys and whopping mortgage payments for only a very small house.”
Meanwhile another admitted her feelings haven’t diminished at all with time, as she said she’s still as happy now as she was at the start. She added: “I don’t feel any different in my choice of partner. Just older. I am just as contented and happy as I was in the beginning. It is a wonderful life! Albeit not without trying moments… but life is not always about happy.”
However, 36 per cent of those who voted said they were happier several years ago, in the early moments of their romance. Whether that be due to their spouse becoming ill, distance growing between them after their kids have left home, a partner cheating or subsequent divorce.
One reader explained: “The first few years were amazing but illness and mobility has stopped a lot of fun, still happy but different, also older.”
And another admitted that she was happiest in her first year with her husband, as they embarked on exciting travels together across the world, but he came home “a different man” and it went on to lead to him cheating on her three times.
Sian Khuman, a practice specialist for therapeutic services at Relationships Australia, told Starts at 60 there is evidence to show that many marriages do in fact get stronger with time – and with them, the passion and sexuality between the couple.
“There is much research in the emotionally focused therapy and attachment space to indicate that couples who have securely attached relationships have more satisfying relationships as the years pass,” she said.
“The research highlights that couples develop greater intimacy, friendship and companionship. There are also studies that report that the sexual part of the relationship can be more satisfying which leads to greater emotional intimacy. Couples who experience this often describe an ability to share and be vulnerable together. There are often common goals in the couple and a mutual respect and positive regard.”
However, with age comes a series of challenges – and while many couples choose to face them together and only get stronger in the end, others find they create a distance between them that can’t be undone.
Khuman explained: “On the flip side, yes there are many couples who also experience a greater distancing and their relationship being more of a challenge as they get older and in their later years.”
She said a number of factors can cause the relationship to begin to break down, including some couples finding they have simply lost their friendship over the years – whether that be while bringing up children, working long hours, choosing differing times to retire, having differing retirement dreams, as well as struggling with unresolved hurts from the past and even fears of death and ill health.
“Some suggestions for couples could be to see a couple psychologist, rebuild the friendship – start spending more time together, renegotiate roles, sit and spend time together sharing dreams, listening and deciding what they want for the future,” she advised.