6 Reasons Why Finding Love Is Never Too Late

6 Reasons Why Finding Love Is Never Too Late
6 Reasons Why Finding Love Is Never Too Late

It’s never too late to fall wildly (or softly, or even sacredly) in love, whether you’re 35 or 75. Just ask actress Ellen Burstyn and a slew of other women who have found themselves in the middle of a passionate relationship when they least anticipated it.
When my mother was 84, she met the love of her life. She had been a widow for nine years when she came across Harold Lapidus, a retired doctor, alone at a bridge club. They got inseparable when she asked if he wanted to play.

She said, “He’s a younger man.”

“How old are you?” I inquired.

“Oh…” she said. “I believe he is in his eighties.”

They’re still loyal to each other as my mother approaches her 90th birthday, which astounds me. Is it necessary for me to wait that long?

I’ve been single for seven years and have gotten rather adept at it. I adore my home, my job, and my children, and I am grateful for my excellent health and what I consider to be a blessed existence every day. But there are moments when I long for someone to check in with, converse with, snuggle with, and develop spiritually with. After two divorces, I’m fearful that such love may be behind me in my 60s, as the pickings become thinner by the year. When I go to parties or gatherings, I generally see 13 single ladies and one single man, who is almost always gay.

This makes me sad, and I’m wondering if my mother’s experience was a one-time occurrence. However, during the last month, I’ve spoken with a dozen ladies, ranging in age from their late 40s to their 90s, who have discovered true love—a soul mate—long after they thought that was possible.

Ellen Burstyn remained alone for 25 years before falling in love, at the age of 71, with the man she now lives with, who is 23 years her junior. Jane Fonda, 69, is dating Lynden Gillis, 75, a retired management consultant, and they want to produce a “sexy sensual movie about individuals over 70.”

I felt hopeful as I listened to their stories. And I wanted to know if this sort of love happened by chance, karma, or accident, or whether there are inside changes or measures one can do at any age to connect with a mate.

What struck me as odd was how identical the women’s experiences were. They were all concerned that they were getting too old. They were all content with their independence and had accepted the possibility that they might never find another spouse. They’d also done inner work that enabled them to feel worthy of love, ready to accept a guy for who he is and to be embraced unconditionally by him.

Most people regard their relationship as a spiritual exercise, a chance to work on painful patterns and develop their forgiveness capacity. They say that there is less drama and calmer. Each woman believes that her present spouse is her beshert—Yiddish for “destined mate,” and that all of her previous relationships, experiences, and knowledge have led her to this point.

Ellen Burstyn has not gone out on a date in 25 years.

What’s to stop you?

She claims, “Nobody asked me.”

That is difficult for me to believe, I say. “Have you never been attracted to a man or chased by one in the last 25 years?”

But it took her decades to achieve this level of comfort. She admits to being “promiscuous” in her twenties. “I’d been dating men since adolescence and had three traumatic marriages that all ended in divorce.” “That piece of myself closed up shop,” she realized she needed to address the scars that kept her repeating the same pattern with men. I believe I constructed an impenetrable barrier that no one could breach.”

In her book, Lessons in Becoming Myself, she tells how she worked with a therapist, studied Sufism, and reconnected with her Christian origins. She worried it was too late when she finally realized how to “do it right—attract a man who would treat me properly and whom I could adore.” On the spur of the moment,

She asked a female acquaintance whether she knew of any potential suitors.

The woman said, “I’ll have to think about that.”

Shortly later, a Greek actor contacted this same woman, who had auditioned for Ellen at the Actors Studio when he was 25 and she was 48. He admitted to Ellen’s acquaintance that he’d been in love with her for the last 23 years.

“What are you talking about?” When the message was relayed, Ellen said. What about the Greek kid? However, he was now 48 years old, beautiful, and a successful acting coach. (She won’t say who he is.) He wrote her an e-mail, which she cautiously replied to. “I don’t see the word ‘no’ in this,” he said.

They’ve been living together at her Hudson River home for three years. It’s been a natural fit, she adds, “which is surprising given that he comes from a different generation and society.” Her fresh attitude might be one of the reasons. “I spent much of my life trying to correct men who did things differently than I felt they should be done. ‘Oh, isn’t it fascinating?’ I say now. That’s something you do differently than me.’ It’s the most important lesson I’ve picked up. It enables a connection that is stress-free.”

Working over Ellen’s fear of abandonment has been the most difficult task. “In my previous relationships, I was terrified of losing guys, therefore I experienced a lot of anxiety,” says the author.all of them.” She believes there are patterns we can work on only in a relationship, and this is one of them. “Right now, he’s in Greece, teaching, and that brings up anxiety. ‘He’s away—what will happen? Somebody else will grab him!’ I have to see that and keep releasing those thoughts.”

She explains, “I was busy enjoying my life.” She worked tirelessly all around the world, winning an Academy Award® for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and being nominated for five more films. She loved spending time with her son, Jefferson, as well as her friends and animals. “Where are all the men?” she’d wonder every now and again as she looked about. “After a job, I thought it would be nice to go home and wrap up in someone’s lap, but I didn’t weep over it. “I made a solitary friend,” Ellen explains.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve heard more and more stories about individuals falling in love with ex-boyfriends. This strikes me as fortunate: you already know the individual, and you’ve probably gained enough experience to make the relationship work.

Marta Vago, a Santa Monica executive coach, was 62 years old when she got an e-mail from her first love, Stephen Manes, whom she met during a piano master class in Vermont the summer she was 14. She and Stephen dated for three years before breaking up when she was seventeen and he was twenty-one.

Stephen wrote to Marta 46 years later, informing her that his wife of 43 years had died of cancer, that he was going to Los Angeles to practice with his chamber music trio, and that he would want to take her out to lunch. Marta, intrigued and amused, invited him to her house and ordered sushi: “I want to hear you play.”

Marta lives in a charming hamlet filled with antiques and art. Because her piano is in her bedroom, Stephen performed a Beethoven sonata for her while she sat on the bed after lunch. She recalls, “It was just like it had been when I would see him at his place near Juilliard.”

“I would sit on the bed while he played. It felt like no time had gone in some respects, yet I was with a stranger in others.”

They’d spent their whole professional lives apart. Stephen had only ever had one goal in life: to play and teach music, and he had only ever loved two women: Marta and his wife. Marta had given up music to get a PhD in psychology and had lived with a variety of men, married them at times and not at others.

She’d been alone for five years when she went to Budapest in 2006 and discovered a city brimming with culture and energetic people. “I told myself that if I wasn’t married or engaged by my next birthday, I was going to retire in Budapest,” she says. “That sentence made me realize that I truly wanted to be married, and that if I wasn’t, I was going to make a major shift in my life.”

She hired a matchmaker, who set up a couple dates that didn’t work out. “My darling, you seem too old,” the matchmaker said.

That’s not going to work.” Marta had always kept her hair short and dressed in “scary-looking outfits” since she counseled CEOs. She’d dumped the suits and allowed her hair grow out soft and wavy by the time Stephen’s e-mail came. She and Stephen became engaged five months following their reconnection.
Sally Grounds, 72, set things in action at her 50th high school reunion, whereas Marta’s adolescent love had made the first move. At University High in Los Angeles, Sally had ran with the most popular ladies and football stars. Sally, 51, noticed Gene Grounds, a man who was 65, trim, powerful, and tan as a surfer, at the reunion. He was a surfer who had flown in from Hawaii, as well as a banker.

“Do you remember me?” Sally questioned as she approached him.

Gene said, “Of course.” He’d asked her out once for grad night and was worried she’d say no because he wasn’t in her social circle. Gene was “kind of cerebral, and he had braces,” according to Sally. Gene, however, was a star during the reunion, despite the fact that he was 71 years old. Sally comments, “All the other males had potbellies.”

Sally left her home in Palm Desert, California, in January of this year and travelled to Honolulu with two bags.

She recalls feeling “like a war bride.” Gene picked her up from the airport barefoot and draped a lei over her neck. He proposed after they had spent a few months getting to know each other, sailing aboard his trimaran and visiting each other’s homes.

Sally and Gene had never been in love before, but they shared a lot now: they’d both lost their husbands to sickness, and they both had a need for adventure and spiritual satisfaction.

Sally began to cry when she moved into Gene’s house, where his 39-year-old son and new wife (who also happens to be my niece) resided in an upstairs apartment. She knew the place was a bachelor pad, but now she had to figure out how to live there. Gene and his son Daniel surf 10-foot waves and swim between the islands over considerable distances. According to Sally, they had surfboards on the walls and a boat in the garage, as well as piles of boxes loaded with garbage. The paint was flaking, the toilets were moldy, and there were cockroaches aplenty. “We had a roof over our heads,” Daniel explained. Is there a dead gecko in your closet? What the hell. My father stated, “I’d rather live with filth than use chemical cleaners.”Sally put on rubber gloves and went through the house with Clorox. Slowly, she’s been sorting and discarding boxes—

“I had to struggle for space,” she recalls, describing the process of painting walls and selecting fabrics for reupholstering furniture with Gene’s aid. “I gave up my gorgeous little desert house, my friends, and my way of life,” she explains. “However, I would go to any length to be with Gene. I’ve never loved somebody like this before, and I never imagined I could. We went to school together, so we have a strong relationship and can communicate effectively. You know how few males are able to communicate? This one encapsulates everything.”

Sally has always loved to dance, but she has always been frightened of water. Gene is learning to dance and she is learning to swim. They pray together every day and go to religious services. “Do you think we’re soul mates?”  Sally asks. Gene answers: “Yes.”

So, what exactly is a soul mate? I’ve discovered that what you need is a partner with whom you share ideals and a dedication to bring out the best in each other. “There’s a merging of two people’s growth into one path—so his growth is as vital to me as mine own,” says Ellen Burstyn.

Two of the ladies I met expressed their desire for such a companion. “Lord, I am sooo lonely,” Verlean Holland, 65, of the Bronx, New York, exclaimed aloud one night as she lay in her bed. Send me someone who will love me for who I am, and I will love him for who he is.” She longed for a husband who “could attend to church with me” and shared her beliefs. That was the most important thing to me.”

Her prayers had been answered right in front of her eyes. Verlean had been widowed for 13 years, but she kept herself occupied with her work for the school board, her church, and her grandkids. However, she lost her position assessing vision and hearing in special education youngsters in 2003 due to budget constraints. That’s when she realized she was lonely.

A guy in her extended circle, Rodney Holland, affectionately known as “Pop” by friends and family, lost his son in a vehicle accident around the same time. When Verlean’s second eldest son, Tyrone, was killed in a shooting, Pop became friends with him.

On Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Pop, a retired postal worker, paid Verlean a visit, but she ignored him. She says, “He was a buddy of my baby’s.” “That man likes you,” her pals mocked her. “No, he doesn’t,” Verlean would say.

Verlean, her son, and Pop went to church and then to a party on New Year’s Eve 2003. Pop escorted Verlean home because she couldn’t take the loud rap music. Then he began contacting her and offering to take her to the movies. “We’re too old to be dating,” he commented after a few weeks. I don’t want a girlfriend; I want a wife.”

Is it true that you accepted immediately away? I enquire.

Verlean responds, “Oh, absolutely, I wasn’t going to let him get away.” “In retrospect, it was like a cake that needed to be cooked. The man recognized me, and I recognized him. I enjoyed how compassionate he was, and how well he treated me.”
All of their children and siblings went down the aisle for their church wedding. Pop moved into Verlean’s flat, which she describes as “the hardest part.” “The first year was a nightmare. I’m used to having my way with things. I’m used to cleaning and tidying up after myself; he doesn’t. He enjoys watching television, but she does not,” she explains. “Then it dawned on me: I adore him, and he adores me. Allow me to accept him as he is—all that’s I asked for. Stop screaming about little things and just adapt.”

“I have my own room where I can pray and listen to gospel music,” Verlean adds. They built up a day room for Pop with his TV. She feels fortunate to have someone with whom she can “get old.” I accompany him to the doctor, and he accompanies me. We also attend church together. I prefer to dress up, but he was initially quite casual. “A guy ought to be in a suit on Sunday,” I informed him.

Donna Zerner of Boulder, Colorado, asked for a spiritual companion as well. When I met Donna, a 40-year-old editor, in 2003, she told me she’d never been in love and didn’t believe it was possible. She had dated guys before, but she never felt she could be herself or fully commit to a relationship.

Because she felt imperfect, she believed she may be “perpetually unmarried.” She also thought that what other people referred to as “love” was an illusion, and that their hearts would inevitably be crushed. Despite these concerns, she continued her search for a “beautiful, healthy relationship.”

Donna and I prepared a list of attributes we wanted in a spouse on New Year’s Eve 2005. She put “Jewish” at the top of her priority list. She formed the Kosher Hams, a Jewish comedic improv team that plays at services and conferences, and she is a pioneer in the Jewish Renewal Movement. She’d only dated Jewish guys and couldn’t conceive spending her life with someone who wasn’t.

Donna attended a multifaith conference not long after making the list. She sat next to David Frenette, whom she deemed the “cutest guy in the room.” They sat together, spoke, and took a stroll during the three-day seminar. “By the second date, we recognized something great was going on,” Donna adds, referring to David’s invitation to a movie. They appeared to be an ideal match: They made each other laugh, enjoyed the same literature and movies, wanted isolation, didn’t drink alcohol, and are both gluten intolerant. It was wonderful, with the exception of… David was not a Jew. He was a Christian spiritual counselor who had spent the previous 12 years as a monk. His deep spiritual dedication was the driving force behind his success.

Donna describes him as “far more interested in and receptive to Judaism than any of the Jewish males I’d dated.” He enjoyed the Jewish Renewal services that she brought him to. She adds, “And I grew intrigued in his contemplative Christianity way.” They discovered they could meet “beyond religion,” since “religion is a way to God for both of us, and our dedication to God goes beyond any structured organization.” That is what binds us together.”

Donna and David, unlike the other couples, have never had a fight. “Not even a smidgeon of annoyance,” Donna says.

For me, that beggars belief. Neither of them had been married or had kids. What are the chances that they would meet in their 40s and not have a fight?

Donna responds, “No one will believe it.” “I don’t think so. It’s akin to grace.” They haven’t lived together and have no plans to marry, but in August, they hosted a “commitzvah” ceremony for their friends to commemorate their dependency. Donna adds, “We wanted to publicly show our thankfulness for this connection and set aspirations for the future.” “We both know this is it; we’ve exhausted our options.”

What about those who have been married more than once? Do they consider this a failure and give up? Do they secretly worry, like I do, that “I’m just not good at relationships—I’m missing the gene”? Or do they gain information and skills that help them have more meaningful relationships later on?

In my book Leap!, I looked into this and other topics concerning love beyond 50. What Are Our Plans for the Rest of Our Lives? Joan Borysenko, a spiritual teacher and author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, had recently divorced her third husband when we met, and I wrote about her. Soon after, she began informing people that she was marrying Gordon Dveirin, an organizational psychologist, for the fourth time.

The women’s gang rose up. “What the heck are you doing?” they demanded, cornering her. I’m sure he’s wonderful, but you mentioned your past marriages at the beginning.” They hadn’t met Gordon, but it didn’t matter; they were enraged by what they saw as her foolishness in signing vows she’d previously violated three times.

Joan and Gordon, who were 57 and 59 years old at the time, had to ask themselves, “Why is this wedding different from all the others?” When they bumped into one other at the basic shop in Gold Hill, Colorado, they both felt instant sparks—physically, psychologically, and spiritually. They appeared to be a good combination. They started teaching and writing together, and it was a great success.

They concluded that the only thing that would make a fourth wedding unique would be them. Joan says, “We’re grown adults who’ve learnt a lot and know who we are.” “I couldn’t have expressed the vows I wanted to take when I was younger. This time, I’ll make a solemn promise: ‘I’ll walk the rest of the way with you.’ I’ll accompany you into the unknown. I’m sure there will be tough times ahead, but I’m determined to consider them as grain for the mill.’

Joan, like the other ladies, understands that infatuation fades and that deeper affinities must emerge. “At first, it seems as if you’ve been drugged,” she explains. “You have seen the country that was promised to you. You can’t keep that pleasure for long, but we’re still in it a lot after four years.

“How?” I inquire.

“Being in nature together, sharing spiritual practice, creating together—like it’s writing or planning a garden when ideas start pouring and you’re in that beautiful space.”

What’s different about love as you get older, she explains, is that “we’re so darned thankful.” I’m even glad for my prior marriages—which I don’t consider failures—because you learn a lot from them. They had me prepared for this.”

Late love is freeing because you don’t have to conform to tradition or anybody else’s ideals; you can create what works for you. Whether to marry or not to marry is a personal decision. Whether you want to live together or not is up to you. Have a lot of sex or a little sex.

Peggy Hilliard, 80, met John Morse, 84, in 2006 through an online dating site. They lived in different places, and after a year, Peggy moved out of her house in Oregon and into a retirement community in Washington State with John. “I would never have lived with a man without being married 50 years ago,” she adds. You have greater freedom at 80.”

I tell her that some of the ladies I’ve met are having fantastic sex, but that sexual drive fades with age.

Late love is freeing because you don’t have to conform to tradition or anybody else’s ideals; you can create what works for you. Whether to marry or not to marry is a personal decision. Whether you want to live together or not is up to you. Have a lot of sex or a little sex.

Peggy Hilliard, 80, met John Morse, 84, in 2006 through an online dating site. They lived in different places, and after a year, Peggy moved out of her house in Oregon and into a retirement community in Washington State with John. “I would never have lived with a man without being married 50 years ago,” she adds. You have greater freedom at 80.”
I tell her that some of the ladies I’ve met are having fantastic sex, but that sexual drive fades with age.
Peggy exclaims, “Wrong!” “We have a wonderful sexual life—very fulfilling.” She admits there are physical challenges, “but that doesn’t stop us. You just have to relax and be creative.”

These stories give me hope, even if some of them are a little gooey. They show that love can come to people of various ages and walks of life. They motivate me to overcome my negative tendencies and think, “They’re creating love songs, but not for me.” What good do such ideas do? People couldn’t stop smiling because Donna Zerner had never been in love before, and the pleasure and solemnity of her commitzvah ceremony with David were obvious. Those who were single believed they still had a chance, while those who already had a spouse were encouraged to enhance their commitment.

Donna and David set the bar high, pledging to use disagreements as a chance to grow closer in their love and connection with God. “That’s why I want to be in a relationship again,” I thought as I heard them say it. Not for sex (on its own) or even friendship, but for the chance to delve deeper with someone and move closer to the light—especially at this age, when time seems to be flying by.”

“I encountered my mortality” around the age of 65, says Ellen Burstyn. It’s not like ‘Oh yes, I’m going to die,’ but it’s always a possibility. And everything gets more valuable as a result.

She exclaims, “And to be in love!” “It’s delectable to feel the delight of connection in the midst of death.” When you’re in love, you feel so youthful while also summarizing your life. So it’s lovely and rich, but you have to remember that it’s fleeting.” She claims that she and her boyfriend make jokes about funerals and ashes all the time. He recently informed her that he was going home and was sent into a terribly dark place by a song on the radio…

“Was I dead once more?” With a laugh, Ellen remarked. “Are you going to quit already?”

She claims that they do not intend to marry. “Right now, we’re in love with one other. We are all aware that life is brief. Death is unavoidable. And love exists. We’re going to take pleasure in every moment.