Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: The golden years?

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Dear Virginia, I am a widow in my fifties and I've met a really nice man of 60. We see each other every other night, and have a good sex life. I'm happy with the arrangement. The problem is that he's desperate to move in with me - and even get married. I feel churlish refusing to commit, but I value my freedom. Am I being silly saying no? Yours sincerely, Megan

Virginia writes:

There is some bonkers idea around that there's something noble about "committing". Whenever a partner dumps someone, friends rally round saying, "Oh, he [or she] was just frightened of committing!". But of course, the truth is that perhaps they weren't frightened of committing at all. Perhaps they very sensibly didn't want to be tied up with that person for the rest of their lives. Perhaps they weren't frightened, but, rather, exceptionally wise.

As for Megan being churlish, what on earth does she owe this man? It's as if she thinks that this "arrangement", as she calls it - and it's clearly a lovely arrangement but not exactly a roaring love affair - is something for which she has to be grateful. Doesn't she realise that he's getting just as much out of it as she is? He's getting the sex, the intimacy, the companionship, the walks and the wining and dining. (If that's what they're into, of course. Always seems to me a rather sad way of describing the biggest interest in one's life.)

One of the facts of being single is that, once you've got over the shock of not being with someone for years of your life, you learn to become independent. Having been, as it were, a piece of a jigsaw, with all kinds of ragged and jagged edges that fit neatly into someone else's dips and grooves, you become single-shaped. And it becomes harder to fit in with another person. The single shape, particularly if you become it when you're older, can become quite rigid, too - partly because it's so nice, in many ways, not having to fit in with someone else, and constantly having to compromise, but partly because you get used to it.

I think Megan is doing pretty well, quite honestly, by being able to fit in with this man every other day. As a confirmed single-shape, I'd be driven dotty, I'm sure. I can't even cope with guests for more than about a week. No, I think the only thing of which Megan has to be aware is that, if she says no to this man, he might move on. If he is as "desperate" as she says, then it sounds to me as if he's a person who longs for security, for a mum-figure to nurture him and look after him, day and night. He longs for this far more than fun, romance and regular sex. The cup of tea brought up to him in the morning by a doting wife is much more what he's after than outings, jaunts and breathless kisses.

He also, I bet, wants to be sure that when he starts getting ill - and at 60, he will - he might want a nurse. Statistically, men die younger than women, too, so it might be that Megan would have to care for him and go through another death of a partner in her life.

Megan should imagine life without this bloke. Because if she says no, he'll almost certainly fall into the arms of the myriad women out there who are gagging for marriage - with anyone. If she can cope with the idea of losing him and keeping her independence, lonely as it may be at times, she must stick to her guns. If she can't, she'd be deluded to imagine that the situation can go on like this for very long - or, indeed, that she's likely, at her age, to find many more men interested in similar relationships.

Readers say:

Enjoy what you have

No, you are not "being silly saying no to him". In my book, there is only one valid reason to live with or marry someone: because you are madly in love with them and cannot live without them, cherishing each day as it comes. You refer to the "arrangement" as opposed to your "relationship" with him, and I suspect that, even though you enjoy his company, at heart you don't really love him.

I would continue as you are - why spoil things by taking it one step further than you are ready or willing to do? The old adage, "Marry in haste, repent at leisure", is as valid for older people as for younger ones. There really is no need for you to feel "churlish" about this. You are lucky to have met someone else who makes you happy, so just enjoy what you have with this man.

Frankie Weeden

Edinburgh

Have a trial run

It's perfectly alright to value your freedom, but if you do love this man, then I think he deserves some sort of commitment. If you feel you aren't ready for marriage yet or living together full time, why don't you start off slower? Maybe at the weekends he could come and live with you, say, Friday to Monday, and you can see how you get on. If that goes well, maybe he can move in full time. There is no need to rush into anything. I'm sure if you explained to him how hard it is to get used to living with someone again, he will understand

Sharon Gregory

Blackpool

Ask yourself why

First, I would ask myself why exactly I'm feeling reluctant to commit. Am I feeling in some way unfaithful to the memory of my late husband? If this were the case, I would write my late husband a letter explaining that, while I would always love him and he would always have a special place in my heart, I hoped that he understood that I needed to move on and grab happiness while I could.

If this is not the case, and it's just that you've become set in your ways, then fair enough! It's a big adjustment, moving in with someone at any age, and if you're happy with your life as it is, don't risk ruining it by taking a step for which you're not ready.

Martin KerryY

Ilkeston, Derbyshire

Keep a little mystery

Stay as you are - sinking into his arms, not with your arms in the sink washing his socks! By living apart, you keep the romance: he doesn't see you with no teeth in; you don't have to put up with his toilet smells!

Julie Kenny

Formby, LiverpoolL

I envy you

No! No! No! Right now, you've got the ideal life, by the sound of it, and many women of your age, trapped in a stale marriage (like me), envy you so much!

Ask yourself what you would actually gain by letting this man into your home and life on a permanent basis. Nothing. Except his washing, a place at the table for every meal, and his encroachment into every corner of your independent, happy life. As soon as he's inside the door, with his feet under the table, everything will change. You know it. Any sane woman knows it! The spontaneity, the glamour and the excitement, all would change for dull, everyday monotony. Just enjoy having your cake and eating it! I envy you!

Ruth Brooks

Southampton

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