As a senior-relationship columnist, I receive many interesting questions from older singles.

Recently, Nancy emailed, “Are you married legally to Greta?”

(The “Greta” to whom Nancy was referring has been my life partner for 21 years.)

Nancy added, “I’m 65 and have a man I’d like to spend the rest of my life with. We’ve been together — on and off — for eight years. We don’t want to marry legally, but we would like a commitment ceremony.

“I stayed home raising my ex-husband’s and my children for 25 years. We were divorced in 1996; he remarried. After he passed away, I started receiving his Social Security benefits because of the length of time married to him. If I were to marry legally, I’d lose the benefits.

“Is there a way to be together with my guy without legally marrying so I don’t lose my ex-husband’s Social Security benefits?”

Before addressing Nancy’s questions, I strongly suggest she contact an attorney to ensure she doesn’t do anything to jeopardize receiving her deceased husband’s benefits.

My answer to Nancy’s initial question: No, Greta and I are not “married legally.” We aren’t even married illegally. We’ve been together 21 years and have lived together 18 of those years, 13 of them in her home and the last five in my home.

We have been blessed with the relationship the way it is. We travel often and share many expenses. Our life is as good as it gets. We see no reason to marry.

Nancy also wanted to know if Greta and I have had a commitment ceremony. No, again. Every day is a commitment to each other; we don’t feel the need to have a ceremony.

Other readers have shared thoughts on the marriage-vs.-committed-relationship topic.

Annie said, “I met my partner five years ago. We are in a committed relationship and living together. We are surprised at the number of friends who ask, ‘When is he going to make me legal?’

“We don’t feel the need to be married. Our kids don’t care one way or the other. I wear a ring on my wedding-ring finger. We are turning 65 this year and have earned the right to do as we wish.”

Nina stated, “I’m in my mid-50s, six years divorced, alone, have great friends, a pretty good life, and am fine with this for now. I don’t want to remarry, even if I find someone with whom love is real and mutual. I would like to be in a committed, loving relationship.”

Jennifer shared, “Older people have already completed the child-raising task. They don’t need to nail down a reproductive agreement.

“They have often spent a lifetime working and accumulating assets, and they frequently like to keep their finances separate. Sometimes, it’s simpler just to remain single, even while living together.

“Those who, for religious or other reasons, are uncomfortable with this arrangement can still get married.”

Marcia wrote, “Russ and I did not marry for myriad reasons. We know of couples who’ve had religious ceremonies under God, and they are happy.”

Final thoughts to Nancy:

Getting married would likely cause you to lose the Social Security benefits you are receiving. Don’t marry.

Another reason not to marry: You said your eight-year relationship has been “on and off.” That’s not a good omen for marriage.

A commitment ceremony? If you wish. Just be sure it’s not legally binding. Exchange rings, invite family and friends, have a ball — whatever you choose.

The most important thing for seniors is to appreciate life, whether single, married, or in a committed relationship.


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