What do unwed senior couples call themselves?

August 31, 2018

In the 24 years of writing newspaper columns and eNewsletters about senior relationships, there is a question for which I’ve never had a good answer. Until now. Perhaps.

The question: What do unwed senior couples call themselves?

I was reminded of that question by Mark Flannery, Fullerton, California, who emailed: “Donna and I have been together for eight and a half years. We were having lunch in Dana Point (California) with Wally Horn and his partner of 30 years, Bobbi, and this question arose: ‘What do we call ourselves? Partners? Companions? Significant others? Boyfriend/girlfriend?’”

I can relate to Mark’s question. My partner Greta and I have been together for 20 years. We aren’t married. I still find myself wondering how to introduce her. Often, “Life Partner” comes to mind. It’s an okay term, but I still get a puzzled look from people who seem to be wondering what the heck a life partner is, or they think it’s a lame explanation for why we aren’t married.

Greta and I enjoy taking cruises. We always opt for open-seating at night in the dining room, which means we are usually seated with different people every night. Frequently, table mates ask, “How long have you two been married?” Greta and I look at each other and one of us responds, “We’ve been together for 20 years.”

Most couples accept that answer, thinking we’re married. It’s easier to leave it that way than trying to explain that we are significant others or life partners or whatever we are calling ourselves at the moment.

When Greta and I would visit my mom in her retirement community in Santa Rosa, when we were out socially with Mom’s friends, Mom would introduce Greta by saying, “This is Tom’s Greta.” That was her way of saying we were living together and not married, which she probably wasn’t entirely thrilled about.

One business who knows Greta and I aren’t married but live together are the fine folks at the Sea View Pharmacy in San Clemente, California. When I pick up my prescriptions there, they don’t say, “Do you want to pick up your wife’s prescriptions?” Instead, they ask, “Do you want your partner Greta’s prescriptions also?”

In his email, Mark Flannery added, “Donna and I are a LAT (living apart together) couple. She is 69, still working, and lives in Irvine. I’m 71, retired and live in Fullerton. We go back and forth between the two cities a lot.”

Mark added, “Our friend Wally is 84 and Bobbi is 75. They are both retired and have been together for almost 30 years. When we were talking about what to call ourselves, I floated an idea I’ve had for some time: ‘Semispouse.

It received a favorable response from our little group. It isn’t perfect, but it seems to have some qualities the other labels lack. The term is included in the Urban Dictionary.”

At first, I thought the semispouse term a little bizarre, visualizing a semi-truck driver with his wife riding with him in the cab.

I looked up the term in the Urban Dictionary. It’s definition: “A significant other that plays the role of a spouse without being legally married.”

And then I decided, when written, the term semispouse would look better with a hyphen inserted: semi-spouse.

While semi-spouse for unwed senior couples will work for now, still, I’m all ears to hear our Champs’ suggestions for what to call unwed couples. Just don’t call us, “Old fogies living together!”

What do senior couples call themselves? Not old fogies that’s for sure. How about active, fun loving,energetic significant others or semi-spouses. Who cares really? Just go out and have a blast.

Senior Online Dating

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – August 24, 2018

Is Senior Online Dating: Productive? Quirky? Dangerous? Risky?

The answer: all the above.

Online dating has become a huge business. There are hundreds of sites. But does it work for seniors? Yes…and no. There are plenty of senior online dating challenges.

Productive? Many senior couples have found online dating success. I’ll name two as an example.

Jeanne emailed, “I met my man on OurTime. He contacted me in September, 2015. I didn’t meet him until March, 2016. We met at Starbucks. He was a wonderful man and we got along famously. We waited six months before taking the friendship to a LAT (Living Apart Together) relationship.

Recently, we decided to live together and chose my place! I not only gained a man in my life, but his dog and lizard, too! He’s even better than what I had described as my perfect mate!”

My partner Greta has a friend named Dominque. She met her Tom on Match.com. They turned a long-distance relationship into a marriage, when Tom moved from Sacramento to live with Dominque in her San Clemente home.

Quirky? It can be. Champ Gina, (Greta’s niece), 53, sent a text last week showing a personal ad she saw on Tinder, an online dating site. Gina wrote, “Tinder has a reputation for ‘casual’ relationships (umm, like a friend-with-benefits arrangement). What you see in the ads is all you get, one or a few pictures, a paragraph or nothing at all. You choose to meet based mostly on attraction to each other’s photo by swiping right on the photo. Swipe left and there is no connection.”

Gina added, “I thought you might find this guy’s ad interesting. It is an example of what not to say if you want to meet a nice woman.”

The man wrote: looking for sweet, smart, built, warm and tender, love to travel the world, if you want to have more fun than with someone you’ve ever had call me. Have to be pristine clean, love the warmth and the tenderness of a man, and if not, you’re not in my ballpark, only qualified people call me. Ps hookers and prostitutes do not call”
Tinder calls itself the world’s most popular dating site with 20 billion matches. People as young as 18 use it. The user reviews are filled with complaints about people being banned from the site without explanation. I do not recommend Tinder for seniors; besides, there is a fee.

In doing research on Tinder, I found a list of free dating sites. I am not endorsing or recommending any of them. It’s just a list.


Dangerous? I read horror stories, including murders, of people who met on Tinder and other sites. Some as recent as July and August of this year. Doing background checks is a must when meeting strangers. Seniors are vulnerable online.

Risky? You bet. The October 21, 2017, issue of the Palm Beach Post (Florida) featured an article written by Debby Montgomery, a 52-year-old widow. She lost $1,080,762.43 to a Nigerian romance scammer without ever meeting the man in person.

He claimed to be an international broker of hard wood trees. When she called his company, they had never heard of him. Regardless, she kept sending money, even borrowing $100,000 from her parents to give him.

Debby fell in love with an image, which is insane; you can’t judge chemistry until you meet in person. Never trust or send money to someone you’ve never met. Don’t think you’re in love with someone you never met.

Senior online dating
Senior online dating can be quirky, productive, risky and dangerous. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Profile picture tips for senior women

One of our Champs, Dr. John, shared his tips for women, when posting photos to their online profile, based on his own experiences.

1. Smile for your profile picture – even if you have to have someone tickle your feet to make you smile! It’s unfortunate how many women have sad and/or angry profile pictures

2. Avoid photos where you look maniacally happy, as if you’ve just had a massive dose of cocaine – aim for happy and serene – if the whites of your eyes above the irises (colored parts of the eyes) are visible, you tend to resemble a maniac

3. No sunglasses – the eyes are the window of the soul – be sure your eyes are visible

4. No digital ‘enhancements,’ such as cartoon cat ears or whiskers-they are for tweens

5. No pictures of you and your ex, with your ex cropped out

6. Include a face portrait, and one full-length

7. Consider the background – I saw one woman with a very nice picture of her sitting at a restaurant, but the background was a full garbage can. In general, outdoors, and especially outdoors at a flower garden or beach are the ideal backgrounds for a woman

8. No pictures of you boozing it up, unless you’re looking for a drinking buddy – and yes, wine is booze (as a doctor, I’ve long noticed that men don’t consider heavy beer drinking to constitute heavy drinking, and women are the same with wine)

9. If there’s an activity you really like, such as golfing, or playing the piano, a picture of you participating is a great idea

10. The hands-down, best profile picture I’ve ever seen was a woman at a beach, laughing, while trying to hold an obviously very happy and squirming little dog (yes, I’m an animal lover).

Dr. John added, “Also, eliminate negativity in your written profile – I read one woman’s profile which stated, ‘I don’t like to be negative but’ – and then she proceeded to be negative. Anger and negativity aren’t attractive, unless you are looking for an angry and negative partner, which some are.”

Is senior online dating for everyone? Internet dating for seniors? Maybe. Maybe not. If you partake, be oh so careful and leery. Trust your instincts. It’s a mixed bag.

Senior Disgruntled Woman Blames Men

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – August 17, 2018

A Senior Disgruntled Woman Blames Men for Lack of Dating Success

In the January 11, 2018, eNewsletter, I wrote about LAT (living apart together) relationships. In the article, I quoted a male reader who said the 1976 song, “I’d Really Like to See You Tonight,” by England Dan and John Ford Coley described his relationship with his woman friend perfectly.

A woman Champ, age 69—now a former Champ–emailed a response to the man’s comment. I will not name her other than to give her the title, “Disgruntled.”

Disgruntled wrote, “The older and wiser I become, the more I understand how it’s been a man’s world, and that song you referred to, “I’d Really Like to See You Tonight,” started irritating me, when I realized it was about a non-committal,friend-with-benefits arrangement, which men are always looking for. It’s the same for senior men as young men.

“Somewhere in their middle ages, men are able to commit and settle into a real relationship, albeit many cheat even when committed. Then after the divorce, which they usually blame the wife for, they go back to their youth when it was all about ‘getting laid’ with no commitment.

“I’ve spent the last couple of years dumping guys (in their 60’s) who made it clear that’s all they want. It has made me feel I am not worthy of a man’s true love and commitment.
“The LAT relationship (living apart together) is perfect for men. They can do whatever they want when you’re apart. The woman may be sitting in her own house, painting pictures, but I doubt if the man is doing that; he’s probably on the dating sites checking out the candy store (as men have told me they see it), especially now when there are so many single old ladies to single old men. I am not cynical, just realistic.”

Note from Tom: Regarding LAT relationships, more senior women than men tell me they prefer a LAT-relationship arrangement.

Disgruntled continued, “I have nice male friends who still are old-fashioned enough to want a traditional relationship, and that’s what I would like.

“If you’re going to spend most of your time with someone anyway, why not have the financial benefits of sharing expenses and the legal benefits of having the doctors consult your significant other in an emergency?

“I don’t see why two people can’t live together and still have their separate interests and separate rooms, etc. To each his own, but personally I want someone I can go to sleep with every night and wake up with every morning, and not wonder if it’s ok to call them because they might be busy doing whatever.

“I don’t blame men for their wandering eye because it’s biologically programmed in them to spread their seed and produce children so the urge to mate is very strong. What I’ve seen is that a woman needs to keep a man close to her and be available because, as the Stephen Stills song says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

“I interpret those lyrics to mean that men need to be near the one they love, or their eye wanders, a natural thing, but it’s behavior that can ultimately break up the relationship.

“With every man I meet, there is always something ‘wrong,’ and I’m just getting lonelier and more independent. The last one I recently met at one of the places I go to dance. It was the first time in four-five years I felt a real connection with someone, and he was so into me.

“After a couple of days of dancing and some long phone conversations, he found out I am four years older than he, and he said he needs to have someone in their 50’s. I am 69 and he is 65. I couldn’t believe it! So, life goes on…”

Remember, that email from Disgruntled was sent in January.

Last week, she emailed, “I have removed myself from all dating sites (including this newsletter) and decided I’m over the whole thing of trying to find a man; all of them have been crazy in one way or another.”

 “You have to EARN friends-with-benefits status”

(photo courtesy of freeimages.com)

Comment from Tom: When people blame others for their lack of dating success, the first action they need to take is to look in the mirror.

Champ Fred responded to last week’s article about Jody who is in the “friend zone” with her ex. And since Disgruntled commented in her email above about some men wanting only “friends-with-benefits,” I include Fred’s comment: “Tom, you’re a pro. Jody says she is fun and ‘young’ for her age. By whose account? If Jody’s friend has benefits, I’d say he is in good shape. Poor Jody.”

And one final comment: I think it is time for an updated column on internet dating at our age. If you have any recent online dating experiences, please share them with us by emailing me. Thanks.

Remaining friends with an ex

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – August 10, 2018

Does remaining friends with an ex significant other send a message that you don’t want a new mate?

Jody emailed, “My partner and I split up two years ago, and we are now in the “friend zone.”  At first, I was heartbroken, because I had wanted a commitment, but he didn’t love me that way. Now I feel like I dodged a bullet. He is not the right lifetime mate for me, though I love him dearly.

“Do you think by staying friends, spending time together as friends, that I’m giving the Universe the message that I don’t want a new love? Because I do!”

Tom’s reply to Jody: Interesting question. There are two issues here. First, sometimes, when a relationship ends, and we are hurt, we don’t realize it could become a blessing down the road. You subsequently found that he is not the right lifetime mate for you and you were fortunate you didn’t tie the knot.

When my wife of six years left in 1993, with no notice, I was angry, caught off guard, and confused. Only later, did I come to realize her leaving that way had been a blessing.

Why do you say he is not the right lifetime partner for you?

Second, unlike your situation, my wife and I did not remain friends. We are not enemies, over time one tends to forgive, but I have no interest in keeping contact. You say you love him dearly and have remained friends, and you spend friend-time together. You ask if that is sending a message that you don’t want a new love.

It could, if you are seen in public often together. A guy could see you, with him, and surmise that you are a couple. The guy won’t ask you out, even if he’d like to. He would not want to “hit” on another man’s woman.

Also, let’s say you meet someone when you are not with your friend. When you tell the new guy that your ex is now “just a friend,” the new guy might see it as a red flag; thinking you might decide to go back to him, since you love him so dearly. He wouldn’t want to take the chance.

I think it’s nice you are friends, but you may need to break the friendship chain somewhat to open opportunities for someone new in your life. That doesn’t mean you make a big deal out of distancing yourself, but slowly ease away.

                               Just Friends photo courtesy of Just Friends Photography

I know of couples where the guy broke up and married someone else. Now, after his divorce, they spend time together again “as friends.” But, the situation has gone on for years, and the woman is still stuck in the same rut, so to speak. Kind of like in the 1977 song by Rod Stewart, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” from the Foot Loose & Fancy Free album (link below). Time has passed her by, time that she could have used to seek a new relationship.

Jody stated: “Your comments, Tom, echo my own fears. I guess I don’t want to let go of him completely because at age 65, it’s nice to just have a man ‘around’ to do things with, and to lean on. But on the other hand, if I want a ‘real’ life partner, I am probably going to have to let him go all the way and give up the friendship.

“You asked why he is not the right partner for me. Without sounding judgmental or critical of him (I hope), I feel that he, at age 66, is ready to be ‘old,’ whereas I feel I’m just starting a new chapter and have plenty of energy and get up and go!

“I want to travel, learn new things, meet new people, and not ‘just sit around,’ and I feel he’s more content to be in a comfortable routine. All of this I realized in the two years since he broke off our romantic relationship, and now I’m so glad we aren’t married or otherwise committed and that I still live in my own place!

“I would love to hear the opinions of Champs who might be dealing with similar circumstances.”

Tom’s comment: If he sees you slipping away, he may decide to re-evaluate his life, and kick it in gear, by deciding not to be “so ready to be old,” to try to keep you from moving on. That could confuse the issue by adding baggage to your life and could contribute to not being able to keep a new man interested because of the baggage.

Yes, it’s nice to have a man around at age 65, but there could be a price to pay for that luxury: lost opportunity for a committed relationship. But, of course, there is no guarantee that you will find a new mate either.

We’ll see what the Champs have to say about being in the “friend zone” with an ex. And, whether they think that is sending a message that you aren’t interested in a new love.

Link to Rod Stewart version of: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”  Time: 7:33


Shortage of single senior men

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – August 3, 2018

Shortage of single senior men 

If I had a magic wand, I’d create single senior men and introduce them to single senior women (who often tell me they’d like to have a male companion).

I often receive comments in person or via emails from women regarding the lack of senior single men.

One woman emailed, “I read your article and thought of my mom, an incredible widow, 62, active, fit, positive, outgoing, fun-loving, an accountant for a large church, one of the most sincere and honest people I know.

My dad died of cancer 12 years ago and while she has dated a little and would like to meet someone, I’ve yet to talk her into internet dating and she insists it will just happen, kind of like the story you tell of meeting Greta. But where are the men?

After I checked your Finding Love after 50 website, I thought maybe you knew someone in a similar boat who wanted to be set up. I know it’s kinda crazy but the thought came to me, so I had to chase it!”

Lynn emailed: “Being 68 years YOUNG now, and three marriages later, I found you by mistake, as I googled San Clemente apartments and was lead to the San Clemente Times newspaper. The headlines of your 24 years of writing on love and life after 50, grabbed my attention!

I am a firm believer in the adage, ‘There are no coincidences.’ And, once again, reading your articles proved it.

My relocation from Washington state has not been easy. Reading many of your posts has lightened my heart and renewed my faith in ‘anything is possible at any age.’ Where do the men hang out?”

Mirtha emailed, “I am a single senior woman, a widow, who lives nearby and decided it was time to try meeting a male friend with whom to go dancing or watch a movie. But, I’m not seeking a boyfriend or husband.

I frequently attend public places. I go to all dances in local senior facilities. I attend all shows at the Cabrillo Play House and the Laguna Play House. I am not sitting at home waiting to meet a new friend, but the result is always the same: Senior couples, senior couples, senior couples, or senior ladies. Where are the senior single men?”

Tom’s 7 thoughts on the shortage of single senior men and meeting senior single men:

While each single senior woman has a different situation, I wanted to comment in general on the shortage of senior single men:

1. Understand that finding good men in the later years is difficult, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not meeting men. It’s not your fault. By age 70, senior single women outnumber senior single men by approximately three-or-four-to-one. Plus, women tell me that many of the men are not “dating material” or simply don’t date, so the ratio, is, in effect, even greater.

Last Saturday, Greta and I were invited to a 50th wedding anniversary party in a nearby neighborhood. More than 100 guests filed in and out. Most were 70-80+ While I could be wrong, I saw only one single man, maybe early 50s, and he was there with his teenage daughter. There were several very fine widows there. I wish I had a magic wand to introduce them all to nice men

2. Consider online dating, especially if you live in a remote area, or small town. The internet can expand your reach beyond city limits and state lines, putting your name in front of thousands of men. However, I am not a big fan of online dating for seniors–too many flakes and kooks out there. Seniors are vulnerable to scams. It’s hard to know whom to trust. Follow your instincts.

But, online dating can be a tool for you to use to try to meet a potential mate. But, be careful

3. Get off the couch, out of the house, and involved in activities you enjoy. Check out Meetup.com to find activities in your area

4. Attitude is critical. In meeting people, be positive, friendly and smile. You never know when someone for you will enter your life. Always put your best foot forward

5. Make as many new friends as you can

6. People’s situations change. A married man could get divorced or become a widower. Of course, we hope that never happens. But it does; it’s life. And you might be the person who is a gift from above, or a shoulder tap, who gives renewed hope, and love, and companionship to a person who has a huge hole in his heart

7. Remember being alone and single is far better than being with someone who makes you miserable

If only I had a magic wand, I would create more senior single men and introduce them to senior single women.

flaf spy glass cover

        Where are those single senior men?