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Seven - Initiation and development of new romantic relationships

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2022

Torbjörn Bildtgård
Affiliation:
Stockholms universitet Institutionen för socialt arbete
Peter Öberg
Affiliation:
Högskolan i Gävle, Sweden
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Summary

In this chapter we aim to show how the patterns regarding attitudes and union choices uncovered in previous chapters are realised and negotiated in concrete individual lives and late-in-life relationships. The purpose of the chapter is to study the initiation and development of new late-life romantic relationships. We ask what the central issues are that need to be negotiated and resolved in order for a relationship to develop. Using four case studies, we follow the successive (but not necessary) development of late-life relationships through the negotiation of three central relationship questions: whether to initiate and continue a relationship or not; whether to move in together or not; and whether to get married or not. We show that the question of marriage is normally raised only in a later stage of a relationship's development – if ever. Thus marriage (‘marriage at first sight’) is seldom a relevant question for older singles.

Unveiling negotiation and change in new late-life Relationships

Negotiation has often been singled out as a characteristic trait of late modern intimate relationships, where both form and content of the relationship is thought to be determined less by external norms and conventions than used to be the case in modern society, and more through agreements between relatively equal partners. This is a key feature of Giddens’, Hackstaff's and Cherlin's arguments about contemporary intimacy (see Chapter two).

However, the insight that intimate relationships are characterised by negotiation and change often seems to be lost in research about older people. One reason, as we saw in Chapter six, is that until recently research has tended to focus on older singles and their attitudes to repartnering – rather than the experiences of repartnered older people. Another reason may be the assumption that older people belong to cohorts raised in marriage culture, presumably still living according to its ideals. As we showed in Chapter four, it is doubtful whether this assumption is true. Older people might in fact be freer than young adults to liberally choose the way they live together, since they rarely have nesting children. It has been argued that in later life both LAT (Ghazanfareeon Karlsson & Borell, 2002; Régnier-Loilier et al, 2009) and cohabitation (Brown et al, 2006; Brown & Wright, 2016; King & Scott, 2005) are often alternatives, rather than preludes, to marriage.

Type
Chapter
Information
Intimacy and Ageing
New Relationships in Later Life
, pp. 87 - 104
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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