DEAR AMY: My wife and I have been happily married for 45 years. Marrying her remains the best and wisest thing I’ve ever done. But we’re getting older. I’m 73 and in good health. She’s 76 and has had several medical issues. I’m beginning to realize I may outlive her. I can’t imagine life without her. Where can I seek advice on preparing myself for what would be the greatest tragedy of my life?
Worried in California
DEAR WORRIED: Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to truly prepare yourself for a loss of great magnitude. I also wonder if it is even wise to spend precious time trying.
Life can be so strange and fickle that the things we anticipate and try to prepare for either don’t happen the way we thought they would, or our feelings and reactions end up being very different after the fact.
I believe the following factors can create a positive grounding for coping with stress and loss: Your healthy relationships with friends and family. Your spiritual, emotional, and physical health. Your intellectual acuity and curiosity. Your relationship with the natural world. Your ability or interest in being creative.
And — most of all — feeling “seen,” loved, and held up by fellow human beings. Also ... pets. A loving nuzzle from an animal pal who needs you can be incredibly healing and sustaining.
These are all life enhancements you can work on now, with the love of your life by your side.
DEAR AMY: I am a middle-aged woman. I have always been socially active, with a wide range of friendships — both personal and professional. I recently became involved with a man and the relationship has become exclusive. I really have no desire to date anyone else. My problem is that he doesn’t enjoy going out to restaurants, nightclubs, movies, or the like. And now that it is clear to people that I have a steady boyfriend, I don’t get asked out by people — men or women. I think the single women feel that I am no longer interested in girls’ nights out and the single men see me as unavailable. My boyfriend has active relationships with workmates and relatives, while I have no office mates and no living family. Basically, I get bored and lonely, and worry that I am turning into a hermit with nothing to say. I wonder if I should break up with this man and hit the dating world again. I have gentlemen friends who would like to date me. I just don’t care about them the way I care about this man. But I feel like staying in this exclusive relationship will only make me feel more cut off as time passes. I really don’t see how I could commit in a more permanent way to this type of life. Any suggestions?
DEAR RESTLESS: You have described your steady relationship as a basic social mismatch between you — a butterfly — and your more introverted guy. Single men may see you as “unavailable” because, being in an exclusive and monogamous relationship is pretty much the very definition of being (sexually or romantically) unavailable. Many single people don’t pursue making friendship plans with someone in an exclusive relationship because they don’t want to be perceived as encroaching on the relationship.
However — you also seem to discount your own role and responsibility when it comes to your personal social life and friendships. If you want to continue to be socially active (and I hope you do), you will have to take the initiative. Make social plans, join organizations, and make sure to see your friends at least once a week.
If you aren’t able to somehow maintain your friendships outside of your exclusive relationship, and if your boyfriend won’t join you out in the world, then you should leave the relationship. Being isolated and feeling alone is not good for you.
DEAR AMY: While reading the question from “Mindful Mom,” who wondered how to curb her young nephews from depriving the rest of the family of food at gatherings, my first thought was — make a second pie. Put out a smaller portion of a dish or dessert at first, and while the boys are preoccupied with their plates, put out the remainder for the others.
Family Buffet Survivor
DEAR SURVIVOR: There are many ways to trick these young voracious eaters into leaving some food for the others, but I believe the best idea is to teach them about portions, manners, and awareness of the needs of others.