We took the initiative to invite friends to our homes for dinner or take them out, meet new people through support groups or embrace Internet dating, find new interests we had put aside in raising our children, and learn to manage on our own — admittedly at times difficult and daunting — whether plunging a clogged sink or bravely killing giant spiders.
We each found that we had a number of friends who continued to give us their shoulders to cry on, and we were included often as the odd number at a dining table. Our advice: Don’t let a loss, even when staggering, control the rest of your life.
St. Louis, Oct. 28, 2013
The writers are working on a book about living alone for the first time after 60.
To the Editor:
I was astonished at the bitterness that unfolded in Charlotte Brozek’s essay. As she credits the biblical Noah with the thinking that the world travels in twos, so did my mother, who found herself alone in her 40s. Well no, it doesn’t.
I found that the world also travels in threes, fours and fives, realizing this after losing my husband to death two years ago. If one nurtures the relationships with family and friends over a lifetime, abandonment by them is highly unlikely upon loss of a spouse.
The word “widow” sounds grim, but one can go on for years without once using it. As for hosts who would concern themselves with uneven seating arrangements, are they really friends?
FRAN WATSON RICHARDS
Indianapolis, Oct. 27, 2013
To the Editor:
If widows find that their widowed state means that they come to have “no friends” among married couples, why don’t they befriend one another?
FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMAN
Providence, R.I., Oct. 27, 2013
Americans, who have lost a little of their ardor for marriage, are still pretty game to remarry. About 40% of all the new marriages in 2013 were not first marriages and in half of those cases, both spouses had ridden in that rodeo before. And new analysis from Pew Research finds that men are much more enamored of remarriage than women are.
“Most currently divorced or widowed men are open to the idea of remarriage, but women in the same circumstances are less likely to be,” says the report, which draws on figures from a survey it conducted in May and June. Almost two thirds of men either want to remarry or would at least consider it, while fewer than a half of women would.
Perhaps it’s not surprising then that more guys do get remarried than women. Almost two thirds of men who have been married before and got divorced or were widowed wed again, whereas only a smidgen more than half of the women do.
There are lots of possible reasons for the gender discrepancy. Women tend to live longer, so they may outlast all their potential suitors. Or, since women now have more economic freedom than they did 50 years ago, they may feel less need for a partner. And while women still bear the bulk of the home care duties, once liberated, they may feel disinclined to enter into another legally binding agreement to look after somebody else.
However, the Pew analysis seems to suggest that the guys are being the shrewder partners, at least financially. “On key economic measures, remarried adults fare better than their currently divorced counterparts and about as well as those in their first marriages,” says the report, which gets its figures from analyzing American Community Survey data. Only 7% of people who are remarried live in poverty, compared to 19% of people who are divorced and still single. “Homeownership, which often reflects wealth, is also much higher for the remarried than the divorced—79% versus 58%.”
Of course, it may not be that the spouses are more financially stable because they are married. It might be that more financially stable people are in a better position to attract partners, build sturdy relationships and get married.
Slightly less than a quarter of all people who are married in the U.S. today are actually remarried people. Fifty years ago, they only represented about 13% of married people. In the same half century, marriage has fallen quite markedly out of favor among the young. But so far, the majority of people who have tried it are willing to give it another go.