Midlife Love For some a journey, for others a rebirth

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A little patience, a little fate and a little nudge from her mother. That’s how Marly Goloskov of Reisterstown found her midlife chance at true love. In 1992, Marly, divorced for six years with two kids under 13, discovered that her cupid-playing mother had signed her up with a singles group, Jewish Singles Social Network, that was advertising in the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Marly and Nathan Goloskov at their wedding

“JSSN was basically the beginning of JDate before computers,” Marly says. “There was a men’s book and a women’s book, and you would see who caught your eye, then tell the service, and they would reach out to the other person to see if it was OK to give out your number.”

Nathan picked her out and called her for a date. One chemistry-fueled Friday night get-together proceeded to another date on Sunday, and one week later, Nathan asked Marly to marry him. A classic whirlwind romance. “We just knew we were meant for each other,” Marly says.

Now retired with four children and 12 grandchildren, Marly, 64, and Nathan, 71, just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

For midlife singles today, there is a much better chance of finding love again than in their parents’ day. According to a Pew Research Center study in 2013, 23 percent of married people had been married before compared with 13 percent in 1960. The study also revealed that 40 percent of new marriages in 2013 included at least one partner who had been married previously, and in 20 percent of new marriages, both partners had been married before.

Angela Tate, 45, an academic adviser at Towson University, never thought she would marry again. Yet, fate had a different plan for this remarriage skeptic when she met her current husband, David, a few years ago at her sister’s unofficial high school class reunion in West Grove, Pennsylvania.

“He saw me across the bar but didn’t have the nerve to come up to me,” Angela says. It took him until the end of the night to get the courage to ask Angela’s sister to introduce them. “I was flattered but thought he was a player,” Tate adds with a laugh.

Angela and David Tate

What followed was a series of messages to her sister in hopes of showing his interest toward Angela — along with a Facebook friend request, which remained unnoticed for two weeks.

Angela finally discovered the request one Saturday and swiftly reached out to apologize for the delay. The two then agreed to go on their first date. Although Angela lived in Reisterstown at the time, their long-distance relationship bloomed quickly, and they soon married. The couple now lives in York County, both working and adapting to their newly blended family of five children.

They make sure to keep their love life a priority.

“We tell each other we love one another and kiss and hug just to have that connection as often as possible,” Angela says.

Sometimes a midlife marriage partner is also a nuptial first-timer. Such is the case for Lisa Savage, who got married at “50-ish.” The Baltimore resident and clinical social worker confidently asserts that if she had been married earlier in life, it wouldn’t have worked. “I didn’t have the maturity that I do now. I needed to have life experiences that have helped me to be a happier person,” Lisa says.

Lisa met her husband, Michael, through an online dating site. She was in her 40s at the time — well established and happy, but ready for something more substantial than just dating.

One night, after a series of failed matches, Lisa decided to throw in the towel and delete her dating profile. Interestingly enough, moments before hitting the delete button, an instant message popped up from Michael. Resisting the urge to ignore it, she decided to review his profile and was impressed. “He seemed intellectual, was certainly very attractive, so I thought he was worth at least a conversation,” she says.

Lisa Savage and Michael Phillips, with family

Still deciding to delete her profile, Lisa sent him her email so they could continue corresponding. A few email exchanges turned into a great first date. A perfectly planned second date of live jazz at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and a romantic lunch won Lisa’s heart. This was her guy.

For four years of their marriage, these complementing opposites lived apart: Lisa in Delaware, Michael in Maryland. Although difficult, the distance kept their relationship fresh. “It was like each time we saw each other was the first ime,” Lisa says.

Now married for six years with two stepchildren, or “bonus children,” which Lisa warmly calls them, she and Michael have settled into a home in Baltimore.

What about midlifers who married early? For those with lasting marriages heading into a decade or more, there’s a different shift that’s taking place.

“Couples married 10-plus years are often in the thick of managing full and busy lives,” says Theresa DiDonato, an associate professor at Loyola University Maryland who specializes in romantic relationships. “They’re balancing careers, kids’ schedules and house work, and their marriage might feel like it’s running on automatic.”

Longtime couples would probably agree with what the research suggests: that the initial passion usually felt in the early stages of the relationship ends up later becoming less of a priority. Companionship becomes the driving force as well as a good prediction of relationship satisfaction over time, says DiDonato.

For Jennifer Heinlein, 49, of Baldwin, this focus on companionship is what keeps the spark burning bright in her marriage. Jennifer met her husband, John, in Fells Point while visiting Baltimore from Illinois with a friend.

Jennifer and John Heinlein

Fast-forward six months into dating long distance and an opportunity to work in Baltimore fell into Jennifer’s lap. She was applying for another job in Illinois, and during the interview, it was mentioned that the company was opening another branch in Baltimore. She scheduled an interview while visiting John for New Year’s Eve and was hired a few days later. “It was almost like it was just meant to be,” Jennifer says.

Twenty-six years later, Jennifer and John, 50, who work together at an asset management firm, are still happily married with a love she describes as feeling “just like home.”

And as they move closer to being empty-nesters, they are learning to settle into a different phase of their relationship. They are “almost re-creating their relationship,” Jennifer says. For her, that means finding things for them to do together that they both enjoy — going on walks, finding a new Netflix show to binge watch or simply sitting and drinking coffee together each Saturday morning, talking about their lives, their kids, their future.

This active pursuit of togetherness might be the right formula for lasting relationships in the midlife years, says DiDonato, who adds that igniting the romantic connection and companionship with special, shared experiences can help keep the spark alive.

“Think ‘date night’ with some intentional focus on an activity you both find exciting,” she says. “Research suggests that couples who share new and exciting activities can increase their relationship quality.”

This is true for Lisa. She says Michael has a knack for surprising her with exciting outings. “He’ll be the first one to turn off the television, pour glasses of wine and put on soft jazz.” She also notes that they are world travelers and enjoy the shared adventure of traveling at least once a year for three weeks.

They also value physical affection and credit this with staying connected. “We cuddle, hold hands, exchange adoring glances,” Lisa says.

Marly says that one of the most important ways she and her husband keep the spark alive after 25 years is by “being friends … and trying to spend meaningful time together, even if only watching TV.”

Angela adds: “Friendship is so important to me in this marriage because we are not 20, we are over 40, and this is the person I want to grow old with.”

But what about the midlifers who are still looking for someone to grow old with or simply date? Middle-aged singles might find that this period of life is a more satisfying time to date than in years past. The insecurities and uncertainties that mark so much of dating in one’s 20s and early 30s can lessen greatly in one’s 40s and 50s.

“Love and relationships are easier with age,” Marly says. “You are more comfortable with yourself, and you don’t have to pretend to be something you are not. If the person you are dating is not comfortable with who you are, you move on.”

Time is on your side when it comes to being a better and more seasoned dater, say many experts.

“As people get older, they collect wisdom and experience,” says Baltimore- based relationship coach Dave Elliott of Legendary Love for Life. “They learn from past mistakes and discover that things they used to worry about aren’t quite so scary. This changes how they interact every day and could increase their likelihood of creating a successful relationship.”

Lisa agrees: “I think as you get older, you realize that the time ahead is shorter than the time behind, so there’s an effort to make better decisions and be more intentional about avoiding unhealthy connections.”

With the heightened popularity of online dating in recent years, finding a long-term partner is much more convenient.

“Online dating is a great way for busy individuals to maximize their time because a dating profile is up and working 24/7 while you’re doing other things like working, sleeping, spending time with your kids, exercising or basically creating a life you love,” Elliott says. “It also maximizes your reach by discovering people you probably wouldn’t meet through proximity alone.”

With apps such as Bumble, Hinge and Tinder and online sites such as Match, eHarmony, PlentyOfFish and OkCupid, the possibilities are endless for finding a special someone online. And for the general love skeptics or those who feel discouraged about finding love again? Just know, it’s never too late for love.

“My grandmother lived to be 103, and even in her 90s — after her husband had passed away — she had a new relationship with a gentleman in his 80s,” Jennifer says. “People always want to have companionship.”

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