What about people who’ve been married multiple times? Do they see this as failure and throw in the towel? Do they privately fear, as I do, 'I’m just not good at relationships—I lack the gene?' Or do they acquire knowledge and skills that make later relationships more fulfilling?
I explored this and other questions about love after 50 in my book Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives? I wrote about my friend, Joan Borysenko, the spiritual teacher and author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, who’d just divorced her third husband when we met. Shortly after, she began telling friends that she was getting married for the fourth time to Gordon Dveirin, an organizational psychologist who’d also been married three times before.
The women’s posse mobilized. They cornered her and said, “What the hell are you doing? I’m sure he’s terrific, but you said good things about your other husbands at the beginning.” None of them had met Gordon, but that was irrelevant; they were upset at what they considered the delusion of taking vows she’d already broken three times.
Joan and Gordon, who were 57 and 59 respectively, had to ask the question themselves: Why is this wedding different from all our other weddings? They’d both felt instant sparks—physically, mentally, and spiritually—when they ran into each other at the general store in Gold Hill, Colorado. They seemed well matched. They began teaching and writing together and their latest book, Your Soul’s Compass, was just published.
They decided that what would be different about a fourth wedding was them. “We’re mature individuals who’ve learned a lot and know who we are,” Joan says. “When I was younger, I couldn’t have articulated the vows I want to take. This time I will vow with my whole heart: 'I will walk the rest of the way with you. I will walk into the mystery with you. I know there will be difficult times, and I vow to see them as grist for the mill.'”
Joan knows—as do the other women—that infatuation burns out and deeper affinities must rise. “At first it’s like you’re drugged,” she says. “You have seen the promised land. You can’t sustain that bliss forever, but after four years, we’re still in it a lot of the time.” She says they’ve cultivated ways to return to that state.
"How?" I ask.
“Being in nature together, sharing spiritual practice, creating together—like writing or designing a garden, when all of a sudden ideas are flowing and you’re in that magical space.”
She says what’s different about love when you’re older “is that we’re so damned grateful. I’m even grateful for my previous marriages—I don’t consider any of them failures—because you get honed in the process. They readied me for this.”