Photo: Quavondo Nguyen
My mother met the love of her life when she was 84. A widow for nine years, she spotted Harold Lapidus, a retired doctor, standing alone at a bridge club. She asked if he wanted to play, and they became inseparable.
“He’s a younger man,” she told me.
“How young?” I asked.
“Oh...,” she said. “I think he’s 80.”
They’re still devoted to each other as my mother moves into her 90s, which fills me with awe. But do I have to wait that long?
I’ve been unattached for seven years and have become very good at it. I love my house, my work, and my kids, and every day I’m grateful for good health and what I see as a fortunate life. But sometimes I ache for a partner to check in with, talk, snuggle, and grow spiritually with. I’m afraid that in my 60s, after two divorces, such love may be behind me, as the pickings get slimmer every year. When I go to parties or events, there are 13 single women and one single guy, and he’s usually gay.
This depresses me, and I wonder if my mother’s experience was a fluke. But during the past month, I’ve talked to a dozen women, ranging from their late 40s to their 90s, who’ve found deep love—a soul mate—long after they thought that was possible.
Ellen Burstyn was alone for 25 years before she fell in love, at 71, with the man with whom she now lives, who is 23 years younger. Jane Fonda, 69, recently started a relationship with Lynden Gillis, 75, a retired management consultant, and wants to make a “sexy erotic movie about people over 70.”
As I listened to these stories, I felt...hope. And I wanted to explore whether this kind of love happens because of luck, karma, or accident, or if there are interior changes one can make or steps one can take to connect with a partner at any age.
What surprised me was that the women’s stories were remarkably similar. All had been afraid they were too old. They all relished their independence and had come to terms with the fact that they might never find another mate. At the same time, they’d done inner work that enabled them to feel worthy of love, ready to accept a man as he is and be accepted unconditionally by him.
Most see their relationship as a spiritual practice, an opportunity to work on hurtful patterns and expand their capacity to forgive. There’s less drama, they report, and more peace. Each woman feels her current partner is her beshert—Yiddish for “destined mate”—and that all her experiences, past relationships, and heartbreak were necessary to prepare her for this union.