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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Research over the last 20 years has provided an increased understanding of intimate relationships in later life; however, dating in later life remains largely unexplored. The purpose of this study was to examine the meanings of dating for women in later life.
In this study, dating was examined through semistructured, in-depth interviews with 14 women ages 64 to 77 who had all dated in later life. Themes that emerged from an interpretative phenomenological analysis included multiple meanings of dating in later life, how dating in later life compared to earlier points in life, and dating in the future. It is nearing two decades since Bulcroft and Bulcroft pointed out the dearth of information available on dating in later life. Although some research has been conducted in this area since the early s e.
What is lacking in the area of later-life relationship research is an understanding of the meaning of dating. The purpose of this qualitative study is to enhance our understanding of how older women view and experience dating, including the meanings of dating, how dating compares to earlier points in their lives, and their desire to date in the future. As recently asDickson and others pointed out the lack of information on older adults and dating, and in Family Ties and Aging Connidis,the author laments how little is known about the dating experiences of adults in later life.
The available research on dating tends to focus on the experiences of adolescents and young adults Dickson et al. In their groundbreaking examination of correlates of dating in later life, Bulcroft and Bulcroft found that the most ificant factors related to the likelihood of dating were gender and age—women were less likely to date than were men, and people were less likely to date as age increased. Factors that increased the likelihood of older adults dating were driving ability, single-family residence, comparative health, and organizational participation.
Specifically for women, health and mobility were the most ificant predictors of dating. One of the challenges when examining literature on dating in later life is that dating is often assumed to be a precursor to marriage and not a goal in and of itself. Studies that have specifically investigated dating in later life have found that ly married women largely enjoyed the company of men but did not desire remarriage Dickson et al.
This potential, or fear, of being put in a position of being taken advantage of Dickson et al. Despite concerns and reservations about dating, some women view dating in later life as very enjoyable and beneficial. Even with the potential negatives and fears that accompany dating, some women in later life choose to date. Another reason for dating is the pursuit of physical affection. One final area of investigation in regard to dating in later life is the connection with health and well-being. Given this finding, Bulcroft and Bulcroft hypothesized in a later study that dating would have positive implications for well-being, but the hypothesis was not supported in their research.
In fact, they found that when other variables were controlled, dating had a negative effect on happiness and no effect on depression. Similarly, Carr found that individuals who desired a new relationship and were dating reported fewer symptoms of depression, but the differences were erased when socioeconomic resources were controlled. Many researchers point out the need to explore dating in later life from the perspective of older individuals as opposed to making assumptions about their experiences based on what is known from other populations e.
While is it important to know what factors correlate with the likelihood to date and why people in later life date, a focus on the meanings of dating is critical in understanding the experiences of women who date in later life. The goals of this study are to increase our understanding of how women experience dating in later life, how their relationships provide context for their current goals and expectations, and how their desires for relationships may encourage dating in the future.
These goals also include an understanding of what dating means to these women and if the meaning has changed over time due to changing life experiences and expectations for the future and for themselves.
Study participants were recruited through word of mouth and flyers distributed by friends, family, and colleagues and posted at a retirement community in central Texas. Selection criteria included women between the ages of 65 and 80 who had dated in later life.
Following a phone call or e-mail from a potential participant, the first author contacted the woman and explained the project and asked her if she would be willing to discuss her relationships and sexual experiences. A follow-up letter, which provided preliminary interview questions, was sent to each participant prior to the interview so that each woman could give some thought to the topics prior to the face-to-face interview.
Participants in this study were 14 White, middle-class, heterosexual women who ranged in age from 64 to To protect the confidentiality of the participants, pseudonyms were ased. The sample consisted of 8 remarried women and 6 currently single women, all of whom had dated in later life. Of the 8 remarried women, 2 had experienced divorce Martha and Karenand 1 of these 2 women Karenas well as the other 6, were widows 2 were widowed twice.
Time spent single prior to current remarriage ranged from 6 months to 17 years. At the time of the interview, the length of current marriage ranged from 6 weeks to 5 years. Six of the women interviewed were currently single.
At the time of the interview, the length of time they had been single ranged from 4 years to 21 years. Prior to the interview, Betty, Anita, and Peggy had been involved in long-term, exclusive dating relationships. The open-ended interview addressed intimate relationships in later life, including dating experiences.
Consent forms were completed prior to the beginning of the interviews. This approach was chosen because of the attention it gives to individual meanings while also drawing tentative conclusions across interviews, thus tapping more broadly into the phenomena of study. The procedures of IPA entail many successive steps in abstracting themes from specific content, first for Adult sex dating 31 looking for company and ltr individual, and then across individuals.
For a more in-depth description of the analysis process, see Watson, Bell, and Stelle Understanding the meaning of dating in later life involves examining the experience of each woman as she navigates her personal process of dating. Dating had many meanings for these women. For some women, dating meant a pathway to remarriage, while for others, dating meant companionship and having fun without that level of commitment.
Dating was seen as an opportunity for physical intimacy with varying meanings for intimacy. It also meant having to confront fears, whether those fears stemmed from not having dated in a long time or from having heard negative stories from other women who had dated. Lastly, dating was viewed as a potential enhancement to already full and content lives. For four of the women, dating meant a precursor to remarriage.
Two remarried women Mary and Karen said they had been interested in dating for the purpose of remarriage, and in fact, were not particularly interested in dating if marriage was not a probable outcome. Two of the single women—Sue and Betty—dated with the goal of remarriage, or if remarriage was not the result, a committed companion. Sue was not uncomfortable being single, and she had not dated much in the past 5 years.
However, she missed having physical contact with a partner, having someone with whom she could do things, and the support that a partner would bring. Betty also missed having a partner and talked about her loneliness and desire for a companion. She wanted to find another partner like her second husband, but believed that the chances of this happening were doubtful. Therefore, marriage was unlikely, but she struggled with being alone and wanted a companion with whom to share her life.
These four were not particularly interested in dating to date; dating to them meant finding a long-term, committed partner, and preferably marriage. For the other women, dating did not mean a pathway to remarriage. In large part, dating entailed companionship and having fun. An acknowledgement that this is a couple-oriented world brought with it a desire to have a male partner with whom to have dinner out, go to movies, and to talk.
As illustrated by Peggy, it was nice having a male companion with whom to do things. It really is. Included in the desire for companionship and having fun was the belief that dating meant something different than participating in activities with other women. This was, in part, motivated by wanting to be appreciated as a woman.
For Carol, it was an opportunity to spend time with a man and to be appreciated as her own person again. I found it very exciting to be a person again rather than a wife, a widow, a mother. Another aspect of this meaning centered on the enjoyment of the company and conversation of men. The things that I enjoy, the computers and the investments and those kinds of things, are things that I enjoy talking with men about.
Dating also meant physical intimacy. The definition of physical intimacy, however, spanned the continuum from holding hands to sexual intercourse. Because they were single when dating and were all brought up with the belief that sex belongs within marriage, they struggled with thinking about sex outside of marriage. In later life, eight of the women—six who are remarried and two currently single—still espoused the belief that sex outside marriage was wrong.
However, Anita, one of the women who strongly held this belief, had sex with her most recent boyfriend, and she regretted this decision. Because these women believed that sexual intercourse belonged only within marriage, dating was not for sex. However, dating did mean physical connection in the form of holding hands, hugging, and kissing. The other six women—four single and two remarried—have changed in their beliefs regarding premarital intercourse over time as a result of their own life experiences.
Pam was not interested in sex at this point in her life, although she did say that she might consider it within the context of a committed relationship. For Fran, the idea of sexual intimacy with a man again did not seem realistic. She occasionally missed sex and thought that if she met a man she liked, it might be possible for her to enjoy sex again. She did not, however, think it would happen for her, and she was not worried or concerned if it did not.
Sue admitted that her ideas concerning sexual intimacy have changed with age. Within a long-term, loving relationship, Sue would enjoy an affectionate, sexual relationship. Sue would not have allowed herself to engage in this behavior when she was younger. Martha and Karen, both remarried, also talked of having changed their attitudes about sex as they aged.
Both of these women lived with their current husbands prior to remarriage, something neither would have considered when younger. Both are also surprised at how much they are enjoying the sexual component of their relationships, something that is different from relationships they have had as well.
Dating also meant facing fears. They had heard horror stories from their friends about negative dating experiences. Almost every woman interviewed had heard a story either from a friend about herself or about someone they knew who had been exploited by a dating partner.
Exploitation involved having money stolen, being pressured for sex, and being left feeling foolish after a relationship thought to be long-term turned out to be temporary. These women felt wary about putting themselves in a position of being vulnerable to this type of hurt. I just had heard nightmare stories, I guess.
Lastly, dating meant being open to possibilities, the notion of being content with life as isbut being open to the possibility that dating might also bring enjoyment to life—dating might enhance a good life. These were women who had constructed lives with which they were content.
They had friends and family and were busy with activities.Adult sex dating 31 looking for company and ltr
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