COUPLES or MATES


Our hope is to help couples or mates get their lives in sync so that each person, and both as an unit, can thoroughly benefit from and enjoy their second lives.

In How to Plan a Great Second Life, Gordon talks about creating a dream list of things to do and areas in which to grow during our second lives, then describes in Chapter 11 ("When second life dreams are shared, some sifting and sorting is required...") a key step that helps couples or mates get a toehold on their collective planning. (That concept is further developed in the rest of the book.) The opening section of that chapter captures our thinking at this webset, so let's share it here:

      It's a double blessing having a partner, companion, or mate with whom you share your future.
     There's the companionship, of course--maybe even love!
     And there's the planning, which can be a source of great fun and mutual accomplishment. It will also be a challenge!
     Our task in this chapter is to remove the negative aspects of that challenge by clearly identifying which dreams are singular and belong overwhelmingly to the dreamer and which either overlap with the other person or are wholly shared by them.
     Something else important happens when you start comparing and merging shared dreams--you get to really talk with your mate about things that matter. Life-creating and life-confirming things.

To read the entire, short chapter, link here or at the directory below.

In a nutshell, the chapter then shows how each person individually develops his own Dream List, they bring both lists together for comparison, and they then identify the things they want to do as a couple and what each wants to do independently. Identifying and acknowledging the latter allows each to support the others' uniqueness and personal growth. And giving form to the area of mutual interest gives greater focus to the shared bonds they want to strengthen and enjoy together.

Once a rough action plan is created (open, of course, to continual expansion and change), they then have a desired core that helps them prioritize their plans, put them into time slots when the activities are best enjoyed, factor health concerns into those time slots, and allocate their financial resources to realizing those future plans.

A directory helps us keep track of what this section contains:
 
 

What did I say in my BOOK about couples working together to create an equally Super Second Life?
This is Chapter 11, written in the last days of 1999.
COUPLES/
MATES
I also speak about this topic...
A great spousal program. SPEAKING
NEW INFORMATION from the Super Second Life Newsletter

9/1/02: We promise not to tell.

So you’re bunkin’ in with a buddy of the opposite sex without recourse to marriage! Join the crowd!

“There aren’t many trends where grandparents are imitating their grandchildren, but cohabitation is one of them,” says Dorion Solot, co-founder of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a Boston-based advocacy group.

The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey shows about 203,000 households contain just two unrelated adults, a man and woman, at least one of whom is 65 or older. Theirs could be a loving relationship or they could simply be friends. That number is up 60% from 1990 and 71% since 1980. And it’s higher for the Boomers: there are 964,000 unmarried twosomes aged 45-64, three times higher than in 1990 and four times the total in 1980.

Why? Bad experiences in earlier marriages, the desire to keep finances separate, too much hassle, seeing if it “works”?

University of Michigan’s sociologist Pamela Schmock believes that the number is even greater and will increase because people are living longer, social mores are changing, “and the older population is somewhat more hesitant to even admit living together.”

It does bring up the problem of what to call grandpa’s live-in girlfriend since “Grandma” won’t do. I guess the grandkids would have to call her by her name.

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7/1/02: Do You Really Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

Here’s an excellent article I’m importing almost word-for-word from the July, 2002 seniorsresource.com newsletter. It is by Candice Collins Lagnado, a Superior Court Family Law Facilitator in California. (California is a community property state so regulations that apply may not be the same in your state, even if it is also a community property state. Consultation with a lawyer in your state is, of course, always a good idea.)

Points made by Lagnado should be a starting point for discussions if an impending marriage raises the issue of a prenuptial agreement. You might start by checking http//www.seniorresource.com/states.htm. The article follows:

Many senior citizens marrying much later in life ask about Prenuptial Agreements. More often than not such documents are not necessary.

The following information is for Californians who are marrying after retirement, who no longer work, but have income. Many people do not understand the concepts of separate property and community property and based upon these misconceptions believe that they need a prenuptial
agreement.

Community property is property acquired during the marriage. Separate property is property acquired before the marriage, property acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage or property acquired after date of separation.

The people I am referring to do not work; they are retired. They have income, but they do not expend efforts to obtain this income. Efforts during a marriage are considered to be community property. And, payments for efforts during a marriage will be community property. Further, assets purchased with these funds will also be community property.

Senior citizens who marry after retirement do not usually expend efforts or work thereby creating payments that are community property. Income received by these spouses is income received from their separate property assets—assets they had prior to marriage. If these monies are placed
into checking accounts or saving accounts in that person’s name and not in both spouses’ names, the monies will remain separate property.

Further, property takes on the character of the funds used to purchase or acquire it. For example, if during the marriage the husband takes monies he received from interest and dividends from his stock portfolio he had prior to marriage to purchase a vacation condominium in Palm Springs, that condo is his separate property. If during the marriage the wife takes monies she received from an inheritance from her favorite aunt and buys a house, that house is her separate property.

The trick to maintaining the separate nature of your separate property is to keep it separate. If you purchase that condo during the marriage with the interest and/or dividends you receive from your stock portfolio, keep the condo in your name. Spouses sometimes "transmute" separate property to community property by putting title of the asset in both spouses’ names. The house will remain separate property if the wife listed above puts the house in her name only, or in her name and the names of her children, or in her name and the names of her grandchildren.

How does this couple deal with their mutual living expenses? I recommend that they set up one checking account in both of their names, a joint account. They each deposit monies from their separate accounts into this joint account and pay their joint living expenses from this account.  They may wish to deposit funds into that joint account in a pro rata share. In other words, the person with the larger separate property income will provide a larger share into the joint account.  If Husband has an income from his separate property of $10,000 per month and Wife has an income of $4,000 per month from her separate property assets, Husband could deposit $2,000 and Wife could deposit $800 each month into the joint account. Thus, they would have $2,800 to use for their living expenses each month. This joint account is kept for mutual living expenses.  To the extent that there is more than what is necessary, cut back on the amount each party deposits into the account. Remember that mutual living expenses include groceries, utilities, cable TV, eating out, entertainment, vacations, gifts for friends and relatives that come from both of you, and other items you wish to share.

The husband’s other $8,000 per month and Wife’s other $3,200 per month from our scenario above are used to maintain the separate property character of his/her separate property assets. Wife’s house which the spouses live in has a mortgage payment of $1,200 per month. Wife pays
that $1,200 from her separate property accounts to maintain the separate property character of her house. She also pays the property taxes on the house and any maintenance and/or repairs on the house from her separate property accounts. Again, keep the separate property separate. Because Husband would ordinarily have to pay rent or a mortgage payment for a residence, Wife being solely responsible for payments on her house further supports the difference in their contributions to their joint account as set forth above.

If the husband buys the condo mentioned above and makes a down payment with his separate property funds, he will want to make any payments on that condo also from his separate property funds. If he rents the condo to others, he should deposit this income back into the separate account maintained for the condo.

If you keep your separate property separate, you probably will not need a prenuptial agreement. Every case is different and should be judged on its unique facts. Do not assume that you need a prenuptial agreement. Consult an attorney who has experience with such agreements.
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3/1/02: How long do marriages last?

To our kids with a wild assortment of friends who have parents, half-parents, almost parents, and ex-parents, marriage must seem to have the permanence of the six-day measles. Those of us with true vintage have also seen a lot of social accommodation (“slippage”) in marital relationships. Remember when “divorce” was whispered, along with “TB” and “a prison record…?”

So a “recent” (1996) report from the U.S. Census is somewhat surprising. According to the latest figures available, 44% of the men and 42% of the women age 15 and over have gone down the aisle just once and are still with the same partner.

The report’s co-author, Rose Kreider, said in a recent U.S.A. Today, that 90% of all Americans will marry, and half of those will end in divorce. Of those divorcing, the median length (half being shorter, half longer) is eight years. The median point before that first-time divorced person remarries is three years, and the midpoint of a second marriage that ends in divorce is seven.

Incidentally, an odd but interesting, related topic: who dumps who, from a romance or relationship? The consensus seems to be that guys rack up the numbers in their 20s, but the tide turns to women in their 30s, who want to get on with their lives and grow impatient with a foot dragger and the process. A couple of months and no clear vision of a wanted future together, and he’s dead meat.

Dumping happens at any age. (For the marrieds, it’s called divorce.) One site will do the dumping for you by e-mail: http://www.wasniceknowingyou.com. If you’ve been dumped, consider getting a kit from http://www.dumpkit.com, complete with a voodoo doll and a pin. Or do you want to commiserate with others who have been canned? Hurry to http://www.soyouvebeendumped.com.
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10/1: Part 6 (of 7) - A new help sheet for couples planning to enjoy their Super Second Lives together!

You may be interested in a new page from my Mates/Spouses: How to Create Your Own Super Second Life Together workbook first used at the mid-September American Public Works Association Convention in Philadelphia.

We had a limited time to explore the process of couples planning together to enjoy and fully use their gift 30 years, and most of the participants were one half of a pair, so I created this seven-step sheet that explains in orderly detail one process (alas, mine from my book) by which that planning can be done.

If you’ve been following the Super Second Life planning process these past seven issues (concluding with the Check-Off Chart mentioned in this newsletter), you will be familiar with the terms and rationale. If not, you may wish to visit http://www.super-second-life.com/6-partplan.htm to both understand how spousal planning differs and to see where the book’s forms and charts are hiding at the website for your free (downloading and) use.

The process starts with a two-person mini-retreat, which can be as extravagant as a week in Hong Kong or Rio or as modest as a quiet escape for a couple of hours to the park or a back booth at Straw Hat Pizza. The purpose is straightforward. Helping the two of you create your own plan for fun, rewarding years together is built around two realities: (1) you share some dreams, plans, and interests in common that you want to do together, and (2) each of you are bright, active, but different people who have things you would like to do independently, but with the support and approval of the other. The process acknowledges and supports both realities, and is further buttressed by the fact that you create that new, future life together, the product of sharing, comparing, developing, refining, and mutual encouragement.

A closing concern was suggested by a wary city engineer from a cowboy state. He said that he was afraid to get started with this on the long-shot that his wife wouldn’t want to spend those 30 years with him. A woman seated across from him asked, “Just when do you want to find that out, now or in 20 years?” The consensus: 20 minutes of a bad marriage is too long, but even the most exhausted, least communicative relationship has a way of springing back once the participants are talking to each other and seeking a positive future. Couples planning always takes courage, but it’s easier when it’s done around a process that both understand and the goals are mutually desired.

If interested, courageously start with this information at http://www.super-second-life.com/spousalplansheet.htm.
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8/15: Part 5 (of 7)—Planning our own Super Second Life: MATES AND SPOUSES

As the quick outline below shows, we’ve already read an overview about Super Second Life planning, then looked at two areas of immediate concern at any stage of life, finances and health. In the last issue we discussed a key tool, the Dream List, which will help us create the kind of life we want after, say, 50.

Here we ask “How can a spouse and I design a shared future life that each will enthusiastically embrace, one built around mutual dreams but that still preserves each person’s individuality?” That’s a tall task, even for short mates.

Of all the things I discuss in my workshops and speeches, nothing provokes more stress, no path is more lined with eggs, than suggesting that a couple sit and plan their future. The initial problems are threefold: (1) they say they have already done that, (2) but they haven’t really discussed much of real significance beyond their kids and the occasional crisis for years, and (3) they have no tools for such a discussion, which I hear as having no protocol nor any idea about how one plans a future, with all its uncertainties and vagueness.

I’m going to send you to Chapter 11 (“When Super Second Life Dreams are Shared, Some Sifting and Sorting is Required”) at the website in a minute (which includes parts of two related chapters from How to Plan a Great Second Life,) to see a kind of protocol, and suggest that this seven-part series and the book (with additional website information) provide an abundance of ideas about what couples might talk about and do with their shared Second Lives. But first let’s look at (1) and (2) above.

When couples say (in 1) they have already planned for the future (as a reason for doing nothing more), I suggest we put those plans down on paper. That usually stops at “retire.” Sometimes they add golf or fish, see the kids, garden, or fix that old Jeep. “For 30 years?” I ask.

In truth, most people don’t really plan their first lives, beyond their immediate necessities. They slide from school to a job to marriage to kids to… Me too. What stops 90% of us is the question, “What will your kids (and grandkids) say that you did after you didn’t have to work to eat that you thoroughly enjoyed and was valuable to others and your society?” (That is, if kids could ask such a convoluted question!)

More important, since we and our spouses aren’t fused at the hip, what can we do together and what can each of us do individually that we will be proud of and will give greater meaning to our lives and others’? If we were 97, that might be a high expectation. But most retire at 57 full of knowledge, skills, experiences, vigor, and spit. And their mates are just as dynamic.

The greatest fears seem to lie in (2). The couples have really stopped talking. They can finish each other’s sentences; why uncork the courage to try new dialogs? They can speak in one voice to their children and, finally, to their parents. But they can hardly talk to each other. That’s why I particularly like Super Second Life Planning because it is a new topic, it takes two to make it work together, and the Dream List provides an easy starting tool.

I see other causes of trepidation. Many couples are tired of each other and of the rut, the bills, and the lost hope. They are moving in different directions at different speeds. The man is slowing down and hoping to nest. The woman is speeding up, at last kid-free, and often eager to explode in the world the man is fleeing. So talking about the future is a boiling caldron in which wary eyes see conflict, despair, an empty home without kids, the bubbles of unresolved conflict, and the very real possibility that the thinnest egg of all will have to be walked upon: DIVORCE. (If that’s an issue, then often a trained, third-person conciliator is a wise decision.) As we’ve said before, around 50 life pulls us across a bridge, ready or not. We must simply ask ourselves, and our spouse, “What kind of a life do we want for the next 30 years?” Then we must collectively (or individually, alas) find the tools and energy to make that life happen.

In a nutshell, the information I’m sending you to will acknowledge that each half of a pair has the right to dream, then enjoy a Super Second Life. To define that, they must start with their own Dream List. Then the couple compares their lists, further defines them, and divides them into three piles: our dreams, my dreams, and your dreams.

The strength of this process is that, if the couple can accept the truth of the dreams (and hopes) expressed, those dreams will define where the mates can build together and where each needs the other’s approval and support to grow individually. All that remains, then, is later apportioning the funds to make those dreams happen, then committing them to actual Action Plans.

This process is given flesh at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap11couples.htm.
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7/1: Marriage can be a sticky business when it comes to second life planning.

Many of us have already been divorced (or widowed), some repeatedly, by the time we’re in the critical 45-60 period. Some are well into double digits of connubial bliss—and are likely to enjoy their extra years enjoined. Some are single, temporarily or resolutely forever. And many are wavering, wondering what it would be like without the “other half,” especially since the kids are no longer the union glue.

Some of the conclusions of the just held “Smart Marriages: Happy Families” conference in Orlando, sponsored by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE), will both encourage and irritate.

All agreed that abusive marriages shouldn’t be endured or preserved.

But from 55-60% of the divorces occur in low-conflict marriages, which authors of a 20-year study called “good enough marriages” that they might well be salvaged, particularly if children are involved. Sociologist Paul Amato, of Penn State, who wrote the study, says “We should lower the divorce rate not by restricting access to divorce, but by strengthening marriages.”

Stephanie Coontz, of the Council of Contemporary Families, disagrees. “It is so obvious that if you can work your marriage out, it is an investment worth doing for yourself and the kids. But at what point does intense unhappiness for the parents get balanced out by a vastly increased chance of success for the kids?”

Another interesting statistic comes from University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, author of The Case for Marriage. She says that couples who rank in the lowest percentile on marital satisfaction but who don’t divorce often say that they are very happy five years later, while those who divorce do not. She says that “if you’re playing the odds in favor of happiness, staying married is the best bet.”

In a related article in the June 21 USA Today, a new finding in contradiction to earlier research finds women more affected physically by marital stress and arguments than men. More information about this will appear in the revised edition of Fighting for Your Marriage, by Scott Stanley, Howard Markman, and Susan Blumberg, due this fall from Jossey-Bass.

More information about marriage education skills can be found at http://www.smartmarriages.com.
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6/1: How do you keep your “marriage” in tune (or intact) for 30 extra years?

This subject brings the most laughs when I speak to groups and associations about Super Second Life planning. It’s also the most sensitive topic when the core of attendees are in their late 40s or 50s, because too many of them are appalled at the prospect.

[A quick explanation: these are usually breakout sessions where the married or seriously committed folks (gays included) attend by choice, so we don’t address the also sensitive issues of older singles, widowhood, or later-life dating or mating.]

I’m only beginning to share the limited information I’m finding on this topic, in part because the website is so new. Starter info is (on this page). I will steadily add to this site because both the topic is critical and companionship and/or close friends are vital elements to a longer, happier second life.

(The short chapter in my book, linked above, ... offers at least one way to do some preliminary future planning. (If you wish, copy the pages and use the steps and charts.) What do I like best about the exercise? It gets both people in the relationship actually talking about something important that they share in common: their future. That may be the single most important step of all, to do something proactive together…
 
 

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Gordon Burgett
gordon@super-second-life.com
(800) 563-1454