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Coupling

Moving pains

Combining households in your 50s is not a simple proposition

By Lloyd D. Benson
December 12, 2010

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When I met Pam last fall, I was 58 and had been unattached for almost 10 years. I had found some terrific women and had several very nice relationships since my divorce, but had come to accept the fact that I was never going to find the last and best love of my life. And, of course, my days would end with me living alone in my comfy, cozy, and familiar condo. Pam changed all that.

I knew immediately that she was different. Pam was smart, interesting, beautiful, and self-aware. At 56, she was incredibly comfortable in her own skin. We shared life’s important values. We were so different, yet so alike. Most of all she made me laugh. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with her, and for reasons unclear to me, she felt the same.

We lived only a few miles apart and spent a great deal of time together. We met each other’s kids and families and grew closer, and it became obvious to me that Pam was “the one” and that she would enrich my golden years beyond measure.

Then early this year, she asked out of the blue, “What do you think about living together?” It took me aback.

Having my own place had become intertwined with who I was. In a time of change, my home represented continuity and familiarity. Pam’s condo was too small for the both of us; mine was big enough, but my condo association wouldn’t allow dogs, and Pam wasn’t about to part with her 11-year-old chow, Muffin. So we’d have to find something new. The prospect scared me. I was comfortable. Things were going great. Was this necessary?

So, of course, I said, “I would love that.”

We found a nice, quaint spot almost right on the water – a shared passion of ours. Pam loved it. I liked it but worried that it only had one bathroom. I swallowed hard, and thus we began the process of consolidating two households into one.

My condo contained only things that I had picked out or that were given to me by loved ones. I adored everything in it. Pam assured me that she adored me, but that my furnishings were too guy-like. The stuff was tasteful, she said, simply not to her taste. She just couldn’t see much of it in our place. Pam also made compromises of her own, and those few things of hers that didn’t suit me also weren’t going to make it to our new home.

The process caused us to have our first real disagreements. It seemed that maybe we (or at least I) had each grown overly accustomed to our own single surroundings, and obstacles we had not foreseen were causing ripples in our peaceful pond of middle-aged bliss. It hurt to not be able to take all the belongings that I wanted. Or loved. And I told her so. And she told me back how much she appreciated the fact that I was giving up my beloved entertainment center. But where would we put it? And the colors of the new place weren’t really going to go well with all of my blues and beiges.

We laughed about much of this, but it was an irritant, and it was clear for each of us that our beloved surroundings were going to change. At times, irritation grew into more heated discussions. But we forged forward.

We bought some new furniture and things that we both liked. We stored some of our precious things so we would not have to part with them. Moving day came and went. Pam put the place together in her own unique way, always asking what I thought.

And then one day a few weeks after we had moved in, I found myself watching football on a Sunday afternoon in our new family room. I looked around. There was not much at all from my old place. It was a bit disconcerting, but not in a bad way. Muffin lay sleeping at my feet. I could hear Pam puttering around in the kitchen. I smiled to myself. I had never been happier. Or more content. Or felt so much at home.

Lloyd D. Benson is executive vice president of Schwartz Communications in Waltham and lives in Beverly. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.

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  • December 12, 2010 cover