(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)
The trend in marriage for women after 50 is to avoid it. One in three boomers is unmarried, and of that number, 58 percent are divorced and 32 percent were never married, according to an analysis of 2009 data by the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University. But with the economy the way it is (not great) and with many of us having to continue working instead of enjoying that once dreamed about early retirement, marriage might not be such a bad idea — for economic reasons.
Not to dis' romantic love, but it turns out there are other reasons to get hitched. Just like in the days of the dowry or like arranged marriages in faraway lands, it's okay to marry for — dare I say it? — money.
(MORE: 5 Marriage Rules You Can Break)
I first heard what some might consider a blatant rejection of "true-love marriage" at a wedding some 10 years past. I was with my date during the reception when my friend, the bride, introduced us to a couple she knew. When the woman found out we'd been dating for a few years and had no plans to marry, she said, "Why not? It makes financial sense. You can marry him for his insurance."
Through my audible gasp, she must have heard what I thought: I couldn't marry if it wasn't for love! I rapidly ushered my date away from this odd couple and over toward the wine.
Despite the big gulp, the idea of marrying for insurance stayed with me as the years progressed — income from an earlier divorce settlement dropped to zero and freelance work didn't make up the difference.
Here are four reasons to consider marrying for the money after age 50:
Reason No. 1: Marry For the Hospital Visits
The discussion came up again recently when my then-date, now fiancé, told me about a couple he knew who'd married so she could visit him in the hospital. Apparently, a bitter family member wouldn't add her to the list of visitors. They were engaged, anyway, so just married earlier than planned, right there at his bedside.
Tina Tessina, author and psychotherapist, says being married is not only the easiest way to be allowed to visit your partner in a hospital, but it also gives you the right to make health decisions should your partner be unable to.
"A Durable Power of Attorney can help, but a marriage partner is usually recognized with no fuss," before hospital management or hospital boards have to intervene, she says.
Reason No. 2: Say 'Yes' to the Insurance
And then there was us. My fiancé and I. One day while discussing a health concern of mine, he just blurted out, "We should just get married now. You can get on my insurance." Ahhhhh. Even though the thought still knocked a gash in what I consider a lovely tradition, I'm now actually considering it.
When I posed the thought to friends on Facebook, one of them sent me a private message. His response was like mine, initially: "I can't imagine not marrying for love."
Reason No. 3: It Makes Dollars and Sense
Ramani Durvasula, a Los Angeles psychologist who works largely with couples in relationship turmoil, says marrying for economic reasons is not a bad idea. Marriage, she says, is a utilitarian institution that our culture has over-romanticized. Issues like insurance, retirement income, household expenses and even shared Social Security benefits are all important, valid concerns.
"Most of the marital distress I see is a result of skewed expectations not being met," she says, and marrying for reasons other than love — very specific reasons, including financial — can set the bar clear, making room for a better managed life.
"Obviously, factors such as communication, connection, and intimacy all matter," she adds, "and perhaps love is the willingness to realize your partner needs support and resources."
Reason No. 4: Sometimes, Meeting the Status Quo Makes Things Easier
Committed older partners, says Durvasula, may decide it makes sense to work within a system they don't agree with, because "our institutional structures are set up to incentivize marriage."
That's what happened with Boston-based C. Kaye Lowe and her life partner of 25 years. The boomer-aged couple has been married for six years and that's only because Lowe finally relented to her Jewish mother's wishes and her stepfather's admonition.
"My stepfather's an attorney, and he made it seem practical," she says, beyond just sharing living expenses, which they'd already been doing for 19 years.
"I married him for his Social Security," she acknowledges, "not the tax benefit." (Though they get that, too.)
Unlike what her mother wanted — the big wedding and the big celebration afterward — Lowe says her groom was shy and didn't want to be on display, so they kept it simple.
"We were married by a justice of the peace and went to the Four Seasons afterward for lunch," she says. She let her mother, however, handle the bridal shower beforehand, so there was a party and there were presents.
Ask her if it's worth it, and she says, "For us, it made sense."
In short, there's more to marriage after 50 than love. There are health concerns, after-life plans to make and retirement. Plus, it's cheaper to finance one household, rather than two.
A word of caution: Marrying for money won't fix a bad relationship.
Tessina, a.k.a. "Dr. Romance" and the Chief Romance Officer at LoveForever.com, says marrying for money might make sense, but don't expect it, or any other financial reason, to make your relationship better.
"If there's a reason to be insured, for example, one partner doesn't work, or you have children together, then getting married to be able to be a beneficiary on a life insurance policy may be a good idea. But only if your relationship is doing OK," she says.
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