Aging Gracefully (Or Not): Relationships

Aging Gracefully (Or Not): Relationships

Natalie Gelman

Relationships take on new meaning during midlife. In the past, friendships were maintained for historical reasons or expediency. Friendships from school that had been maintained are questioned as values and lifestyles change. Relationships that were formed around children’s activities and interests often diminish as we age. We begin to focus on people with common adult interests, values and beliefs.

Another dimension is the loss of relationships. As we get older, more people we know begin to die. Other relationships end by choice because there is no longer a desire to maintain a relationship for its own sake. This leads to a re-evaluation of marriages and friendships. And people are moving geographically more than ever, thus changing the nature of the contact. Creating a new friendship is not easy.

People with partners re-evaluate relationships as children leave home. Those who choose to stay cite an acceptance of differences and the interest to maintain their history together. Others decide that personal wants are jeopardized within the relationship and there is an unwillingness to accept it.

My Aunt Bess died and she was a powerful figure in the colorful family that once existed. That’s it — once existed. That generation is totally gone. It leaves me feeling disconnected and vulnerable and empty. I could not cry because it was too much. Too many people have died in the past six years. How often must I be reminded of my own mortality? How often must I be reminded that my history is gone? One more time I am left with my memories and less of the people who were in them.

I had a good friend ... we have drifted apart in the last year or two. She started drifting apart from me and I fought against it. It bothered me. We had a confrontation and we got back to where I wanted it to be. I feel the drifting again and I think it’s on my part this time and I don’t mind. We are going in different directions.

I have maintained one good relationship. But I have other very good acquaintances. I don’t have anything in common with many friends anymore, and I used to fight to maintain friendships. I wouldn’t let them go when they were finished and I think in my aging, I have seen that some things need to end. And it doesn’t mean that you have done anything; it’s just not there anymore.

Natalie Gelman can be contacted at drnataliegelman@gmail.com. Her web site is http://drnataliegelman.com.