(June 8, 2015 / JNS) By Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org
“He asked if he could give me a ride home. I told him my door was less than a block away and I would be walking. He said he would give me a ride anyway.”
So begins the story of Alan and Sharon Poisner, who were married last October. Alan, 80, and Sharon, a few years his junior, weren’t looking for marriage. But a chance meeting at a discussion group hosted at the Village Shalom retirement community in Overland Park, Kan., where the couple now lives, brought them together.
“I invited him in for tea when he brought me to the door. I said to him then, ‘I am not interested in remarriage, I am not interested in dating or a relationship. I moved into this villa with a one car garage. I am only interested in good company,’” Sharon recalls.
“The tea was really good,” Alan says with a wide grin, his eyes focused on his new wife. The two giggle like the newlyweds they are.
The Poisners have both been married before; Alan lost his wife of 50 years in 2013. As the couple learned more about each other, they found that they had been living parallel lives. Their homes were blocks from one another, and at one point their sons were in the same Boy Scout troop. They both enjoy learning, travel, and exercise. They even subscribe to the same journals.
“I admit I wanted a companion, but I wasn’t looking to get married,” says Alan. “It became inevitable. We just fit perfectly.”
“His brain fascinated me and his humor tickled my funny bone,” Sharon says, poking her husband’s side lightly and lovingly with her elbow.
Since moving into the one-car-garage villa, the couple is thriving. They say they each had successful marriages and brought the positives into their new union. They also learned a lot about themselves and marriage from those original relationships, knowledge that informs their current one. They describe themselves as “flexible,” which they say alleviates any potential “stuck in my way” tension that could arise when two people who are up in age come together.
“‘Live, love, laugh’ is our motto. We each had that same motto on a plaque before we met,” Alan says. “It has just been easy and fun.”
The Poisners’ situation is neither common nor particularly uncommon. According to “Remarriage in the United States,” a 2006 report published by the U.S. Census Bureau, an average of 35.9 percent of marriages annually are between couples in which at least one spouse is remarried. Among men and women who married for the second or third time, 91 percent were remarrying after being divorced, and 9 percent were remarrying after being widowed. But only about 3 percent of men over the age of 65 (and 1 percent of women) tend to remarry.
Chana Rachel Frumin, a narrative therapy marriage counselor based in Mevo Modi’in, Israel, says second marriages or those between senior citizens tend to be “friendship marriages.”
“In a friendship marriage we explore the qualities of those people around with whom we are the happiest and most comfortable,” Frumin explains. “When we have a list of four qualities we see throughout our friendships, we look for a date where three out of four of those qualities are on the list.”
Frumin says that in her estimation the most “worthwhile” marriages are friendship marriages, in which couples can live as friends and see in each other the qualities they love to be around.
“They bring out the best in you,” she says.
Don Sherman, a resident at Weinberg Village in Owings Mills, Md., has not chosen to remarry, but he did find love later in life following the death of his wife in 1996. Now 80, Sherman has been with companion Dora Ordman for 20 years.
Sherman says that after his wife’s passing, and after he recovered from several intense illnesses, he began a grieving process from which he was struggling to emerge. Ultimately, he joined a grievance counseling group through the Jewish Community Services agency. There, he saw Ordman, whom he had known through her husband for several years. They cried together, realizing how much they were both suffering. They started spending more time together. Today, they live in the same Weinberg Village building. Sherman is on the third floor and Ordman is on the fourth.
“We had become friends, and now she is my companion,” says Sherman. “I love her dearly and she is fond of me.”
While the couple does not plan to tie the knot, Sherman says that at least finding love later in life is a path he would recommend to anyone who loses a spouse.
“Find a love,” says Sherman. “Love, and that feeling it brings—and that is individual for everyone—it is important to life.…I know what it is to grieve. I was in a deep emotional funk for almost two years. Then, Dora came into my life and things started to change.”
He adds, “You know, I have developed a philosophy: If you cannot fix it, forget it. None of us lives forever.…When I am feeling bad, in my mind I go to a happy place. My place is with Dora.”