Keeping Relationships Fresh

A woman named Thea wrote: "I've been reading your newsletters for a long time, and have been real curious, wondering about you and your partner Greta. I hope you don't mind your readers asking personal questions but you put your personal life out there so I'm thinking it's ok.

"You write that you had three divorces. I did too. You and Greta have been together for 12 years. That's great. It seems to be working out this time. I'm wondering how this relationship goes? Do you live together or have separate homes?"

As a columnist writing about love and romance for the 50-70 age group, I've often "put my personal life out there." I responded to Thea: "I don't mind that you ask, and for this column, Greta doesn't mind either, since her input is included. We both feel the key to our happiness is setting goals together to keep the relationship fresh and fit.

A little background is in order. We dated for three years before living together. We've been under the same roof for nine years. I still own my home, which I rent out.

We share expenses on most everything, which allows us to enjoy activities and travel as much as possible. Our perspective on travel: go as often as we can while we are physically able to do so.

We just returned from a month-long trip to Europe. One of the unexpected results of the trip was we came back more physically fit than when we left. The reason: we walked on most days, often up to four or five miles, exploring the countries we visited. I actually lost two pounds, while Greta maintained her weight.

To help keep the relationship fresh-and ourselves fit-we've decided to change our behavior compared to before the trip by setting a walking goal together. At least five days a week, we are strolling on the beach at 6 a.m. for up to an hour.

Greta says, "This will help us maintain the fitness momentum we gained in Europe. Plus, it gives us more time to communicate together, another goal our trip helped us to regenerate."

On a recent morning, when we set out from the San Clemente Pier, there was a fresh message carved into the damp sand that read: "Thank you, God. Kirk." We had no idea who Kirk was, maybe a young surfer; there are several braving the water at that time of the morning.

We looked at each other, took each other's hand, and said, "Isn't that the truth? How fortunate we are to be enjoying this beautiful Pacific Ocean with the fresh air early in the morning."

Another way we keep the relationship fit is by surprising each other and treating the other to dates. Greta says, "Saturday, I'm treating and surprising Tom to a movie and dinner at the new movie theatre in San Juan Capistrano that is opening in a historical building near the train station that previously housed a theatre.

"And Tom surprised me the night we returned from Europe by bringing roses from our garden and placing then on the kitchen table in a vase. Small gestures like that help to keep the relationship fresh."

We both agree that having separate interests is also vital to relationship health. Even though Greta is retired from 31 years of teaching, she keeps active by volunteering and supporting charities, as well as by taking acting classes at Saddleback College.

I have my writing, but my day job is looking after Tutor and Spunky's, the Dana Point deli I founded 23 years ago. It's kind of a local Cheers type place that keeps me involved with people (www.tutorandspunkys.com).

Another relationship freshener: we are flexible, both willing to adjust our schedules to suit the needs of the other person. We have a great life that is blessed in so many ways.

So, Thea, that's how our relationship goes; we are grateful for each other and take nothing for granted.

© 2010, Tom Blake

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Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and in Chicago. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His second book is Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do. His latest book is titled How 50 Couples Found Love after 50. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com or E-Mail.

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