Negotiation and Development of New Intimate Relationships in Later Life

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Peter ÖBERG, University of Gavle, Sweden
Torbjörn BILDTGÅRD, University of Gavle, Sweden
Contemporary family theory proposes that late modern relationships are guided less by external norms and more by internal negotiation between equal partners. This insight is often lost in research about intimacy in later life. The purpose of this paper is to study the initiation and development of new intimate relationships in later life, with a special focus on negotiation and change. The study is based on relationship histories from qualitative interviews with 28 persons, 63–91 years, who have established a new intimate cross-gender relationship after the age of 60 or who are currently dating singles. Interviews were analyzed based on the principles of analytic induction. The results illustrate the paradox that while relationship ideals often seem fixed and unchangeable with regards to prospective life changes, actual relationship arrangements often appear very open and changeable when described in retrospect. LATs recall having been determined not to initiate any new relationships, cohabitants to retain their own home, remarried informants never to marry again. The analysis unveils the negotiations leading to relationship change, and the issues that typically have to be resolved. We discuss and question prevailing implicit assumptions about older people’s relationships as non-negotiated and unchangeable.