The “richness” of older love

If you know me well, you will know that I am fascinated by love – not just sex. Also that I am fascinated by love for its complexities and richness. While I enjoy hearing and telling stories about falling in love, I am more interested in stories about couples who have faced betrayals (and every relationship has betrayals, small or big), indignities, broken hearts, sadness – and then overcome them or even who have then fallen apart (it’s a fine distinction – when to stay and when to go).

I’m not sure why these stories interest me the most. I imagine that I, like most people, would like a roadmap to relationships. However, I have no illusions of learning to love from a "10 ways to make him fall in love with you" magazine article. Rather, I hope to learn that from older couples and older individuals who have been there and who have survived not just romances, but loves and heartbreaks. And then who have come to know love in a more rich or at least a more complex way than they did before. And so I have spent a lot of time with people much older than me – sometimes fifty years older, sometimes twenty or thirty years older, trying to learn more about how they respond to and learn from love. Even couples that are around my same age – I like to hear about the storms they have weathered, not just about their first kiss.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that this opener to a New York Times article, compassionately written by Kate Zernike, drew me in immediately:

Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s husband, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, has a romance with another woman, and the former justice is thrilled — even visits with the new couple while they hold hands on the porch swing — because it is a relief to see her husband of 55 years so content.

Read the full article here.

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About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at