Over 40—And Ready For Love?

These real-life couples prove it’s never too late to find a love that lasts

By Mark Amundsen

t’s never too late in life to find true love. We have been told many times that the early bird catches the worm, but let’s face it — who the heck wants worms?

“Finding love in later life is easier in many ways,” says Dorothea Hover-Kramer, Ed.D., author of Second Chance at Your Dream. “We baby boomer women are hopefully much more confident and aware of the kind of person we seek, and we’re much less likely to be fooled by someone’s looks. How a man looks after 40 is a reflection of his lifestyle, not just his nature-given gifts.
The couple hit it off so well, they broke their vows to never marry again.
This means the outcomes of behavioral patterns are much more visible. Instead of looking for a prince charming, be the person you were meant to be and know that this will create an attracting energy.”

As the following stories illustrate, love past 40 — or 50, and so on — is no myth. The secret is not to count the years but to make the years count.

Getting Past the Past
Susan Elliott and her husband-to-be, Michael, were both single parents, had both been married before and had been in long-term relationships, and both had had enough of drama and game-playing. “We each decided we would rather be alone than deal with any kind of craziness in relationships,” says Susan, of Warwick, NY. “We both worked, took care of our kids, enjoyed our friends, interests and hobbies. In other words we were living fairly fulfilled lives and dating sporadically. Neither one of us really had any hope for meeting anyone or having a serious relationship.” Susan was 39, and Michael, 46.

“When we met, it really was an almost instant click,” Susan says. “We both had a good sense of humor, we joked around a lot, we had our priorities in order, and we each liked the way the other one was responsible about jobs and children, and we shared similar horror stories about exes.” In a sort of reverse of the Brady Bunch, Susan was bringing up boys and Michael was raising girls.

The couple hit it off so well, in fact, that they broke their vows to never marry again so they could exchange vows in November 1996, just five months after they met. Susan had turned 40 four days earlier.

Susan’s divorce in 1987 had been so devastating — and her marriage to Michael so joyful — that she wrote a book entitled Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You. As she explains, “I would not have been able to write the book without my relationship with Michael. As I said in the book, we have been true partners in life and love.”

These powerful bonds, however, have not prevented tragedy from striking. “Michael is now ill with cancer,” says Susan, “and the hospice nurse told me just this morning she’s met few wives as devoted as I am. In 13 years, he’s really asked for very little and has been a wonderful husband and father, and the whole family has rallied around him. All the kids adore him.”

The Perfect Fit
Joan Neeno got married in September 2008 for the first time at age 43 “to a compassionate, intelligent man, and we’re building a great life together.” The couple was a match made on “We knew within a few dates that it was right,” says Joan. “We were married about 14 months after our first date.”

Joan has had to contend with other difficulties, as she has struggled against the scale more than she has the calendar. “I’ve had weight problems most of my life,” she says. “With my 40th birthday approaching, I decided to lose weight and put myself out there. I lost more than 100 pounds and started Internet dating.” Joan’s journey took her through several different dating sites; she “had a couple relationships last a few months and fail, and almost gave up on it, thinking that maybe a single life was my destiny.” Then along came Richard.

“I knew this was something really special on the first date,” she continues, “but since I’d had some great first dates before that didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t jump to conclusions. Our first date was a Saturday and went until about 2 a.m. He picked me up the next morning at 11 to take me to an art show. Then he called that Monday night and we talked for an hour, and he called every night after that — and I enjoyed the calls. That’s when I realized it was serious.”

Joan finds that “falling in love as a semimature person felt more natural and easier than it did when I was young. In my 40s, I’ve lived through a lot and come to a pretty good understanding of who I am, what I want, what I can tolerate and what I can’t tolerate. We moved quickly into living together and then marriage, but it wasn’t because of any deadline. We just had been through enough in our lives to quickly recognize that our search was over, and why waste time?”

Joan now describes herself as the “stepmom of a fantastic 14-year-old son,” and is pursuing a career as a freelance communications consultant and writer. “We bought a 100-year-old Craftsman house in Janesville, WI, last year and are working on fixing up the house and gardens,” she says. “Life is better than I could have ever dreamed. To everyone who thinks it’s not possible, I’d urge them to not settle for less than what makes them happy and to keep the faith.”

Say Yes to the Dress
When Marianne Shearer married Kirk Sullivan, it was her first marriage and she was 47. What makes Marianne’s story unique is that Marianne is a wedding-gown designer and a bridal-shop owner. “During her career, she had dressed more than 5,000 brides with her own hands, but until we met, she was never able to wear one of her gowns herself,” says Kirk.

Marianne says that when she was 42, she decided “This is war!” and pursued a relationship with tactics, strategy and logistics. She even had a professional photo session for her profile pictures on And what do you know — it worked.

Now 51, Marianne found that there is a lot to recommend about dating for people past the first blush of youth. “I enjoyed dating more as a ‘seasoned’ pro,” she says. “Yes, there’s more caution, but instinct, street smarts and sensibility made the whole process more enjoyable, too. I didn’t take it all so personally, and I had more fun, even when the match didn’t work.”

When they met, Kirk was casually dating three or four women he had met online. “I knew it was serious when he told me he had told the other women that he had met someone special, and wanted to date only me,” says Marianne.
“I enjoyed dating more as a ‘seasoned’ pro.”
“And I also knew we were serious when I was out on a couple of casual dinner dates with others I had met online, and all I could think was, ‘I wish I were with Kirk.’”

Marianne, a classic case of “dressmaker, clothe thyself,” has some important advice for women over 40 seeking men online: “Be yourself; be honest in your profile. Men are visual, so get a cute photo that says something positive about you, and post it! And once you find someone interesting, get off the computer and go out. Meet his friends and family, coworkers, neighbors, etc. We have less of life to waste, and spending more time together in the virtual world is not the same as spending time together in the real world.”

Animal Magnetism
Joseph Marion, 64, started dating his wife, Elaine, when he was 48. They have been married for 13 years. When asked how they met, Joe says, “My profession is veterinary medicine, and my wife is a sales rep for a drug company, so we had a business relationship for maybe 10 years. She would stop by my office and give me details on her products. We always had a good professional relationship but nothing else since we were married to other people at the time.” At this point, his story and his wife’s diverge.

“In 1992, I was going through a divorce, and I was out of my office at the attorney’s when Elaine stopped by,” says Joe, of Westtown, NY. “Now, Elaine is an upbeat person, and my office manager noticed she was very subdued and asked her what the problem was. Elaine had not told anyone, but for some reason she told my office manager that she was sad because she was going through a divorce. My manager said, ‘So is Dr. Marion.’ My version is that when I returned to my office, my manager said to me, ‘Elaine was here, and she said she is going through a divorce also and to call her.’ My wife’s version is that she said to call her ‘if Dr. Marion needs to talk to someone going through the same experience.’ Anyhow, I called her thinking she wanted to date, and Elaine thought it was just to talk. I convinced her to go out with me, and we have been together since.”

Neither was looking for a relationship at the time. But Joe knew it was serious from the first date. “I just felt I had someone special here, and I didn’t want to let her go. Elaine says I was blinded by a more basic pursuit. There may be a little truth in her opinion.”

This is Joe’s second marriage and Elaine’s third. “We needed to learn what we had done wrong in the past and learn a new set of tools in dealing with each other,” Joe says, “because if we continued to act in the same way, we were going to get the same results. We did quite a bit of counseling, both private and through church. We learned what we can give to the relationship — not what we can take from it.”

Joe adds, “When my ex left me, I thought my life was over and I would never be happy again. I just want to say nothing could be further from the truth. Every day when I get up, I thank God Elaine is in my life; she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Never, Ever, Ever Too Late
One of the most delightful June wedding stories this year was the marriage of Sharon Sharp, 75, and Leonard Scimio, 79, two residents of Redstone Highlands Senior Living Community, a continuing-care retirement community near Pittsburgh. Redstone Highlands has a resident mentor program wherein new residents are assisted in acclimating by being partnered with a current resident, who shows them the Redstone ropes. Sharon was Leonard’s mentor, but it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Leonard thought Sharon had a “cold heart” the first time they met, although he liked her right away. As for Sharon, Leonard says, “She thought I was going with someone else.” But although he was obviously still quite a catch, Leonard was available — and he wanted to get to know Sharon better.

Both had been widowed, Sharon after 49 years of marriage and Leonard after 44; each had four children. But Leonard was not given to giving up on love regardless of his age. He proposed to Sharon less than 12 months after they had met, and Sharon said yes.

The wedding reception was held at Redstone Highlands so all of their family and friends within the retirement community could attend. The couple then went to a “secret getaway” for their honeymoon. “Last time I got married, we got phone calls all through the night,” Leonard told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Leonard and Sharon now share an assisted-living apartment and are described as an affectionate couple, lively and active, and usually seen walking hand-in-hand.

Mark Amundsen, a writer and editor in New York, is over 40. Shhh — don’t tell anyone.
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