Together and apart: A typology of re-partnering in old age

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Background: The human need for love, friendship, and physical contact, and the fear of loneliness do not diminish with age. Widowhood and late-life divorce and increased life expectancy are likely to lead to alternative relationships, such as re-partnering. The purpose of this paper is to explore interplays between emotional and physical components of re-partnering in old age Methods: Theoretical sampling of 20 couples included men who re-partnered at the age of 65+ years and women at the age of 60+ years, following termination of lifelong marriages due to death or divorce. Living arrangements included married or unmarried cohabitation under the same roof or in separate homes. Forty semi-structured interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The couple was the unit of analysis. Results: Interplays between physical and emotional dimensions were examined using five abductive parameters derived from data analysis resulting in a fourfold typology of emotional and physical closeness/distance in re-partnering in old age: (1) living together (physically and emotionally); (2) living apart (physically) together (emotionally); (3) living together (physically) apart (emotionally); and (4) living apart (physically and emotionally). Conclusions: Findings revealed types of partner relationships that are different from lifelong marriages. The typology could help professionals working with older persons regarding what to expect in re-partnering in old age and be included in developmental theories as an option in old age. A quantitative tool for research and therapy purposes, entitled The Re-partnering in Old Age Typology Scale (RPOAT Scale), based on abductive parameters, could be established for measuring re-partnering relationship quality and classifying re-partnering couples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1327-1350
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • autonomy
  • closeness
  • distance
  • intimacy
  • old age
  • re-partnering
  • separateness
  • togetherness
  • typology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology


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