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Title: Ehe in der späten Phase des Lebens
Author(s): KÖNIG, Franz
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 4    Issue: 1   Date: Spring 1998   
Pages: 52-61
DOI: 10.2143/INT.4.1.2014778

Abstract :
The text is a consideration of the later or second phase of married life and is concerned with the ageing of, and the old age of, the partners. The truth is that the mystery of growing old is the mystery of life itself. Ageing begins at birth and is a lifelong process of change and development. The life of man is in movement right up to death; it is an invitation to a debate with ourselves, with our marriage partners and together with the world. One of the features of old age is that in our consciousness of “being still on the way” the question of the meaning and purpose of life presses itself upon us more strongly and more urgently than in youth. Religion and faith can be a great help to us in our efforts to order and reflect on our lives in calmness and tranquillity.
At the same time specific problems are also a feature of this second phase of married life, and it is generally true that the fruits of a mature relationship can only be harvested by the person who has invested for the shared future at the right time. In the first phase of the marriage the intrinsic value of the partnership has often shifted into the background in the dynamics of family tasks. This is noticeable if a man and a woman are alone again in a marriage. Even in old age a married partnership does not lose its meaning, after the conclusion of the education of the children married people must start to pay renewed attention to their own relationship. Fidelity and mutual trust, the preservation of love, mutual help and acceptance of the other as he/she is, all continue to be important. In old age a person needs still more security and the experience of tenderness and bodily care. It is also important that we accord free space for our own further development, not only to ourselves but also to our partner.
For Christian married partners their faith is crucial. The parish community can now be of central significance as a new living space. Often however the relationship between two persons in old age will not be seen as a resource for the parish. Parish services are mostly limited to parental education tasks and parish input only begins again if the partners have become ill or if one of them dies.
Inevitably the relationship which two persons have maintained from youth to old age ends in the final separation. Quite often the end of life is preceded by a long phase of illness, and that can be a heavy spiritual burden for both partners. It can however also offer the opportunity to experience a new closeness in a shared looking back over the time spent together. Even in the deepest pain it can be a comfort that the “yes” said to one another was kept to the end in faithfulness and love.
For the surviving partner loneliness is one of the big problems in addition to the sense of loss, and people increasingly choose to enter new partnerships even in old age for that reason. The hidden yearning for human affection and mutual help in the evening of life is often not sufficiently comprehended by those around and even by the pastorate of the Church.
The wisdom of age teaches that being old, old age pure and simple, can be a beautiful time in which one can reconcile oneself to departure from life.

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