For this particular episode, hosts Wayne Bucklar and Dr Dwyer together with regular panelists Bron Williams and Amanda Lambros discuss their experiences and thoughts on relationships in relevance to marriage, death and birth. All of them offer very interesting insights in this subject matter.
Regular panelist Bron Williams imparts that in preparation for death, she has discussed with her sons what she wants to happen. She told them “I want to have an open conversation with you. If you start to see, when I’m in my 80s and hopefully 90s, and you think I’m not aware of things, I want you to talk to me about it because I want to live well and I want to die well.”
According to Dr Drew Dwyer, death, marriage and birth are all about relationships. He emphasizes on the importance of communication to Baby Boomers’ social circle, their family and friends and begin the conversation on these topics as early as possible.
Wayne Bucklar: Welcome to the Baby Boomers podcast, it’s Boomsday Prepping. It’s time where we once again get together, our panel of Baby Boomers, and we have a look at the topics that interest us, the Baby Boomers. And we’re joined as always by our resident gerontologist Dr. Drew Dwyer and our regular panel Bron Williams, Amanda Lambros. My name is Wayne Bucklar, here is my co-host Dr. Drew Dwyer.
Dr Drew Dwyer: Thank you Wayne and hello everybody and welcome to the panel. And I’ve only got a short panel today which is good but I’ve got a really interesting panel because we have of course Bron who’s our leading female Boomer on the panel and a spiritualist and a person who’s focused in different aspects of life for women Boomers. And of course we have Amanda and Amanda of course being a sexologist and relationship counselor. And you’ll have to correct me Amanda, president of the Australian relationship society?
Amanda Lambros: Current Vice President of the Marriage and Relationship Educators Society of Australia.
Dr Drew: Well there you go. So this conversation topic today will be great. So I’ll kick off with why this conversation type and what the conversation is all about is the Baby Boomers and their relationship with births, deaths and marriages or relationship issues and we can begin talking about what happened with birth and then relationship with say death and then marriage or we can mix it all up. So the reason I am at the subject is because I do end up having conversations at regular times with different clients, whether they be professional working clients, Boomer professionals that are still working and many of them, or Boomer clients in care or Boomer clients who are requiring counseling. It’s a case of these subject matters come up regularly so I want to put it to us three as a panel and I’ll begin. Boomers are changing again the way relationships are handout or lifespan out and particularly because they are changing the relationships in real time around or as a reflection of the relationships that their parents once had. So the Boomers are approaching, let’s go specifically for a subject matter that’s very important to Boomers and that is death. Even though it’s not a subject that’s on the table, all the time they put their personal stamp on it as a cohort of people. So Boomers have put of their personal stamp on death as a cohort and they’re changing the way death is viewed and looked at and planned differently to the way their parents did. So as Boomers, we look at it and go “One of my parents are still alive but I definitely don’t want to I have the end of life that she has.” My mum, my dear mum but I look at many older older cohorts, the Silent Great Generation, where the aspect and relationship with death and dying was often a taboo subject, not spoken about. People didn’t talk about it, funerals are very traditional, taken a very traditional pathway, it was a set sequence that you did, it was a set process. And I cast our mind back to one of the very first if not I think the first podcasts we all did together as a group was about how your funeral look and we discussed how her funeral looked and of course we all have amazing different ideas on this but that is the relationship with death that I want to discuss today because it’s very different around the relationship with death that our parents and the people before the Boomer generation had. So I will say and put it out there Boomers, as the topic of discussion, Boomers are going to change and are changing and putting their personal stamp process on how a death will look like, what a death looks like for people and how death will be celebrated or acknowledged when they go. So it’s on the table for discussion with many Baby Boomers are where it never used to be with their older cohort parents and the choice of conversation about death is becoming very clear because it’s a place in the relationship of life that we have where we’re looking down the barrel at it so I’ll come back to that. The other relationship issue of course is marriage, relationship, love and partnerships and how we blend with this as Boomers so I’ll keep that as the second conversation. And of course births and now people would ask me “Why births Drew?” I go well Boomers experience birth in a different way. One, we’ve already other experience of personally by going through it ourselves as married couples, as parents, birthing our own children, watching birth of if you’re a male of your wife’s giving birth. Of course Baby Boomers were the first generation where men walked into the birthing suite and watched their birth and stood beside that wife as a generation so their relationship with birth is very different. But then again the relationship as we get older, it changes as the relationship with Birth. As we become Boomers, we then experience birth again through our grandchildren, children’s children, other people in the family. I know, I have a Boomer wife who if there is a birth coming in the family, we are in chaos for nine months and we cannot walk past a shop or a gift shop and she’s not buying any discount she can find on jumpsuits, booties bonnets and baby stuff. Putting it in the cupboard, keeping it to the side in case there’s a baby coming so her relationship with birth is all about love and tenderness and nurturing which I call the maggot stage because that’s what babies are like to me. They’re like maggots but of course she loves them and nurtures them and wants them and then her relationship is stuck in that place. So I put it out to Bron first, let’s have the relationship perspective Bron with you about death. So we’ll get the ugly stuff out first, we’ll end with probably something nice today, we’ll get the death stuff out first.
Bron Williams: Okay. Before I start, I want to challenge you Dr. Drew. You said we had a short panel, I’m sorry anybody who’s shorter than you is part of that.
Dr Drew: That’s right, I agree. At 7 foot tall, everyone on the panel is short but okay we’ll reframe that to a small panel.
Bron: Small panel. I just thought it was an interesting use of words. Yeah and I thought it was interesting to just now that you said “Let’s get the ugly part out in talking about death.” So I suppose part of my thinking as a Baby Boomer is to stop that.
Dr Drew: Yeah, I totally agree with you Bronwyn.
Bron: Stop saying that death is ugly because death is part of life. And by now all our listeners know that my mum has been slowly going downhill and it’s much more rapid now. She is at the point where she’s trying to hang on.
Dr Drew: Are you seeing it more clearly Bron? Do you see it when you visit her now more often?
Bron: I actually haven’t seen her in months but I have seen photos and my brother and sister keep us posted all the time.
Dr Drew: Your next visit will probably be a bit in your face.
Bron: Oh yes, I’m very very much anticipating that. And as we have watched the roller coaster there has been my mother’s, basically her last year of life, helping her because that’s what I feel we’ve done is helped her navigate her road to her own death and she has had one conversation very briefly with my sister and said that she knows she’s on her last legs so to speak and that she’s at peace but she will not have that conversation openly. And as a result of that, my own conversations have started with my own children like I’m only in my early 60s and my kids are in their 20s and 30s but I already said to them
Dr Drew: Your mum is a great generation person, so 94 is she?
Bron: She’s 93. Yeah, and I’ve already said to them “I want to have an open conversation with you. If you start to see, when I’m in my 80s and hopefully 90s, and you think I’m not aware of things, I want you to talk to me about it because I want to live well and I want to die well.” I don’t want to, I’ve said this, I haven’t actually said that as clearly as I’m going to say it now but and this might seem a little odd but I think my mom is being selfish in the way she’s handling her death because basically now my brother and his wife are at her place, bored witless, as they need to sit with her.
Dr Drew: She’s probably tiring it all with the brush of guilt.
Bron: Well I don’t know whether she’s doing that so much but because she chose not to go into a supported facility earlier and wanted to die at home, she had no concept. We had no concept of what that would look like. I think she just thought she’d go to bed one day and never wake up. I don’t think she thought through what it might actually look like her children.
Dr Drew: Yeah, it’s great and I thank you Bron for being so honest there because these are the conversations I have with many Boomers. Boomers of course, and I’ll get Amanda during the conversation in a minute, Boomers of course find themselves stuck and I’ve spoke about this before they’re called the Sandwich Generation in some aspect because there they got the parents above them who are dying or transitioning into end-stage, they’ve got themselves who are aging and retiring and then they’ve got their children underneath us whether they be X or Y Millennial Generation children who are wanting more, asking for more and perhaps still probably transitioning to and trying support their growth and development. So Boomers come under a lot of pressure so when you being honest about mums being selfish about her death perhaps that’s a good expression of your feelings and emotions, great. It’s probably not a reflection for mum because most of the elderly generation when I see this don’t see it as selfishness. They see it as a rite of passage, that it’s their right, they have their children their children will do this and this is what will happen and their children will do what I want. Whereas probably a Boomer generation child now looks at it like you will Bron and go “Well I’m not going to have that and I don’t want to be a burden.” And yet can tell you the older cohort will tell you they don’t want to be a burden and yet they are. So the reality of this conversation is where we ask and I’ll go to Amanda now, that the relationships these issues must and should be built very early in the relationship. As you said Bron at 60 now, you definitely want to have these chats with your sons because you don’t want it to be that tough subject that have to find a special place to raise when you’re 90.
Amanda: Or even not just tough conversation to raise when you’re 90, tough conversation to have if you suddenly pass and then you did not have the conversation, right, and that’s usually the cohort of people I deal with.
Dr Drew: They’re dying rapidly?
Amanda: Or they’ve passed away suddenly because they may not have been as open and honest with their family members about how sick they actually were. “I’m fine love, I’m fine. I’m fine love.” And then all of a sudden mom’s dead, she’s dropped dead.
Dr Drew: Is that then a reflection on relationship Amanda?
Amanda: I think it does.
Dr Drew: For those that are left.
Amanda: It reflects on the relationship in that if there was anything unsaid, that usually causes moving beyond the loss. It’s more of a roadblock to move beyond the loss and what happens is those unsaid things are typically found when you’re going through, let’s say it’s mom who dropped dead so mom instantly dies from something, might have had a major heart attack or something like that and the children then go to the house to clean up the house, pack away, do what you tend to do and then they start finding things and they might have found a birth certificate of a brother or sister they never knew existed.
Dr Drew: Oh yes.
Amanda: Or marriage certificate and a divorce certificate of a marriage that mom never even spoke about but “Look, mom was married.” Those kind of things, so it’s all of a sudden starting to have a conversation of “Wow, did you know mom was married before dad? Because I didn’t know.” “No, I didn’t know either.” And now you no longer have that opportunity to have that conversation. Those tend to be the clients I see, is that the ones who are grieving and then get another grief on top of it of finding out they have a brother or sister that they never knew about or finding out mom’s kept secrets all their life.
Dr Drew: I often bring this conversation when I’m particularly in group therapy or when I’m working with a group in a nursing home, to have the conversation around expectations of language. People say to me “I want a good death.” Or “We got to give mom a good death.” Or “I want mom to have it or dad to have a good death.” And then I often ask the people a question straight out from there and I say “What does a good death look like for you?”
Amanda: Yeah, excellent.
Dr Drew: Because at the end of a day, a good death for your mum and let’s look at Bron. Bron is dealing with this now publicly in our little space, mum’s idea of a good death is probably different to how Bronwyn sees mum’s good death or the brother and the sister who are now stuck in the house to see the good death. I often say, when I teach and educate in this space which I do a lot of and that is I say “Let’s change our thinking around using the language and the space of respectful dying and let’s look at mum and dad having a respectful death.” And people go to me “But Drew, we do respect your parents.” And I say “No, it’s not about respecting your parents. It’s about your parents respecting you too.
Dr Drew: We got to respect the people in the care home or the care service, respect the health professionals that sit around planning the dying, end-of-life pathway. For me, dying is a group thing that should be shared and it’s something we need to put warmth around because death should not be something we should be afraid of. It’s a part of life, we all know that and we all are going to experience it some way or the other so the conversation around good death I’d like to see that the conversation moved towards having a respectful death and that we begin having the mantra or the discussion with older people and as Boomers with younger people around respectful dying, respectful death and what it means to have a respectful death. Because for me, it also means respecting people who we are asking to support our dying process. Bron?
Bron: I couldn’t agree more because I think, my brother and sister and I, we see this time as us facilitating mum in what she wants but in that and that’s why I used the word ‘selfish.’ In that I don’t think, like Mum says she’s very lucky to have her children around her and that sort of thing and there’s a sense in which you don’t begrudge the time and the emotional effort and all of those sorts of things. However, I think with this older generation their Great Generation, their own lack of self-awareness which it just plays into this hugely. I don’t think Mum has any concept of how much this process of like my brother and sister-in-law have both caught mum before she hit the floor in the house. They’ve helped her go to the toilet, we’ve got a Messenger chat group between the four of us and someday we have a good news but most of the time, it’s my sister-in-law asking my sister who’s a nurse “This is happening, is this right? Do I need to do something?” And just they are actually having to do the tasks that would fall to a professional in an aged care facility because it’s too late for mum to go into an aged care facility.
Dr Drew: Yeah, of course your mum’s in her final stage now. And I do believe Bron, have some faith, you’ve got mum in the best place. She wants to die at home. I think the family has the respect for a relationship issue to let her die at home, it can be done. I say this to everybody I work with it, please don’t say it can’t be done. It’s about that it’s about that process of living into your death now if we look at that selfishness, I want to have the discussion and put on a table around and in Australia at the moment for the listeners overseas who don’t know, it’s very much on our table of discussion in Australia and that is the assisted dying laws that have now been brought into Victoria and are now going to be pushed through other states at some point. The conversations on the table, I don’t like the term as a gerontologist and a nurse or doctor or nurse, I don’t like the term ‘assisted dying.’ I prefer the term ‘supportive dying’ or ‘supported dying.’ I think assisted dying is the wrong way of looking at it or whether that’s the way the Canadians have developed it since they brought it in and it’s now become an evidence-based process of science. I get what it is but it’s also not a subject that I’d like to hear discussed around the elderly because it’s a bit late for assisted dying when you are already dying.
Dr Drew: And this is where we need to have that conversation. So I always bring this to the table too, when I have a conversation, very meaningful conversation with clients around the living death of dementia. And of course people in the dementia alliance don’t like meat speaking this loudly about this stuff but that is what dementia is, it’s a terminal illness. It will kill you. There is no cure. And we had our little talk about dementia a few weeks ago on a podcast and I’ve received some feedback where people want to hear more about it so we’ll go to another session on that another day. But many Boomers now call it the ‘living death’ or they call people with dementia ‘the walking dead’ because the person they knew who had dementia who is no longer that person anymore.
Dr Drew: Of course as you know, I disagree with a lot of these concepts because we need to just communicate through these signs and symptoms. But again for me and we’ll ask Amanda, this is a relationship that people are having with death and dying. Whether it be the concept of assisted dying laws or the living with dementia or the blah blah blah. It really is again about relationship and respect to how people die, how we have conversations around death and what death means for Baby Boomers and this is where our focus should be. Baby Boomers need to educate themselves very quickly on this because at the moment, there is a large cohort of Baby Boomers on the planet, nearly a billion of them. And in the next 20 years, we will one by one by one as a clock and I’ll just pull up the current clock, there is a Baby Boomer death clock if you’re not aware of it. And the Baby Boomer death clock, it’s called the real time Baby Boomer death clock, it does all generations but it actually shows at the moment, it’s a U.S. concept at the moment in the U.S. there is eighty five million three hundred fifty eight thousand Baby Boomers, there are 66 at the moment and so they have a death of one of them every nineteen point three seconds. So every nineteen point three seconds at the moment you’ll see a death. Today in America they’ve had four thousand four hundred and eighty six Baby Boomers die.
Bron: Holy dooley.
Dr Drew: That’s right, holy dooley.
Bron: And that doesn’t include the mass shootings, I’m assuming.
Dr Drew: No, I’m sure they’ll end up in the statistic clock at some point when they get their age Bron. But the fact is that the percentage of Baby Boomers dying at the rate they’re dying is actually twenty one point nine seven percent.
Bron: Gosh. That’s quite high, isn’t it?
Dr Drew: It seems high but it’s not when you look at the cohort of them, this is a large number and they’re aged. They’re at that third age bracket so they’re all heading towards their end of life so for me it’s a conversation Baby Boomers have to have a relationship with. And so I’m going to pass to Amanda and Bronwyn to end this part about death and dying so I can move into the next conversation. So Amanda, the relationship with death, what’s your advice as a counselor on relationships to older people around getting their head focused? As I said, mine is about educating themselves.
Amanda: I think education is one of the biggest things because if they’re aware of what’s happening, what’s going to happen, what the process will be, I think from a relationship perspective, they’re in a much better position and so be as open, honest and genuine as possible with each other even with yourself. “This is what’s going to happen. This is what I’m going to go through.” And really takes the time to foster and nurture the relationships that are existing or complete relationships that need to be completed if you’re looking at death.
Dr Dew: Good idea.
Amanda: So I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I have is take this time to be able to increase your communication skills and increase your education skills with one another.
Dr Drew: Bron?
Bron: I think particularly all women, we sometimes have a troubled relationship with our mother at some point in our life and hopefully as an adult, we work through our own issues with our mums and my goal has been to have my relationship with Mum end well. That she will die knowing that we are in a good place and that I will let her go knowing that we have a relationship that’s in a good place. And so I think that for me, it’s been about being intentional about that. I’m actually working through my own stuff with Mum, not actually doing do it with mum, that would have not been possible but I did my own journey around the things that I had difficulty with my own mum.
Dr Drew: Yeah, I think you have to become comfortable with it Bron.
Bron: Yeah, that’s most important. Because my sister and I have discussed this, there would be no way that we could share with Mum the issues that we had with her because she just would not understand, she would not be able to see it. So to have done that, to be intentional about that so that now when she is dying I know that when she goes, I will look back at my relationship with her and say it was a good one. Because I want those memories, I don’t want to have the angst things of the what-ifs and things like that.
Dr Drew: That’s about ego and self-healing Bron, I must say. And I can tell you that because I come from a very tumultuous relationship, a large family, broken, and my relationship with my mum, my father’s dead of course, my mum is not a good one. But I have done a lot of healing and checking on myself, not with her as you said, because I can’t. She will not get it. She’s not doing it, fingers crossed, probably outlive the whole world but as she does slip into that final stage, I want to know that everything I did in my relationship with her was okay and it’ll never sit well with her but I can’t do anything about it. So it’s good advice Bron to people, to heal thyself I think first. So we’ll move away from that relationship issue around death, it’ll come back in I have no doubt as we talk further but I’m going to raise the conversation now around relationships with marriage, partners and love and life and relationships because there’s some interesting data that sits around this. This is heavily recorded stuff for Baby Boomers believe it or not, and specifically around, I’ve just been reading some of these issues in journal articles that I get out of the gerontologist which is an Oxford journal and Baby Boomers and having relationships intergenerationally. So Baby Boomers particularly men I must say, having younger women, younger partners and particularly younger partners after a previous partner. Same with the Boomer women, making decisions either to choose a partner or several, strangely enough Bron would probably like this one, choosing to have different partners and not settling with one partner as a Baby Boomer which I found really interesting little cohort of reading to do. And part of that reason I must say I’ll throw it out there so you can discuss it but is that they bogged themselves down for 40 or something years with one man and have decided now he’s gone through death or divorce, “I’m not doing that again and I’m not having a single relationship. I’m going to have a couple and I’m allow myself to have different relationships with different men. And as a woman be in control of that, not being in the other way around.” And when you’ve read this stuff it’s, like “Wow!” So I’ve had to check myself this week with my wife after 30 odd years of marriage to ask “Do we have these problems? I’m asking my wife the question “If I die tomorrow, what will you do? Will you find another man? Will you have several men? What will happen? I need to know the truth.” But anyway for me, I know for myself if my wife passed away tomorrow, I can say I know categorically I can have this conversation very open with anyone, there is no way known I would enter another relationship. As in marriage relationship, I would probably have relationships and flings and be a bit of a I don’t know Baby Boomer swinger but I think and I get that when I was reading in The Gerontologist, how these women have decided it. For me, relationships and marriage is bloody hard work. For 32 years I’ve been with my wife, it’s been bloody hard work and not in a hateful way. Just the relationships are tough and they’re difficult and you really have to slap yourself up the face and check yourself often and be considerate and then phase yourself and as you get into Boomer stages, I’m just talking now before I pass this over, but I don’t want to keep doing this anymore. I’m over checking myself and I’m over being cautious about what I say to people and how I say it because I’ve tried so hard not to piss people off and not to offend people and yet, I still seem to do it. Do you know what I mean? Relationships with marriage and people and relationships in love, I look down the barrel as a Boomer and go “Oh my god darling, don’t leave me. Stay with me until the end because I don’t want to have to redo this with somebody else. It’ll kill me.” So Bron, what do you think of that? Knowing everybody that Bron is a single woman and we have spoken to Bron before about her relationships with men. Bron, where’s your headspace with relationships marriage and love as a Boomer?
Bron: Yeah. Look, actually thank you so much because it’s actually been quite helpful. I’ve been doing some processing as you’ve been talking too. Yes I was married for 28 years, I left the relationship and so it’s been 12 years now and I’ve had three relationships in that time. And there’s been that sense of questioning my own self “Am I incapable of having a long-term relationship again?” The first relationship was for five years and we just parted amicably when I moved to Melbourne and he moved to the North Coast of New South Wales. It was just like “It’s not going to happen.” Then I had a relationship for another two years and that ended not of my choice, they just decided that they needed space and for me that was heartbreaking. So guess what, you can still be heartbroken when you’re in your 60s. It doesn’t change anything. And I’m currently in a new relationship which I am thoroughly enjoying but I suppose for me personally, I love the steadiness of a steady relationship.
Dr Drew: I was going to ask Bron. I was going to ask you as a counselor, you mentioned before the words “Am I capable of having a long-term relationship?” So then I throw in, from the reading I do and the evidence of gerontological work where a lot of the stuff I research is done through comprehensive reviews of subjective information. So interviews, counseling surveys, qualitative stuff, not quantitative, so in a social science. But is it for you the space, at that exact place, you said “Am I capable of having another long-term relationship?” So is that the thing that sits in your relationship? It has to be long-term or that’s what you want, stability in the long term?
Bron: I think it’s the stability, just knowing that there’s someone there who’s got your back and you’ve got their back.
Dr Drew: Safety and security and love and belongingness in Maslow’s theory perhaps?
Bron: Yeah and the whole intimacy of knowing another human being and them knowing you, I like that. But I do recognize that for the men that I have been with, that is actually a much trickier space for them now. They’re not as willing to step into that space and maybe it’s for the reasons and that’s why I was really interested to hear your perspective on that Drew because are we obviously men and women do you think differently and they want different things. But just to hear that you said “I wouldn’t ever do it again” because that’s this sense I’m getting from the guys. It’s not that they don’t like me or that they don’t value their relationship, they just don’t want to do that living together thing of being in each other’s face all the time which you do actually do more of in this point in life because you’re both heading towards retirement which you didn’t have when you were younger and you were off working or building a career and you’re actually not together, physically together as much. So I think there’s that and look, I would love the current relationship I mean, I would like it to continue for the rest of my life but I am quite prepared now to not live together. To spend time together but not do the whole living together thing.
Dr Drew: Yeah, interesting. There you go, there’s a difference which we’ll talk about in a minutes, living together in a relationship or living apart and having a relationship. There’s another cohort of studies I’ll talk about a bit about this and that’s the intergenerational relationships that Boomers are having between different generations because they find they can have that set up. I was going to make the statement before we go to Amanda, is it I’m not speaking on behalf of all men but I do research males as a gerontologist but I look at and reflect on myself. For me I’ll make a statement as a person in the medical nursing field, in the social sciences with a PhD, to be able to say I firmly believe that for men it’s easy to fall in love and be in love. It’s easy to love, men find it easy to love. Men find it very difficult to remain or stay in love or manage the relationship. That’s the hard space for the men. Men can love and “I love her but I can’t stand it. I’m not going to put up with it and I’ll move out.” Whereas a woman, I find the women when I study them, look at the cohort, the information – women want to be in love, they want that commitment to love whereas men don’t want that. It’s easy to love, harder to manage love. Amanda, let’s move to you.
Amanda: I think I’m going to add my two cents in as a relationship counselor and a marriage educator and kind of put it through that finding love is pretty easy, keeping love is pretty hard.
Dr Drew: So was I right in that analogy?
Amanda: I would say it is so but I think some women too. Some women, I think Hollywood has really screwed it up for most of us – that’s my foundation. Hollywood makes it look like “Oh I put all this effort into finding the person and then once I found him, we’re good. We’re good for life.” No, not at all. Whatever effort you put into finding someone, times that by 10 and then you’re always on track with keeping the person. But I think around the relationship stuff as well, especially when it comes to Boomers and potentially you’re on a second relationship because you’ve gone through a divorce or a partner has died so you’re kind of like “Okay, what do I do with this second relationship and do I even choose to have a second relationship?” I think the idea here is choice. So you have the choice to choose to be in that relationship or not, but you also have this choice to go “I’m going to make this relationship work because I want to.” Or “You know what, I’m not all that phased.”
Dr Drew: And I think you lose that choice because you’re in a relationship, you must stay there. You know what I mean? Like I often hear these “But he’s my husband” or “She’s my wife” or “But we’re going out” or “I have to be there. I have to do it.” And I go “No, that’s a choice you’re making.”
Bron: I was just going to throw in there, that is what I reflected on the relationship that ended that it was not my choice. That the loving and continuing to love somebody is a choice that you make every day and I think of what I’m discovering particularly when there has not been a commitment of any sort made, that in a sense that choice is even more important. And to what I reflected back without sort of trying to be incredibly judgmental, is that my ex-partner stopped making the choice to love me or actually actively chose not to foster those feelings because that was his comment to me. It was that he doesn’t feel as much for me now as he did at first.
Dr Drew: The honeymoon period ended.
Bron: Well it was two years long though.
Dr Drew: Well yeah, sometimes it could be ten Bron. Am I right Amanda?
Dr Drew: Sometimes the honeymoon period can be turned off very quickly particularly for men when a woman puts on weight or stops being sexual the way he wants – honeymoon period gone.
Bron: I will just say it was neither of those things.
Dr Drew: No, I’m not saying that.
Bron: I just thought I’d put it out there.
Dr Drew: I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is the honeymoon period can end, it just ends.
Amanda: Yep. And I think that’s where people, if you’ve made a choice to be with someone regardless if it’s live together, or just be in a relationship, get married – whatever the choice is, if you’ve made a conscious effort to be with someone, you need to continue to make a daily effort and a daily choice to continue to be with that person. And like you said Bron, the minute one person makes that choice not to, then essentially the relationship’s over. So it doesn’t matter how many times you come in to see me at my private practice, I can’t make that person want to take that choice back. That’s the kind of thing that I kind of work with is that they go “This is our last-ditch effort. We’re coming into counseling to save our relationship.” And it’s like well someone’s already made the choice to step out it’s kind of hard to kind of force them back in.
Dr Drew: Yeah. And so tell me, I’ll put the cushion here because I’m getting it a bit and I’m having these discussions with my own partner, my wife Rae who you both know, but as Boomers when does the relationship become the subject of the differentiation? Like differentiation in caregiving and love as a partner at some point in when we look at studies, when I read studies the differentiation in relationship changes at some point. It’s mainly because of the longevity of the relationship so I’ll put a bit of humor in it, do we now all of a sudden leave our partner because he farts? Do you know what I mean? Like “I’m over it. I can’t stand it. He burps.” Or “He doesn’t dress properly.” Or “He doesn’t shave.” Does all of a sudden after marriage and relationship of putting up with that person you’re married and being in a relationship, then all of a sudden you’re a Baby Boomer, you have the longevity, the differentiation is noticeable, “It’s over. It’s done, I have to leave you. I have to find something new because I put up with this for 30 years. It’s done.” Mind you, I’m not having those conversations.
Amanda: You see, that’s where I think it’s wrong. It’s that you shouldn’t have to put up with it. A relationship to me is not “I had to put up with it.” It’s “We’ve had this conversation. I’m willing and open for this to occur.” So when people go through let’s say a 20-year relationship and then they go “Oh that’s it, he’s farting.” Like you said “He’s farting, that’s it. I’m done. This is my final straw, I out.” I’m going to call bullshit on that because that’s not the straw that broke the camel’s back. There’s a whole bunch of strings of stuff beforehand.
Dr Drew: Yeah. There’s bales of hay sitting on the back of that camel.
Amanda: You just chose not to have a conversation with and what’s most problematic about this is that they’ve allowed those conversations to ruminate in their own head and if you’re allowing you to ruminate in your own head, you know what’s going to happen? It’s going to become bigger than Ben Hur.
Dr Drew: It’s a big relationship issue of cohorts of Boomers at the moment, they’re studying in the social sciences because the relationship, divorce rate amongst Boomers is growing exponentially.
Dr Drew: Some people in the social science space, I will dare say the nuance people, are going “Oh it’s all because of love and light, love and light and Awakening and spirituality.” I go “No, no, no, no.” And people are becoming empowered to drop the partner after all these years of oppression and women oppression and men oppression and blah blah blah. I go “No.” This has been poor relationship management and building and over many, many, years.
Amanda: Absolutely. But I think that’s what the interesting thing is people use it as an excuse like “Oh well this just happened so I’m out.” And it’s like no, you haven’t been happy for years. You haven’t wanted to talk about it. You’ve allowed it to ruminate in your head, it’s gotten bigger and now you’re actually sick of putting up with somebody else’s crap so you finally kind of grew your own spine and went “Okay, I’m done.”
Dr Drew: In my book, I write a section of the book around empty nesting for those who are interested to have a read of my book. But I’ve got to say, I see a lot of this Amanda at the empty nesting stage when the empty nesting is done and particularly it’s a driving force for women. Now I’m not going to close it in and say that women are oppressed or anything like that but I do see the empty nesting stage predominantly for women as once that transitions through, they want change and I believe that the relationship becomes the focus of the change. I’m going to Bron because she’s been through empty nesting. Bron, what your thoughts on that as a relationship in marriage and children relationship – how it did or did empty nesting have an impact on you and what do you think about it?
Bron: Well my relationship in my married relationship was poor for many, many, many, many years because of my own probably religious upbringing that you didn’t get divorced so I hung in there probably 15 years too long, that’s been the timeline that I’m used. And I had always recognized too that our children, like I have four years and then seven years between my boys, and I always saw that it was that gap that actually kept us together because things got tricky and we had another child, it just happened to work out that way.
Dr Drew: Or the kids keep you young and invigorated.
Bron: Yeah, I actually think it was more than having the shared children was the one thing that held us together and we had in common. And I think then because my youngest son was 12 I think when I left, so it was that sense the older one was actually married with a child, the second eldest had long gone as well and so there was only this one child that was in any way binding my husband and I.
Dr Drew: So you basically experienced empty nesting over a seven-year period between the first two. That empty nesting and that relationship of empty nesting came and stayed for a while.
Bron: Actually over a six-month period my eldest got married at the age of 19 and six months later my then 16 year olds left home to work in racing stables so we went from a family of three sons to a family of one in the space of six months. And the whole thing for me as a mother of sons was particularly with my eldest who at 19 they’ve got married, his wife was 20, he went from being my big boy to now being a leader in his home. It was like “Get your head around that one girl.”
Dr Drew: And I’m going to ask Bron on how those adult male children now and I’m going to ask is your currently younger than you and do they see in your relationships with anyone intergenerationally over the last how many years? Because that’s the final comment on this before we move to births in that is intergenerational relationships with Boomers, do you see it as a positive thing? Don’t you care about it? I don’t have any thoughts about it, I don’t care as long as they’re old enough to do what they’re doing, I don’t have think anyone should comment but intergenerational relationships I see in the Boomer cohorts starting to be more prevalent and working more better for the Boomer.
Bron: Okay. My three relationships, the first guy was 15 years older than me, second was five years older, current is three years younger than me.
Dr Drew: Cradle snatcher.
Bron: Actually I just thought “Well good on you mate that you didn’t let my number get in the way.”
Dr Drew: Yes of course, that’s right.
Bron: And look, my boys have not met any of them because I’m in Melbourne and my boys are in New South Wales.
Dr Drew: Yeah, okay. So very adult relationship a space then.
Bron: Yes, it is.
Dr Drew: And your thoughts on intergenerational relationships Bron?
Bron: Well see, I suppose my viewpoint there is actually I don’t think age is an issue because it’s only one of the many things that you have to navigate in a relationship and I said this when Matthew got married at 19 and Marie was 20, I said they have as much chance of having a good relationship as somebody who is 10 years older because it’s going to be up to them and so I think that’s the same like if I wanted to date a much older man which I have done, I didn’t find that an issue. He did and I think that was part of why the relationship ended. If I wanted to date a much younger man, I think the only issues were basically is if you’re at a different point in your life and you want different things, I think that’s where it becomes a little tricky.
Dr Drew: Okay. Because it’s interesting on Australian television at the moment, we’ve got that Pride & Prejudice show where the 41 year old woman has got the 19 year old groom that has just asked her to marry. The family who are boomers of course are freaking out about it and there’s lots when you look at the social media in this space because I do, there’s lots of generational conversations and chatter about this younger guy, this older woman and I’ve noticed a conversation not very much around specifically about him supporting her but it’s about what happens when she gets older, when they get older. So I find that intergenerational relationship is what about and again, it moves into the death and dying space. Everyone seems more concerned about what he’s going to do when she’s old and dying and he’s 21 years younger than her. Amanda?
Amanda: I think you’re spot on there. I think that’s the other thing especially with regard to the show that’s currently on is that when there is that intergenerational gap, my parents have a 20-year gap between them.
Dr Drew: Wow.
Amanda: Yeah and so my dad’s in his 80s my mom’s just in her 60s and there’s major differences between what’s going on from a health perspective, an activity perspective, even a motivation perspective. My dad is kind of in that phase of “You know what, I’ve been there, done that. I’m happy to just kick back, sit down on the couch and relax.” I’m not saying that’s going to be anyone in their 80s, I know a lot of absolutely physically active 80s who are kind of seem like they’re in their 40s and they’re like “Let’s go go go because they I’ve got all this time on my hands.” Whereas the opposite is true for my mom, my mom’s the go getter and she’s active and she travels a lot and all this kind of stuff. So it’s like when they were in their I don’t know 30s and 50s, it didn’t seem like that big of an age gap. And now on the other end of the spectrum, it actually seems like a giant age gap. And I know I used to joke around with them all the time, I’m like “Oh Dad you were married, had two kids and divorced before mom was even born.” And he’s like “Okay, let’s not point that out.”
Dr Drew: It’s interesting, I’ve got a couple of clients at the moment who are Baby Boomers, late Baby Boomers who married younger women for the intention and I will say it, they’re very honest about it that when they get older she will look after them. That was their intention.
Amanda: Oh, honest.
Dr Drew: Yeah, guess what’s happened? The wife has become ill and now he’s looking after her.
Bron: Oh no.
Amanda: Not what he intends to do, that would be a big disappointment.
Dr Drew: Now of course I like to think of his face in my head and go “Karma’s a bitch and she has every right.” But at the end of the day, again for Boomers as we move out of the conversation, be very careful about the relationships you’re building as a Baby Boomer, why are you doing it, be open and transparent, respectful to yourself your partner’s – that’s my train of thought. Amanda?
Amanda: I think that’s spot-on. You’ve just got to be open, honest and genuine as to why you’re getting into this relationship. If you have ulterior motives like “Hey you’re 20 years younger than me, I’m really hoping that you’re going to take care of me when I’m elderly.” That kind of thing. We need to be honest about it and also how you were saying that you’ve had that conversation with your wife saying “I have no intentions of finding another partner and getting remarried and all that kind of stuff but I’m happy to kind of go out and play the field.” But it’s then having the conversation with the women that you’re playing the field with and going “You know what, I’m not looking for anything serious. I’ve had my serious relationship, I’ve had my kids.”
Dr Drew: I’m a dirty old man.
Amanda: Yeah, we’ll go with that.
Dr Drew: Hey my name’s Drew. I’m a widow and I’m a dirty old man.
Amanda: At least you are honest.
Dr Drew: That’s right. So hopefully, by the time I’m in my 80s I’m still able to get out and be a dirty old man. But anyway, your final thought on this conversation Bron?
Bron: Look, I like that idea of honesty. Not only honest with your partner but honest with yourself and I think part of my own journey has been to let go of the conditioning from childhood about what a relationship looks like and to a start to tap into what is it that I really want so I think honesty with yourself is important too because I think often we continue to go along with societal norms because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to and it’s actually not what makes us happy, it’s not what we really want. And if we go into something that doesn’t actually fit with us, it will end and we’ll wonder why.
Dr Drew: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean marriage through the generations as always for me, always look the same. People get married for a particular reason, it’s a commitment that is still heavily based in traditional value systems. They are changing but I don’t think they’re going to change much for the Boomers. Boomers are just reconstructing what they do and don’t want and I would say to them “Be honest about that process now that you’re old enough to know better and probably young enough to do it again.”
Dr Drew: Okay, let’s move. Final subject, I’ll spent a few minutes before we close out our podcast today I want to talk about now the birth aspect for me, it’s a very positive space. I must admit it does my head in because as I said earlier I’ve got a wife, if there’s a word ‘baby’ mentioned, she turns into Mrs. Doubtfire and she’s crazy for babies, just loves them and if there’s any children, young women in our family are having babies or there’s a baby coming into the family, you can be guaranteed my wife is buying booties and hats and sending gifts and blah blah blah and wants to know the names and all this and looks at the name and it drives me insane. I’m planning for myself and I’m warning her now at our Boomer stage of life because our children haven’t had children yet, and I’m warning my children “Please wait until Mum and I have had a bit of retirement before we have to step in to new relationships with grandchildren.” Because I know my wife is going to full-on want full-on relationships with her grandchildren, I know that. So where does the relationship sit with Boomers as a relationship with birth and having births around you and children and being the grandparent and taking the responsibility and do you need this and want it? And I find it’s a really interesting conversation around relationships, for me at the moment I’m going “Not ready, don’t want to have that relationship. Yes that baby’s cute, I’m going to the pub.? Bron?
Bron: Well given that I became a grandmother at 48.
Dr Drew: Oh my god.
Bron: And you have actually no choice in that.
Amanda: Would you have liked your kids to hold off?
Dr Drew: You could have locked them in the cellar Bronwyn.
Bron: People would say to me “Oh doesn’t it make you feel older? And I say “Well I have no choice over when my children get married or when they decide to have their family.”
Dr Drew: Yeah, I agree Bron, good point. I don’t see it as being old, I only look at it and see as I said this is a relationship conversation. For me, it’s about I’m not ready for that relationship.
Bron: Well actually again, for me I don’t know that you’re ever ready. I had it thrust upon me.
Dr Drew: Yeah, I don’t want to let people down.
Bron: Well the thing is, it’s so funny I’ve never even thought about it along those lines. I met my granddaughter my eldest granddaughter when she was one day old I could not believe the connection between us, the love that I had for this child that I had not carried and I hadn’t given birth to.
Amanda: That’s awesome.
Dr Drew: That’s beautiful, I just totally love hearing that stuff. As a man, I look at it and I do reflect a lot and my wife always says “You think too deeply.” And I go “Yes, I know but that’s why you love me.” At the end of the day, I do, I look at it and go “I’m not ready to be a grandparent.” Because that you say that love, that connection, that automatic thing, sometimes I feel I don’t have it. And I think “What if my daughter has a daughter and I don’t have it? She’s going to be so let down by me.”
Bron: But then I think my ex-husband has a different relationship to our grandchildren than I do me and my relationship is at a distance because all my grandchildren are in New South Wales. Marco Polo is a wonderful app for keeping in touch with grandchildren and particularly my second son and his family, we’re on Marco Polo often because she is homeschooling and she has gets the kids to Marco me and ask me questions and I send it back. So yeah, I think it just I suppose I’ve just taken it in my stride because I didn’t have any other choice.
Dr Drew: They are a positive thing though, births for Boomers. I think Boomers I do think as a cohort, Boomers enjoy seeing new birth and new family and I don’t know, Amanda can help us out here. I think some of the relationships. for men I know it is for men it’s passing on the family gene. You get to see the family gene being passed on. I know for men that is part of the issue. “My daughter had a son. My son had a son. In my family, it’s a very strong cultural thing. Amanda?
Amanda: I think in some families it’s extremely strong culturally like where they go “I’m so excited, we’ve at least had our boy.” Because they see that that’s the next generation going forward which i think is kind of amusing because even if you have a girl that’s a next generation going forward. So to me I’m like it doesn’t really matter if it’s a boy or a girl, you’re still passing on your genes. I think it’s more especially the clients that I see, it tends to be a lot of “I’m really excited that I’ve had a girl because now all the stuff I didn’t do with my girl or that I was too busy with when I was at work or too busy doing when I was raising my own kids, I’ll now be able to kind of live vicariously through my grandkid.” So you tend to have the opportunity to develop another relationship with this brand new person. Like you said Bron, your grandkid was a day old and already the connection was so strong so you have that opportunity like “Here’s a connection, it’s already there. I really didn’t even have to do anything. I just had to raise my own kids for 30 years.” And I think that’s important.
Bron: Yeah. And after having three sons, I now have five granddaughters and my only grandson and it’s lovely. I love it.
Amanda: And you’re like “I can play dress up. I can do their hair.”
Dr Drew: Yeah, what a torment for your sons.
Bron: Going shopping for my 14 year old granddaughter. I said to my middle son who has daughters
Dr Drew: Oh my god, pull your hair out. He’ll be greyer than me before he knows it.
Bron: I always said to him that he needed to have daughters because he had more than enough testosterone for an entire family.
Dr Drew: Right, okay.
Bron: So yes, it’s good. He’s a great dad to his daughters.
Dr Drew: What’s the most positive thing for a Boomer to look at new birth in their relationships? Because we have at the conversation, remember we did an interview with my friend Chris who is 59 and just now had a new baby bird. I’m watching his life with very big dinner plates on my face, my eyes are wide open watching him going “Wow you’re 60. You’ve got a newborn plus another two under five years or seven years of age.” It’s fascinating to watch him go through it, I can tell you. Amanda?
Amanda: I thinks in that situation, I love the fact that we had in mind too so that regular listeners kind of got that perspective as well. I think it’s kind of one of those you tend to take on the stuff you’re looking forward to so if he was incapable of moving or activity, chances are he wouldn’t be having babies or three under seven type thing so I think he’s probably taken on the load that he’s comfortable with which is great.
Dr Drew: Yeah, I think it has reinvigorated him.
Amanda: And I think the other thing is to understand is that every transition you make regardless if it’s a birth, a death, a marriage or whatever, that’s going to be a new transition for you. And with every transition, we know there comes some positives and some negatives so there’s going to be a form of loss. There’s going to be a form of joy or “This has enhanced my life in some way.” And I think that those are the things to pay attention to but I think if the new birth is of a grandchild, I think you need to step carefully because you’ve done a really good job raising your own kids, it’s not your responsibility to raise your grandkids.
Dr Drew: Yeah, good advice. I totally agree and I do see many many Boomers trying to take over the raising or how you should raise your children and to their own children. I see lots of discourse amongst the family influences when this occurs from the Baby Boomer cohort who want to take over how their younger children in the family will be raised. Bron, you obviously don’t go there?
Bron: No, I don’t because I suppose I trust my children and I think that’s where it comes back to trusting what you’ve done for your children.
Dr Drew: Yeah, I agree. That’s where I would sit too. I want the responsibility of sugaring them up and handing them back.
Bron: And I think because I’ve spent much, well 12 of the 14 years that I’ve been a grandmother I have been spent at a distance or maybe ten of those 14 at a distance from my grandchildren, so I don’t have that like everyday sort of relationship with them. So when I see them, it’s wonderful and I’m the visiting grandma, actually all my grandchildren’s just about their grandmothers are all at a distance, I don’t know what, maybe we’ve just all run away from home.
Dr Drew: I think it’s culturally, I understand my children have grown up not knowing their grandparents on either side of the family at all, I’m going to make sure that I know my grandchildren.
Bron: Yeah and I know my grandchildren I spend time with them when I’m there but I’m just not yeah in that sort of day-to-day. That is my life and I try to do the best that I can but I try not to angst over it either.
Dr Drew: And Bron are you called nanny or grandma?
Bron: I am called Ona, it’s the Japanese word for woman because at 48, I did not feel like being nanny or grandma.
Dr Drew: No, I guess not. My wife and I’ve decided we’re going to be Queenie and Stallion.
Amanda: I love it.
Dr Drew: My daughter is horrified and she says “There’s no way in the world I’m going to let my children call you Queenie and Stallion.”
Amanda: If you get in there first, those kids will learns those words.
Dr Drew: I said “Don’t you worry, my grandchildren will know that they don’t have Grandma and Grandpa. They have Queenie and Stallion.”
Bron: Well by my ex-husband, he’s gaffer, he likes that old English type. The best ones I’ve heard was when I was teaching and a little girl came in and her grandparents were birdie and par and I asked her about that. They’re both golfers.
Dr Drew: Grandma was a birdie and grandpa was a par. Tight, i got it.
Bron: Grandma wanted to be one better.
Amanda: That’s awesome.
Dr Drew: Yes. And final conversation or questions or comments around birth. I’ll get Amanda go first then Bron then me.
Amanda: I think with birth has new opportunities, new excitements, spontaneity that’s going to come into it so enjoy every moment of it.
Dr Drew: Bron?
Bron: And I think given that I’ve got my youngest granddaughter is 18 months old so I’ve got a big range. It’s about discovering who this new person is that has entered your family.
Dr Drew: I agree and for me I mean I have not experienced it yet. I am around a lot of birth so I’ve got my older brothers and sisters who have their children having children, it’s interesting to see. I do love seeing the new babies, I’m not attached to most of them. As I said I worry that that will stay with me, but as a Baby Boomer and booming into Boomer years I go “Well what do I do about that?” I just have to wait and I put a message out to Baby Boomers, just wait take it by step by step and enjoy the positiveness of what new birth in a relationship gives because a new birth of a child in a Boomer’s life isn’t you relationship blooming. So I’m with Amanda, wait the opportunity, take advantage of it and work out who they are and find out who they are. We must do what’s Bronwyn’s doing and so leave it in that positive space. I’m going to try very hard not to look at new birth relationships or relations with young people in my family as a negative aspect because I do think about it I don’t want to be the cranky old man or the cranky old grandpa or any of that but I hope it doesn’t happen.
Wayne: And that was Boomsday Prepping. Once again the panel of Baby Boomers and your two co-hosts have had their say. Please have your say, click in the comment area, make any comments you’d like us to consider. We monitor all of the social media channels and we’ll be able to respond if you send us a message. To our panelists Amanda Lambros and Bron Williams, thank you for being with us today. For Dr. Drew Dwyer, our resident gerontologist and my co-host, thank you for leading us through the discussions. My name is Wayne Bucklar, this is Boomsday Prepping.