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Whatever your relationship situation, space is the key to longevity

By Tom Blake

Tom Blake. File photo
Tom Blake. File photo

Two couples in their 70s recently had lunch at Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point deli. They appeared to be having a good time and enjoying themselves. When they left, one of the men lagged behind and said, “Don’t you write that dating column?” I smiled and said, “Yes.”

He said that even married couples can have relationship challenges. He had been married 40 years and retired a year ago. He said he didn’t properly prepare for retirement and was around the house nearly all of the time. “My wife and I are driving each other crazy,” he said.

Then he added, “I’ve got to do something that will get me out of house.”

I said, “That would be a good idea. You wouldn’t want to jeopardize the marriage after all of these years.”

His wife poked her head back in the door and said sternly, “We’re waiting for you, let’s go.” He looked at me and said, “See what I mean, even that bugs me.”

Not an hour later, another older gentleman introduced himself. He said, “My name is Tom Vlahos. My wife Julie and I live in San Juan Capistrano. We like reading your dating column in the newspaper even though we’ve been married for 50 years. I’ve been retired 20 years and our marriage is the best it’s ever been.”

I told him about the comments the other man had made an hour before and asked him, “How do you and Julie keep your relationship so fresh?”

Vlahos said that both he and his wife are very involved in outside activities. He volunteers at the Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente and at Habitat for Humanity. Julie volunteers at their church and is an avid quilter.

He said, “For a marriage to last, there are times when you need space, to be away from each other. There is nothing negative about that.”

Tom’s comment made me think about couples who meet later in life and say they want to be together 24/7. That makes me shudder. That’s just not going to work. They are going to smother each other and then part ways. Everybody needs space, particularly as we get older.

At the December Meet and Greet for singles over 50, I was talking to two women about what the men had said. Carol added, “Every self-help book tells us to have a life of our own, and I thank the heavens I have followed this advice.”

Yvonne said, “Fewer people attend church or temple. Fewer socialize in other ways, like the old bowling leagues of the 1950s era. Fewer people go out to movies, instead preferring to watch DVDs at home. Our homes have become so comfortable that people venture out less than they used to. That can lead to marriage unrest. Too much time together.”

The simple lesson of today’s column applies to all couples—married or otherwise—and to single people as well. To be an interesting person, each needs to have individual interests that keep them occupied. We’ve all got to take a break away from each other on a regular basis. Then, when we do spend time together we will appreciate each other more, just as Tom and Julie Vlahos do—even after 50 years.

Giving each other space can be nearly as important to a relationship as time spent together.

To share your thoughts and experiences on marriage, dating and relationships email Tom at,  

The January singles Meet and Greet gathering will be held Thursday, January 30 at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend. For questions about the event, call Tom at 949.248.9008.

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