What Old People Think About Love and Sex
I asked three older ladies whom I met in a nursing home for some advice about romance.
This article originally appeared on VICE Alps.
I don't know anything about love. For years, I've been wasting my time on senseless affairs, irrational flings that never result in anything. Despite this, I still don't think there's anything better than this sort of irrational young love, which leaves you ice cold at one moment and drives you completely insane the next.
I wanted to know if the kind of grandiose fairytale love we're raised to expect from life really exists. And I wanted to know what love means for people who have actually had experience on the topic. To find out, I spoke to three older ladies I met in a nursing home.
VICE: Does true love really exist?
Mrs. Kreil (73): Yes, true love does exist. For me it happens really quick.
Have you found it?
I found it, and I lost it. I've been divorced twice.
And how do you know when it's true love?
You only really recognize it when you're older. I would say that when you're young you mostly imagine true love.
Mrs. Müller (75): I once found true love, but it ended 35 years ago, unfortunately. But I think that a younger person can recognize true love.
What have you learned about love over the course of your life?
Kreil: You feel much calmer about it with age.
Mrs. Huber (73): Yes, I think so too. Serenity comes with age.
Kreil: When you're young, you fall in love and you immediately think it's true love. When you're young, you fall madly in love very quickly.
Huber: And then later, you realize they weren't the right person. Over the years, you start to see everything from another angle. When you're young, you're just brash and like bashing your head into the wall.
How do you express love?
Kreil: I'm actually not that loving anymore. I think the ultimate demonstration of love is just being there for someone. I had years in which I was really needed, and I think that was enough of a sacrifice. That's love.
Huber: Love just gets a different significance as the years go by. In the last years of your life, you see things very differently.
Kreil: Yes, I think you're totally right. But I've seen it twice—older people falling in love and holding hands like teenagers.
Huber: I think that's cute, though.
Kreil: Well, I think it's astounding. Everybody wants that, but it isn't so easy to find.
Huber: I don't think it's just about finding it, it's about your way of thinking too. Because it all goes through your head. You think, you compare, you weigh it out. Like I said, I think love gets a whole new significance when you're older.
Kreil: And the men have changed so much—through all this emancipation of women.
Huber: Yes, the traditional divisions don't exist anymore. When I think back, my husband never took out the trash. Today it's normal for a man to do housework. When I look at my children—my daughter's husband cooks, helps clean up, and I'm happy for her. They just do it together.
In your old age, do you miss this irrational love that you feel when you're younger?
Kreil: I can't really speak about that. I got divorced twice, and I was really close friends with both men.
But have you had butterflies in your stomach since then?
Well, that's the stupidest expression that I've ever heard, but everybody says it. You have a tingling or you're shaking, but why would you have butterflies in your stomach?
OK then, I'll say it your way: Can you still feel this tingling at your age?
I don't think it will ever happen again for me, but it would be nice if it did.
Huber: It's been a while since it happened to me. It wasn't true love with my husband in the beginning either. I wanted to get out of my parents' house and getting a husband was the only way. But over the years, it became an intimate kind of love that I grew to appreciate—even though we got married for practical reasons.
And what do you think about sex? What have you learned about it over the course of your life?
My husband got very sick at some point and around the same time, he cheated on me. He said he wanted to know what sex would be like if the woman didn't know about his sickness. There wasn't much happening with us at that point, but still—I told him that I'm not a brothel, where you come and go as you please, and formally kicked him out.
Kreil: You have to find yourself in that situation to have an opinion. A friend of mine also kicked her husband out after he cheated on her.
Huber: Yes, everything was damaged then—my ego, my pride, and, more importantly, the trust was broken. If I don't trust someone, I can't live with them. At least that's the case for me. He also made me an immoral offer, saying I could also look for sex elsewhere if I wanted to. I slapped him in the face and told him to disappear immediately.
Kreil: I also have to say that I was lucky enough to be able to get rid of both my husbands easily. My first husband married again and had children. I think patchwork families are good.
Huber: But you can't generalize. You can't say that all men are players, just like you can't say all women are sluts. It always takes two to tango.
How important is sex in love?
Kreil: I think so too.
Huber: It's a very important part of any relationship but particularly of a marriage—it's basically the meat and bones of the marriage. As a woman, I couldn't imagine a marriage without sex.