It's Never Too Late for Love: Stories Of Rediscovery

carol_denker.jpgSusan notes: this guest blog post is by Carol Denker who knows that new beginnings are thrilling—and possible. At 55, she became a journalist; at 65, she published her first book, Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love After 50. She now runs “Reinvent Your Life Later in Life” workshops and is working on a book about people who reinvented their life.  You can see her artwork at

What is love? How do you get love? Is it ever too late for love?

Around Valentine’s Day, these questions occur. I don’t have all the answers but I do have some good — actually amazing — news.

Like a lot of other women, I spent too many years looking for love in all the wrong places. My parents were emotionally abusive; I was the scapegoat of my seemingly-normal family. The only way I knew about unconditional love was from books. They were my lifeline. Someday, I thought, I will write a book.

But I hadn’t a clue how to honor my dream. I didn’t love or even know myself. Searching for love that would make me feel whole, I married early. Now I see that I wasn’t able to love another person. But I kept doggedly trying— marriage, divorce, remarriage—because I felt utterly unable to face the world alone.

Then at age 55, my third marriage collapsed, along with the life I had constructed. An eight-year addiction to tranquilizers had to end; I’d run out of pills. I had also run out of roles: my kids were grown; I was no longer a mother, a wife, or a therapist (that was my job and I had stopped working). Oh—all my money was gone as well. 
I felt sure this was the worst thing that had ever happened to anyone: so many losses at once. And terror of terrors, I had to face the world alone.

It was a gift.

I was given a completely empty box that I had to fill — in order to survive — with my real self.

Through my tears, I had to admit it was exhilarating, recovering from my addiction, relying on my brains and talents to pay the rent.  I did portrait sketches at fairs. Sold some paintings. And then, answering an ad at the local newspaper, I discovered work I adored: writing.

I’d always been curious, always “too intense”—and always tried to suppress those qualities. Now, as a reporter, I used it all.  Church breakfasts, political meetings, business openings — each story reminded me how much I loved to write and how much I loved the world. 

Before, I had felt painfully isolated. Now I felt joyfully connected. Two years down the road, now assistant editor, I looked around and realized:  I had built a new life. It felt like a miracle!  I had been given a second chance to be me. 
And the miracle kept growing. When that newspaper was sold, I co-founded another one, The Spirit, with three friends from the neighborhood. (One of the by-products of my new life were deep and honest friendships.) After a decade as a happy single person, I met a man who felt like a soul mate.

For four fulfilling years I ran The Spirit as editor-in-chief. One day in 2007, I was musing how to make our Valentine’s edition special, when this observation hit: “You always see pictures of young couples in love, but never pictures of older couples in love.”  So I took photos of some older couples for the paper, shared my own late-life love story. And then I thought, What an interesting book this would make!

9780615314419.jpeg.jpgIdeas for books had always popped into my head; that’s how my mind worked.  But the way my heart worked, I’d never believed in myself enough to follow through. This time, everything was in alignment.  

I found photographers and interviewed other couples who had fallen in love after 50. I expected to hear simply “this is how we met” kinds of stories. But what I began hearing were stories much like mine. 

I met Linney, who loved performing as a child, but was told by strict religious parents, “Don’t draw attention to yourself.”  She wed the man her father picked out.  Thirty-five loveless years later, Linney left her marriage “to find the sweet, kind girl I knew was still inside.” She lived in one room, worked menial jobs, then made a career in real estate. At 58, Linney began taking acting lessons and performing in plays. She feels “joyfully at one with the Universe.”

I met Candace who helped her husband build his construction company — until he left her for a younger  woman. After the divorce, Candy was out of a job; all she’d done for 25 years was manage the business. Facing an unknown future, she sat down and made a list of everything she loved to do. High on the list was lovingly pushing people past their comfort zone – what she had done as manager. So Candy became a life-coach. She has a life “beyond my wildest dreams.”

I met Zelda, who married a nice guy, had four kids, cracked everyone up with her humor—it was a mystery why she was always depressed. Only Zelda knew: in her 30s, she realized she was a lesbian, but never came out or even tried to date, fearing rejection by her children. In her 50s, she began abusing alcohol, even contemplated suicide. Finally she chose life: announced who she was and went to live on her own. Zelda’s relationship with her children improved! She feels “peaceful for the first time ever.” 

Linney, Candace and Zelda all found a loving romantic partner in their late 50s. That was how I came to interview them; finding love late in life was what my book was about. But it ended up being about more than that.
The people I  interviewed — all so different — showed me that even with the best kind of childhood, you can still take a wrong path or bad advice and get separated from a life you want — and from yourself. 

What was the same about the people in my book is that they had all confronted loss and disappointment — bad marriages, wrong careers, financial setbacks, lost dreams — then transcended unhappiness to take a risk.  Each story showed how incredibly welcoming life can be once you decide to live full-out as your most authentic self.

And I heard over and over how once someone began living as their truest self, romantic love entered the picture. Some of the stories felt magical, so counter were they to what society tells us.  A couple in their 80s, so passionately in love they can’t stop laughing!  A strait-laced doctor, betrayed by his wife, falls in love with country music, becomes a dancer, then finds a true partner!

I felt like I had discovered nuggets of gold:  amazing stories that told how it’s possible to get love — self-love, romantic love, friendship love — at any age and against all odds. They showed  that when love — all the above kinds — comes late in life, it is particularly beautiful. 

This is good news.

In 2010, “Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love after 50” was published. When I learn that it has given someone hope or inspired someone else to reach out, I get so happy. This was what I imagined as a girl, that I would lift another person’s heart through a book, as mine had been lifted and sustained. I made that dream come true when I was 65 years old but I felt entirely young — open and joyous and free — inside.  

Is it ever too late for love? I found out that it is never, ever, too late for love.

Carol Denker knows that new beginnings are thrilling—and possible. At 55, she became a journalist; at 65, she published her first book, Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love after 50. She now runs “Reinvent Your Life Later in Life” workshops and is working on a book about people who reinvented their life.  You can see her artwork at