We are inundated with articles portraying how women are outliving men and more likely to die alone, how older men tend to go for younger models and descriptions of cougar women preying on young men. We are used to regular media discourse that perpetuates stereotypes about our age, our gender and our relationships.
Of course with our culture peppered with the Bridget Jones spinster caricature whose failed relationships end up with her imagining being eaten by Alsatians it can be hard to escape from the application of such narrow labels.
The truth behind these headlines are explored in thoughtful pieces in the media such as a recent Guardian article by Lynne Segal exploring how, by the age of 60, there are more than twice as many single women as men.
This led to an investigation by Radio 4's More or Less programme into the other questions raised by her article such as are older men mainly living with younger women? Does this result in why twice as many young men as young women live alone?
As More or Less concludes the facts do not lie. In 2013 2.4 million women lived alone over the age of 65 compared to 1.2 million men. There is evidence from official government statistics that men are much more likely than women to repartner at the end of a marriage frequently to women younger than themselves and that in 2013 about 16 per cent of young men live alone as opposed to eight per cent of women.
Feminists would take the stance that this is somehow to do with the male appetite for a younger model. Women are left alone fending for themselves after a marriage breakdown and fated to an existence of meals for one and loneliness whilst their ex partner enjoys the fruits of youth. The truth, however, is often less interesting than spin. The larger context is that there are just more women over the age of 60 than men. Women are likely to live longer and generally speaking more men are married than women.
Official statistics that produce these headlines are also are not designed to keep up with the changing face of society today. They catalogue a person's status as single just because the survey is limited in how to accommodate the complex and multi-faceted relationships in today's society. Cohabitation for example for many couples involves two houses and alternating nights a week at each other's homes. Just because a box has been ticked to describe someone as single is not necessarily how they would describe themselves but actually shows how statistics need to be focused on the different sorts of relationships that exist, not on who shares a household.
Family law of course has still has not caught up to legislate for the fall out of all relationships in society but what a good lawyer does offer is protection for old age. If a relationship has broken down good advice can make the difference between a fair and an unfair settlement.