I had a great email this week from one of our followers who asked: “I am retired but my wife will be retiring shortly. How do you manage with two in the house all of the time? “. The moment I saw this I immediately began chuckling because the answer that came to me was “You live like farmers!”.
Silly as this sounds; it is in fact the solution to constant domestic scheduling dilemma that most retired couples eventually face. I have lived and worked (or not worked) at home with a spouse for two long stretches of my life and learned very early that too much togetherness is confining, claustrophobic and downright irritating. As much as retirement IS your chance to reconnect; your “togetherness” needs to be in small scheduled doses.
In short – you are both used to being apart for long stretches of the day. You still need to have individual plans that send you hurtling in opposite directions for most morning with a tentative appointment for a cup of tea sometime in the afternoon; followed by a definite agreement regarding what is happening at dinner time.
Think about what happens on a farm – the farmer and his wife get up early, but not necessarily at the same time; there is breakfast, but after that everyone has their own to do list. The farmer’s wife is not angling for a ride on the tractor and the farmer is not hovering in the kitchen with little questions …”are we doing the grocery shopping now?” …or … “what are you going to do downstairs?”
If this sounds all too familiar, you have my sympathies, especially if one of you has a clear to do list and the other one is floundering. But look at this way – once upon a time you were a very good team – you raised children and survived potty training together because you had a divide and conquer plan and each of you had your own areas of responsibility. You do have the ability to get through this too.
Have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and discuss the things that you each could be doing. Then give each other space to just be – no hovering, and absolutely NO criticizing of your counterpart’s pastimes. Trust me many a retirement marriage has been saved by a renewed passion for photography, a potting shed or a basement workbench.
And if you are the one who has just retired keep this is in mind – just because you no longer have a day job does not mean that your better half should still have to work full time running the household. Make a commitment to learn how to operate every appliance in your house including the washing machine and agree to take on at least one household chore that you have never done before.
Just remember – vacuuming will get you out of the dog house on just about any occasion and “no husband has ever been shot by his wife while drying the dishes!”.
Once you have finally figured out how to “not be together” in the same space, then you can gradually start to figure out the things that you both do enjoy doing during your scheduled togetherness.
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