Friday, March 13, 2009

Retirement -- Do you get on each other’s nerves?

Just the other day, my friend Srini posed a question that his wife had wanted to ask. Now that my wife and I are spending all our time at home, she wanted to know if we get on each other’s nerves?

I was concerned about exactly this aspect as I was leaving my job last year. In many ways, I feel that this is an even more pertinent retirement question than the questions about finance, which is what most people first think of.

In our case, for the most part, we are handling all this extra time together fine, though this is really more than a yes-or-no question. The fact that both of us left our jobs at around the same time has worked in our favor. In several retirement books, I have read that the second spouse (one who retires later) ends up disrupting the rhythm and the free time that the first spouse has gotten used to. This causes some resentment and leads to arguments.

Over the first few weeks of being home-bound, we re-divvied up the chores in ways that seem fair. We’ve fallen into a pattern of activities that we end up doing together (movies, TV, library visits and even grocery shopping) and there are times when we just do our own things.

From time to time, I will relocate to a different room just to get some space. I zealously carve out time to read books alone. I meet friends for coffee and have occasionally headed off alone to events, bookstores or to a coffee-shop to be by myself.

Lesson: Before you retire, have a discussion with your spouse on what you expect to be doing together and agree on having some time alone for each of you alone (if that’s important to you.) The biggest trick (I think) is to be able to catch the trigger points that lead to repeated arguments.

So to answer the original question, overall we’ve worked to reach an equilibrium without getting on each other's nerves. And I have actually been surprised that it has turned out better than I expected it to.


Sylvia said...

I've been blogging about retirement for some months now; I retired in Oct 2008 ... my husband continues to work. One of the things I have given lots of thought to is how expectations of each other have to shift when one partner works and the other is free to do whatever their heart determines. It is a huge challenge for sure. said...

I've found people get to their 50's and 60's as a couple without actually talking about your future. You talk more about renovating the kitchen or planning your kids' wedding. Couples need to get authentic with each other, and to talk about what you see in your future. Often couples find they are in a different place. Secretly, each one has ideas on what you want to do. One might want to vacation for 2 months of the year somewhere warm, taking your work or business with you. The other might want to stay right where you are, continuing to work or deciding to retire so you can finally do what you've always dreamed. This is a time when you may find, as a couple, that you are moving apart. Each has their own desires.
The minute you start talking about it and state your own true desires (sometimes after a number of disagreements about it) in a safe environment, you can begin your own journey, often realizing that you don't have to move apart, rather you begin to respect each others' wishes and gain a deeper love for each other, honoring each other. You grow closer in a different way.


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