“I married you for life, not lunch!” That’s a retort that can be heard more frequently now that 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching age 65 every day and finding new lifestyles that may include more time at home together. And it may be more togetherness than they have experienced in a long time!
What happens when two people are now filling the home space fulltime or nearly fulltime when it used to be neither or one of them? The real estate becomes more cramped! And there may be differences in views over how to spend time. Both situations deserve some attention because transitions, as we all know, can be trying. The more we know what to expect, the better the outcome. In the case of fulltime or parttime retirement, you are likely moving to a much-anticipated next chapter, and you want it to be perfect. A little awareness and planning can make a difference.
Let’s take the real estate, or living space. Your house or apartment may have functioned perfectly with one desk and someplace for the computer, but now you both may want a desk and computer space. It may be necessary to reallocate an area and reassign uses of flat spaces. What you don’t want is for one person to spread all the bills, papers, and computer paraphernalia all over the dining room table – and leave it there.
Maybe one of you is taking up a hobby, such as scrapbooking or finally dealing with those shoeboxes of slides and photos. Where to do that? If you can agree in advance, it will be easier. Maybe the dining room table – with agreement to use one end and have a quick put-away plan – is ideal.
If you are planning a move, it’s a perfect time to separately and together write down all your space needs and preferences, thinking as far forward as you can.
Another challenge is spending more time at home when the Sandwich Generation phenomenon is present, that is, a grown child or elderly parent living with you. That can put even more pressure on space, requiring careful consideration and discussion among all parties.
It’s great to be able to encourage and accommodate one another as things change.
Sometimes the accommodation can be difficult, or quite a source of tension because of expectations that differ. One spouse or partner may expect to retire into spending all his or her time with the other. Ah, togetherness! Yet, the other may already have a network of friends and activities that don’t always include the spouse. Maybe the husband has just retired and thinks his wife will cook lunch everyday, and, thank you, at noon, please. That is not likely to work, says the wife, “I married you for life, not lunch.” It doesn’t fit into her concept of a day or her desire for flexibility.
For the man, this may be a surprise and a blow, as he had envisioned more time together and is used to a schedule. Often men don’t have such well-rounded social lives as women, though the reverse can definitely be true.
If one spouse has more need for togetherness, it is important to talk about it and figure out how to best meet both partners’ needs. You can start with each of you writing down an ideal retirement day and comparing notes as a way to see the differences and similarities. Then you can ask and answer questions about priorities, interests, levels of energy, and more. It may be that one needs or wants to develop more interests outside of work , such as new ways to spend time. This can take some work, but it can be rewarding to try new things and renew old friendships or meet new friends. Spouses can encourage each other in these endeavors. Spouses can encourage each other in these endeavors. Some suggestions could be: local colleges that offer courses; volunteering as a great way to find relevance and new friends. Rotary Club? Take up a new form of exercise?
And, of course, time together can be wonderful. This is a time of rediscovery, to discover the traits and interests that brought you together. Do some of your old favorite activities, like going to the zoo, or ice skating, or long weekends away in a romantic place. Take a cooking class together. Learn to sail together. Do some volunteering together. The bonds can grow ever stronger.
The main point of this is that transitions bring change, and it is not always easy. We can be surprised that the person closest to us has different perceptions or new needs (or quirks) and that the path forward can be bumpy. My co-authors and I have found that humor is the best solution – humor and communication. If you are arguing over whose kitchen it is, or why the dining room table is always cluttered, or who does what chores now, take a deep breath and smile. You are the lucky ones! You are together and embarking on this new chapter called retirement, or reinvention, or whatever you have named it. You can do it!