What is it really like to have two retired people sharing space? If not mute, those smiling photos of golden anniversary couples in the paper every Sunday might share secrets of long-lasting marriages. They would say how lucky they are to still have their spouse. Would they tell you how hard it is to adjust to spending time with someone 24/7, no matter how much you love him or her?
I ponder life in the here and now with my spouse of 52 years. Is this the same guy I married?
We are two peas in a pod. The pod is the house, the car or the camper. We drink coffee and read the morning paper. We have a glass of wine with dinner. We watch Sabres or Bills games. One of us may go out to do errands, pick up a movie or get dog food. Or we might go out for breakfast together and then do the chores in tandem.
A peek into the looking glass of the past shows us dancing and dining out or hanging out at the beach as teenagers. Like many of our peers, we married very young – ages 18 and 20. My groom had to have his mother sign for our marriage license.
We carried on with similar activities as we raised our large family. We took the kids tent camping and we went out alone to dine and dance. I was a stay-at-home mom for more than 20 years and worked for 20 years. I have been retired for 10 years and Ralph has been retired for one. We have done the big stuff, signing up for Medicare, seeing a financial adviser and making a will.
We like each other, and we both enjoy jazz and rock and roll. We have a complementary sense of humor and try to pay attention to our health. We are virtually compatible. So what’s the hitch?
Differences. I Google everything; he teases me. He watches movies; I run to my room with a book or my iPad. He folds the quilt in four; I fold it in three. I use the dishwasher; he washes his own dishes. He keeps a meticulous checkbook; I forget to ask for receipts. I used to put my hand on the dashboard when he drove. We have switched places and now it is him hanging on.
Through the years we had different views on raising children and now we direct those opinions on how to raise our puppy.
What’s a couple to do? I found a great blog, “My First Few Years of Retirement,” by Bob Lowry. It addresses finance, relationships and time management, as well as the differences between men and women. He recommends a mix between structure and freedom. Lowry retired with no hobbies and few friends. He says men leave work friends behind and don’t make attempts to socialize further.
I identified with a lot of his situations and picked up some good suggestions. I realized that I was getting in my own way. I purchased books such as “The Retirement Puzzle,” which my husband had no interest in reading.
I hesitated to go off to do my own thing, thinking I needed to keep him company and not wanting to hurt his feelings. When I spoke up and started to seek my own authentic self-interests, the rest of the story started to fall into place. Ralph sets about his chores and walks the dog.
The other morning, I told him: The less I see of you, the more I like you. I mean it in a very good way.