Everyone needs space. And a circle of friends. And a challenge doesn't hurt. So, how does a couple in retirement negotiate personal space, separate circles of friends, and different interests? This excellent Wall St. Journal article, "Why Too Much Togetherness can Ruin Retirement," lays out the issues.
And here is a little sidebar that went with the package -- about a woman who retired after her husband, only to discover that, while she was busy working, he had reinvented his life. While he always had the martini waiting for her when she walked in the door, he had worked out a daily routine for himself involving his guy friends and projects. Once she retired and was home, too, she discovered that their life together wasn't the forever-vacation-together that she had imagined: leisurely breakfasts, long bike rides, trips and explorations, candlelit dinners. A happy ending: after an adjustment, they worked it out. For the full story, go here.
Here's a piece of it: (by Sydney Lagier)
"My husband, Doug, retired a few years before I did. He wore retirement well from the moment he slipped it on. And I must say, having a stay-at-home husband fit me pretty well, too. He managed things at home: grocery shopping, home maintenance and, most important, dinner. And on those exasperating days, if I alerted him before I left the office, I arrived home 17 minutes later to the sound of my martini shaking.I imagined our retirement days together, sleeping late and lingering over coffee and the paper. We'd ride our bikes to lunch, work together in the garden, and enjoy a glass of wine out on the patio, admiring our handiwork. We would rarely get on one another's nerves because we would have removed the major source of aggravation—work—from our lives. It would be like a honeymoon all over again. It would be the perfect life.
"Well, it turns out Doug already had a pretty good life. And since I was at work all day while he was living that life, it didn't really include me. He had biking buddies, lunching buddies and things he liked to get done. Not only did he already have a structure to his days, he didn't actually need me to coordinate his fun.....
Luckily, I had a real live retirement expert living right under my own roof. First, I copied him. I scheduled a weekly walking date with one friend and a regular lunch date with another. Then I picked up yoga and a little volunteer job. And when Doug was off biking with his friends, I used the solo time to write. Now each evening, we have stories to share about our day, and they don't involve my crappy day at work.
"Before I retired, I thought I'd work out in the garden more often. Ditto for the gym. But as it turns out, I don't really want to. And given the choice between doing things I don't want to do and things I do want to do—well, I'd rather do things I do want to do, like writing. Writing is something I didn't even know I wanted to do until I actually retired.
"The truth is it's hard to know who you'll be without work until you take away the work and find out. Seeing where retirement takes you, discovering who you are now that work doesn't define you, that's the fun part."
To read about a couple's life when only one is retired, see my previous blog.