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Sunday, May 31, 2020
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Too Much Togetherness?


     You and your spouse are finally retired. You’ve worked hard, saved your money, raised your kids, paid off your house and now it’s time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labors. You’ve dreamed about what you would do together in these years, where you would go together, what fun you would have together and how nice it would be alone together again. 

     But, wait! Maybe there’s a problem. Maybe it’s not what you expected.  Maybe you're not enjoying all the togetherness like you thought you would.

     Most Boomer marriages have been dual-career relationships. So the routine has been that you’d connect in the morning before work and again in the evening after work; and occasionally you’d get away for a dinner out or maybe even a weekend alone together. Now suddenly you are free to enjoy each others’ company in a way you haven’t since before your first child was born, but you find it feels different now. All those quirky little things that fascinated you and endeared you to your spouse when you were newlyweds aren’t so adorable anymore. You were able to overlook them when you were occupied with your careers and child-rearing. But once you’re both retired and in your house alone together all day every day, you may find yourself wanting to throttle each other!  

     For many couples, the first few months after both spouses have retired is a very tough adjustment period and can even be a dangerous time for the marriage.

     So, how much togetherness is too much togetherness? And how can you be together all day every day without driving each other crazy? Do you feel like you need some space? Does your spouse? Is that wrong? 

     The over-arching principle for surviving this new-found togetherness is to remember that you are more than a couple…you are each individuals with your own talents, your own tastes and your own dreams. It is unhealthy for the marriage if you are absorbed too much into each other.

     There is nothing wrong with having some space between you and some alone time. When your mate wants some time away from you, that doesn't mean he or she doesn't love you anymore. And the really good news is that if you can learn to celebrate your differences and encourage each other in your individual endeavors, you may find this to be the happiest time of your married life.

     Here are some ideas for making the adjustment:

·        Realize that change – even positive change – is stressful. Expect to have some uncomfortable feelings and plan ahead to stay busy and engaged during the initial weeks and months of adjustment into retirement. 

·        Get involved in community organizations or church activities together and separately. Involvement in outside activities gives us a reason to get up in the morning. Charitable work, in particular, has tremendous feedback potential for our emotional and even our physical health. 

·        Maintain your individual hobbies or learn something new that you’ve always wanted to try. Then support each other and celebrate your partner’s new skills.  

·        Don’t expect retirement to be all leisure. Boredom will set in quickly and on its heels may come poor health and depression. Napping in the recliner half the day is unhealthy for the body, the mind and the marriage. Maintain a daily routine just as you did when you were working.  Encourage each other to stay active and keep moving, together and separately.

·        Maintain friendships. Get together with friends with and without your spouse. Have a regular girls’ day out or a regular golf game with your buddies. Also include your friends in couples’ activities on occasion. 

·        Take turns with cooking and household chores. If you don’t cook, then take-out is a good alternative on days when you’re responsible for meal prep. Don’t expect the house-hold chore routine to continue as it always has. Talk about who prefers to do what and how the jobs can be shared. You’ll avoid a lot of resentment and arguments if you get this worked out early in the adjustment period. 

·        Check in with each other frequently. Talk about what is and is not working for each of you individually and as a couple. 

·        Don’t look at retirement as an ending, but a beginning. Think back to things you dreamed of doing together as a young couple. Are those things possible now? Are there things you wanted to do individually? How can you support each other in those dreams? 

·        Don’t forget your sex life. Staying connected sexually will help lower stress levels and keep the lines of communication open. 

·        Don’t get sloppy. Just because you’re not heading off to work doesn’t mean you should be sitting around in your robe all day. There’s something about getting up, getting cleaned up and getting dressed that promotes activity. And if you need another reason not to get sloppy, see the tip above this one. 

·        Play games together. Whether it’s cards, bowling, golf, dancing, board games…whatever. It’s important to have fun together so that you will look forward to being together again when you are apart.  

·        Always remember that doing things independently gives you both a chance to miss each other and to return to the relationship excited and renewed by the fun you had. It also gives you something to talk about! 

·        What’s on your bucket list? We all need something to plan for and anticipate. But, they don’t have to be the same things. You and your spouse may have different experiences filling your buckets. Some of them you may want to share with each other, and some you may want to do alone. Either way, celebrate each others' goals and experiences. 

·        Be positive in your communication with each other. Avoid phrases like “you never” or “you always”. Keep in mind that every criticism needs to be balanced with several positive comments.

·        Let go of past hurts and disappointments. You don’t have to take all the skeletons out of the closet just because you have more time together. Choose your battles. As your grandchildren are probably singing these days…”Let it Go! Let it Go!”.

·        Let go of jealousies…particularly regarding your mate’s need for occasional “alone time”. The truth is, some people require more alone time than others. Just because your spouse wants an hour by himself doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be with you.  

*          Continue to grow together in your spiritual life. Decide who will be the spiritual leader in your household, then search for ways to study, learn and grow spiritually together. But, be sure to have your own private time with the Lord too.

*     Be assured that you will eventually adjust to your new circumstances. Just be sure to keep love and respect foremost in your minds as you make the necessary adjustments.

 by:  Paula Moore Hurtt, Web Content Writer
       and Jene Hedden, Publisher