Maintaining Your Balance In A Retirement Relationship by Bob Lowry
A reader posed an interesting, and important question to me a few weeks ago. She is wondering about retired couples whose desires aren't always in alignment. What can be done if one half of a couple wants to go in one direction, while the other person doesn't.
She cited travel as a good example of this type of conflict. One person really has his or her heart set on seeing the world, or at least someplace farther away than the local shopping mall. The other is a homebody and resists travel requests. Why? Health issues, financial worries, fear of uncertainty,....there are all sorts of reasons why travel is a turnoff for someone.
This type of disagreement is important to resolve. Travel may be one obvious point of contention, but probably not the only one. In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote that loosening the purse strings is difficult for many of us. Downsizing or moving to someplace with a different climate, eliminating or adding possessions, redoing the budget, cutting back to one car (or maybe none in an urban setting), even interactions with other family members, are other possibilities for differences of opinion.
Virtually any aspect of a human relationship can become magnified during retirement. Being together full time and maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship takes some compromise. It requires each person to be able to listen to another's concerns without becoming judgemental.
So, what to do? How does a couple maintain a balance between different wants and points of view? It certainly isn't healthy for one person to always dictate what is done. Maybe I can present a few possibilities for you to consider.
Each of us must accept the legitimacy of the other person's point of view. While we may disagree, it doesn't help to dismiss something as silly or wrong. By definition, an opinion does not have to be based on facts. But, that doesn't mean it isn't very real to someone.
I can't stress enough the importance of compromise from both members of the relationship. If you don't accept the other person's view of things, you will have to develop the ability to find a way to blend their approach and yours. It isn't likely to be a 50-50 split; sometimes you will get more of your way and sometimes you won't. If you can't accept this, the long term health of the relationship is in doubt.
Understand that we don't lose our individuality when we form a bond with another. Even as part of a couple, there are times we need to do what is important to each of us. That doesn't diminish the power of two, it accepts the fact that there are two separate human being involved. That means each of you need "me" time to be happy when together.
I know couples who require individual time apart, either for a few hours, or even longer. Several years ago when my travel schedule was hectic and home life was a bit tense, Betty suggested I take a two week vacation, alone, to my favorite place in the world, Maui. After I got over the amazement of the generosity of the offer and her ability to know what we both needed at that time, I spent a glorious 14 days, alone, decompressing, shedding most of my tensions and concerns. I returned grateful, in much better condition to carry on with life, and with a scuba diving certificate!
A comment already added to this post reminded me that Betty also took a 2 week "sabbatical." After I returned from Maui, she headed off to Wisconsin for a 14 day drive around the state, doing what she loves best: staying in B&Bs and taking lots of movies and photos.
If I leave you with just one thought it is that a couple committed to each other will resolve these differences. Accept that both of you are equals, each view has validity, and there is a way to blend all ideas into a workable plan. Also, feel free to think outside the box. A two week trip, alone, to Maui or Wisconsin, certainly broke most "rules," but was exactly what was needed at that time.
By Bob Lowry