Retirement Transitions - Being Around the House by Bill Storie
For starters, the old greeting, “Hi honey, I’m home” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, when you’ve already been home all day. Retirement can do that to you, they say.
Of course, if you are on your own anyway, then the issue of talking to someone else in the house may be less of an issue.
As Drew Barrymore says, “There's a tremendous difference between alone and lonely. You could be lonely in a group of people. I like being alone. I like eating by myself. I go home at night and just watch a movie or hang out with my dog. I have to exert myself and really say, oh God, I've got to see my friends 'cause I'm too content being by myself.”
One of the main catalysts for divorce is being constantly on top of each other around the house - being in each other’s space every day. Nerves get jangled, arguments start, usually silly little things, and tempers get frayed. It’s not uncommon. If this is happening to you then while you may not like it, you will find that the majority of couples in the same situation are experiencing the same frustrations.
When thinking through the various elements of retirement, the Friction Factor of being together all day, every day, must be considered.
It is a significant change to go from say 5 “awake-hours” per day in the house together, to say 15 “awake-hours” per day together. Many people just can’t cope with the bumping into each other. Of course, if you live in the 20-room mansion, it may not be such a drama.
In all probability, you and your partner will be in this state of togetherness for many years. It is therefore critical, that to preserve the union, common ground must be found. That doesn’t mean that you must do the same things. Quite the opposite in fact. Having separate interests, yet each appreciating that the other has a different interest is healthy, very healthy. If one partner does have to go away on a trip in pursuit of their interests, then the remaining partner should accept it. Three week trips, on your own, to the Sahara may not be the ideal choice of course!
One of the strangest features of being together in the house constantly is the apparent inability to talk to each other. Or at least to communicate. With the amount of time available, it would be simple to appreciate that conversation would be straightforward. Yet in many cases, such conversation is not only limited, but often, non-existent. This is not unusual unfortunately.
How many times has one spouse been looking for the other one, only to discover that she has been out of the house all day?
The advent of e-mail has helped enormously in this dilemma. Trying to find quality time to have a serious discussion, even though both of you are at home all day, can be surprisingly difficult. Therefore, sending him an e-mail to lay out your points of view can be constructive, useful and less adversarial than actual conversation. Sad, but true.
The single person, in this context, has it made. He or she doesn’t have to think about what to say, when to say it, or worry about the blow-back. I fully appreciate that being alone through choice, divorce, death etc, brings its own challenges, so I have no wish to demean the “loneliness” factor at all. But the switch from employed life to retired life for the single person, in this context, may not be such a challenge for many people.
Many singles enjoy the ability to spend time at home in retirement and can actually get lots of chores done around the house. Small projects such as painting a bedroom, or cleaning out old cupboards can be easier. The problem is the possible lack of motivation. The single person must generate their own self-motivation as opposed to being pushed by another partner in the house. The motivation factor is probably the single largest drawback to life alone in retirement. It should be recognized and fixed as soon as possible, and ideally permanently.
Having reasons to be out of the house for at least part of the day may be more than useful. Part-time work, charity work, gardening, and so forth, may provide not only pleasure in the doing thereof, but might also be extremely valuable in maintaining good relations in the marital home.
Changing from a life “outside the home” to one inside can be a problem. On the other hand, with some forethought, some planning, some joint discussion and some common understanding and appreciation, being around the house more, can be a relatively easy part of your new life.
And remember …
“Clocks don’t run backwards”
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”