Making Nice with In-laws

All things are made better with a cup of tea in a lovely china tea cup.

 I loved my mother-in-law dearly.  I miss her every day and would love to spend an afternoon drinking tea with her out of her treasured china tea cups – or sharing a glass of wine on her patio.  But when I think about making nice with in-laws, I can’t help but think about a time when I didn’t “make so nice,” and I’m glad I found out about it in time to make amends.

My mother-in-law lived her last few years in the independent section of a senior community.  When we visited, she wanted to parade us around so that everyone could see us.  I hated making the rounds – exchanging polite chitchat – so I often begged off on that part and just stayed in her apartment.  We saw her frequently, visiting her and taking her out or bringing her to our house to stay a few days.  But I didn’t care if we saw anybody else – just her.

I was shocked once when we were attending a holiday party to find she had told the management that we lived out of state.  Apparently, it was deeply embarrassing to her that we weren’t very visible to her friends and to the people who worked there.  After that, we made sure to have dinner with her in the dining room when we visited and to talk with her friends and the staff.  Who knew?  I thought we were having quality time without distractions, but she thought no one knew she had attentive children.

These kinds of misunderstandings happen not just with our mothers-in-law but with all the in-laws and out-laws we gain when we marry into a family.  But there’s hope . . .

Lessons from “The Happiness Project”

A few years ago, I read a wonderful book by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  She has some wonderful suggestions for creating warm relationships with those people who are members of our family, but not our genetic relatives.  These work for all the in-laws and the out-laws – mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters.  I’m paraphrasing, but all the ideas here belong to Ms. Rubin.  There are plenty more in the link to her book above.

  • Remember the “mere exposure effect.” That means that familiarity breeds affection.  The more often we’re exposed to something – music, sports, art, even faces – the more we like them.  So if you’ve been avoiding someone in the family, perhaps you should spend some time together.  It may improve the relationship.

“A mother gives you a life, a mother-in-law gives you her life.”
― Amit KalantriWealth of Words

  • Act the way you want to feel. Feelings really follow actions, rather than the other way around.  If you want to deal with someone in a calm and friendly manner, make sure that you approach that person in that way.  Acting calm and friendly will actually make you feel calm and friendly.  This is the same thing as smiling when you really feel lousy.  If you do it for a while, you’ll improve your mood.  Try it.  It works.
  • Avoid pointless bickering. If you fight about the same things – politics, for instance, or religion, just agree to disagree.  You are not going to change your 85-year-old father-in-law’s voting habits.  Criticizing people’s choices isn’t polite, and it isn’t effective.

Accept yourself as you are, know what you value, and let the rest go.

  • Act in accordance with your own values. Gretchen Rubin correctly points out that when we really accept ourselves, others accept us, too.  You don’t have to be noisy about it, just go your own way.  When our sons were young, they both went through a long (and I mean very long) hair phase.  I know that was not my father-in-law’s favorite hair style, but I’m a big believer in letting people wear their hair the way they like.   I never said anything.  He never said anything.  It worked out.
  • Respect the priorities of others. Sometimes relationships can be difficult because we simply think different things are important.  Ask yourself what is really important to that person, and then if you can, if it doesn’t violate your own values, see if you can honor that priority.

How do you handle your special family relationships?  We’d love to know.

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your Children and Grandchildren

 

 Blessed with children and blessed again with grandchildren.

Children and then grandchildren…both relationships uniquely special.

In retirement, in an ideal world, we’re finally finished with the anxiety of launching our children into the world of adulthood.  Hopefully, they are grown up, finished with school, working, and married with children, but they are still our children and will always be part of our “primary family.”

They, however, have spouses and children of their own, and we now have a different status.  Even though we revel in the freedom from responsibility that adult children embody, some retirees can feel abandoned by their grown children.  Some others have difficult relationships with their adult children for any number of reasons.

In “Mothers and Their Adult Daughters:  Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds,”  Karen L. Fingerman, Ph.D. argues, “The parent-offspring relationship in modern America is based more on emotional affection than on economic or cultural imperatives.”

In other words, adult children who stay in close touch with their parents do it because they like them and like to spend time with them.  That’s the secret. We want them to want to be with us. It’s a choice.

Here are some suggestions to make that happen.

  • Don’t talk about how long it’s been since you’ve seen/ had a text from/ or talked on the phone with them. You’re trying to tell them that you love them, but what they’re hearing is a whole heap of guilt.  It’s better to say (when they finally do call), “Hi!  I’m so glad to talk to you.”
  • “How can you live like this?” is not a good way to start a conversation. Have you forgotten what it was like to try to work, do kids’ sports, teach Sunday school, and get Christmas ready?  Something’s got to give, and in my house back in the day, it was the housework. Here’s a good place to employ the 50-year-rule.  What difference is a clean bathroom when compared to a happy kid?
  • Don’t make your kids take sides in your own marital problems. The prevalence of divorce in our generation has made some big family occasions more awkward than they were in an earlier time.

Try to get along when everyone is together, and make it easy for   them if that’s  impossible.

I have one friend who does Christmas with her adult children early in December so that they can spend the actual day of Christmas with her ex-husband and his  present wife. The appreciation she receives from the children is worth the sacrifice.

A few more tips for “children and grandchildren” happiness.

  • Make sure that your adult children know how much you love them. Embrace them and tell them so.  It’s not all about the grandchildren.
  • Have fun with your adult children. Take them out to dinner without the grandchildren.  Meet as adults.
  • Be a cheerleader for your children. Share their good news with them with genuine joy.
  • Treat your grown children with respect. It’s hard to give up the role of advice-giver.  Just listen and act as a sounding board.  This is difficult!  Sometimes I have to bite my tongue.
  • Accept your family relationships the way they are and not the way you would like them to be. It’s not “over the river and through the woods” anymore!

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”              Elizabeth Stone

I have two children happily married and four teen-aged grandchildren.  This is a wonderful phase in our “richly aged” retirement lives.  Enjoy it everyday! It adds to our richness.

Homework:  Give hugs to all of them, even if they are cyber hugs.

Dixie

richlyaged.com

writers@richlyaged.com

Reconnect with your Spouse: Making your Marriage Survive Retirement

 

There’s lots of togetherness in retirement!

If you read Dixie’s last post, you’ve been remembering why you chose your partner.  That’s a good place to start.   If you want your marriage to survive retirement, you’ve got to reconnect with your spouse.

Retirement is a wonderful time, a time to be celebrated, but it’s also a time that takes some getting used to – much like that first year of marriage when we learn to make the enormous leap from “me” to “we.”

But for some reason, we expect a period of adjustment to marriage but not to retirement.  Maybe it’s because most of us have spent a lot of years in a pretty consistent routine – raising kids, going to work, and handling the myriad number of chores and obligations required to do both those things.  We think the relationship we’ve forged over the years will just go on in this new and free format, only we’ll be on vacation all the time!

For better or for worse, but not for lunch!

Unfortunately, experts know that the changes accompanying retirement can wreak havoc on a marriage.  The statistics involving divorce at this period are pretty grim: since 1981, there has been a 16% increase in the divorce rate among couples married 30 or more years.

There might be a bit too much togetherness during those first few retirement months.  And when both spouses have worked at jobs where they were in charge, there may be a difficulty in giving up that authority!

“Thank you dear for finishing my sentence.  That’s exactly what I would have said.” –  Wife of a retired husband

Sometimes couples have simply stopped working without really making a plan for their retirement – not a financial plan, but a life plan!  They may feel overwhelmed and baffled about what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives!  But it doesn’t have to come to that.

The good news is that couples who make it through this passage (just like all those other passages encountered in any long-term relationship) come out the other side stronger and happier.  Most couples eventually find that this time is one of the sweetest times in life.

How do we make it sweet?

  • Start by making a conscious commitment to the relationship. Tell yourself that your spouse comes first.  Before your grown kids.  Before your grandchildren.  Before your friends.  Before anyone.  When a major decision comes up, ask yourself, “Is this good for the relationship?”
  • Give yourselves space. You don’t have to be joined at the hip.  In fact, it’s important to have some interests of your own.  Find some new hobbies or spend more time on the ones you already have.  You’ll be more interesting to your partner when you have something special to share about your day.  My husband just started a part-time job at the golf course.  He comes home full of stories about new people and new activities.
Be sure to have a couple of good hugs every day!
  • Create a ritual for yourselves as a couple. Have coffee together and read the paper each morning, share a cocktail before dinner, or take a walk each evening after dinner.  This is a time each day when you know you’ll be concentrating on each other and talking.   My favorite time of day is early morning coffee with the newspaper!

More ways to reconnect!

 

  • Express appreciation for your partner. Tell him why he’s great and tell other people in front of him!  Everybody likes to feel appreciated.

 

  • Don’t ignore your sexual relationship. Work on being intimate.  Make a date for sex or give each other a massage or just make sure to have a couple of decent hugs each day.  Physical contact is important.  It makes you feel loved.

”Explore one another. You might like what you find.”  Unknown

  • Spend time with mutual friends. Reaching out to other people enriches your life, not just by giving you an excuse to get out of the house to do something, but by providing perspective on your own relationship.

Establish a new routine.  And remember to laugh.

 

  • Create a new routine for chores.  I can remember my grandmother and grandfather arguing over which direction the handle of the tea kettle should point!  Instead of fighting over the correct way to wash the dishes or make the bed, divide the responsibilities for chores in an equitable manner and then let your partner alone.  And say thanks!  My husband does the vacuuming.  And I don’t.  I think that’s fabulous.
  • Establish separate territories in your house. When I was doing research for this blog, I thought this was a weird idea.  Especially since we live in a tiny house.  Then I realized  that Bob spends lots of time in his man cave on the lanai (that’s a porch in Florida), and I spend a lot of time in my office corner of the bedroom.  We  wander in to see each other from time to time, but we both have our own space.  It works.

 

  • Keep a sense of humor. Laughter greases the creaky wheels of life, and flexibility is the key to happiness!

 

The good news here is that couples tend to get happier the longer they’re retired.  If you expect a period of adjustment, you’ll find that you can work together to create a wonderful retirement life.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

Remember why you chose your Spouse?

When it’s the right match!

Choosing the ONE!

Let’s start with our primary relationship. That means your spouse or significant other…or maybe you are single again but anticipating someone filling that gap.

In the beginning of the relationship what was it that made you excited to spend time with him?  You had so many things to talk about, to discover about each other; music, movies, activities, perspectives on various subjects, unconditional attention for each other and unfettered hopes and dreams.

Now fast forward, 5, 10, 30, even 50 years.

Consider that we may have spent so much time together that sometimes we don’t even really see our partners.  We tend to take that person for granted.  Sure you’ve changed over your history together but it’s probable that your partner has changed also.

It’s time to get to know each other all over again.  Working in separate careers over a long period of time provides exclusive experiences and growth for each of you.  Once retired, it’s time to reacquaint.

Even if we have an indifferent relationship, almost strangers, there was a time when our mate brought us nothing but joy – even butterflies in the stomach!  Can you remember that?

Research shows that couples who do new or different things together are happier than those who fall into same-old routines.

In the beginning of a relationship, you’re going to new places, you may both have tentative feelings about how the other person feels, and all of that contributes to the above-mentioned butterflies you feelOver time, you relax around each other and can get complacent. You don’t need to go zip lining but keeping things fun, like singing songs in the car or trying pickle ball can help keep boredom from clouding your relationship.

Recount that joy here

 This exercise should remind you of why you chose this person in the first place.  It does for me.

 List five reasons why you committed yourself to this relationship.

Okay, I’ll start:

  1. He’s handsome.
  2. He makes me laugh several times a day and is really funny.
  3. He’s my best friend and soulmate.
  4. He’s who I think of first when I see something I want to share.
  5. He gives the “gift of attention” when discussing topics (caveat, not quite as much as 33 years ago.)
  6. He’s a great dancer, tennis player, cook, hugger, etc.
  7. He loves our kids and grand-kids.
  8. He’s “game” for new activities.
  9. We have history, and history validates your life. When you have inside jokes and stories you create a bond.

Okay, I’ll stop.  I know that’s more than five, but I couldn’t help myself.

Now it’s your turn.  List 5 “magnetic” reasons.

Create Your Retirement Relationship together

Now that you’re in a positive frame of mind, you need to spend some time exploring the idea of retirement life together.

According to a recent Fidelity study of 500 married couples ages 33 to 70, more than a third of them gave completely different answers when asked about when they would retire and what they wanted their lives to look like in retirement.

Now is the time!

Planning retirement together.

Here are some partner questions to help you get started.

  • When do you want to retire?  Will you do it at the same time?  If not, how will that work?
  • How much money will you have to live on?  This isn’t the primary question, really, but it does make a difference in what you’ll do.
  •  The secret is in matching the plan to the amount and living happily with what we do have.  There are countless ways to “live large” on a shoestring, but that’s a subject for another time.
  • Make separate lists of ten things that you’d like to do in the next ten years and then compare the lists.  You will probably be surprised and possibly delighted.  But no matter what, you’ll have a great conversation.
  • As a couple, free flow your thoughts as partners?  Don’t limit yourself to listing those things that need to be done around your home.  Dream big here!  The sky is the limit.

“It’s simple: Whether you’ve been together a short time or a lifetime: Be conscious and intentional about making your relationship a priority or run the risk of drifting apart and becoming strangers.”

Now put on your favorite song, pour a glass of healthy antioxidant-filled red wine and sit by each other while you get busy on your “retirement  relationship” lists.

 Dixie

Writer’s@richlyaged.com

Building Extraordinary Relationships

Love is all there is!

If you’re reading a blog about positive aging, I’m relatively sure that you’ve reached the point in your life where you know that the most important things in life aren’t things.

The most important things, of course, are the people we love and those who love us.  That’s why building extraordinary relationships is essential to a happy retirement.  You can have all the money in the world.  You can play golf seven days a week, but if you don’t have people to love, life can be pretty lonely.

It’s only stuff!  You can’t even give it away.

It’s not about acquiring things anymore.  All of our possessions – those things that we thought so necessary when we bought them – turn out to be just “stuff.”  Perhaps we have cleared out our parents’ homes only to discover that all that stuff becomes, in the end, a burden.  We don’t want it, and we can’t sell it.  Heck, we can’t even give it away!

I remember when we were cleaning out my mother-in-law’s studio apartment after her death.  There wasn’t one charitable organization that would come for her flat screen TV.  Finally, we just put it out in the hall with a sign saying, “Free TV.”  It was still there the next morning.

Consider the 50-year-rule.

What does matter, however, are the relationships we forge during our lives.  My mom practiced the 50-year rule.  She liked to think about things in relation to what difference they would make in 50 years.  Wise woman.

If we employ the 50-year rule, we’ll see that very little that we do now will matter in 50 years except those things that we do with the people we love.  Time spent with our children and their children.  Time spent volunteering, perhaps, or time spent mentoring.  Or even time spent protecting the environment.

91% of people in couples said their relationship with their partner was the most important thing for a happy retirement. 75% said that it was their partner or spouse that they would turn to in times of need. 83% overall said that strong personal relationships were very important in determining their happiness.

Huffington Post

It isn’t only the relationship with our partner that’s important.  It’s also the other beloved people in our lives.  I still remember and embrace the time spent with my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles when I was a child.  They still serve as mentors and models to my life.  Today, I also have siblings and in-laws and grown children and grandchildren and long-time friends to consider.

Everything else is just stuff!

Because building extraordinary relationships is paramount to a successful retirement, we’re starting a series of blogs on how to do it.

Since our relationships bring to our lives both our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows, they deserve some time and some consideration.

Many people go along year after year repeating the same arguments with the same people and suffering through the same disappointing holidays, but it doesn’t have to be that way

It is possible to build extraordinary relationships– to make them more joyous or, at least, less difficult.  We just need a plan.  So come back and spend some time with us over the next couple of weeks while we explore the best ways to build vibrant and fulfilling relationships.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

 

Travel near or far: positive aging

Many of us lived the secret life of “Walter Mitty”… daydreaming our way through various exciting but never experienced adventures. Even Walter found a way to actualize many of those dreams into his real life.  Let’s see what happens when your dreams become  a reality.

Pam, Bob, Dixie and Rick try a Relocation Cruise from Miami to Rome, Italy.

Not every one likes to travel. This positive aging tip is directed for those that do and those that aspire to.

You all know there are hundreds of ways to travel.  The four of us have tried many of them both in our nation and in other countries.

Pam and Bob started a business in Europe and lived both in Bath,England and in the Netherlands before returning to the U.S.  We’ve traveled by trains, planes, automobiles and ships.  Sounds extravagant? We’ve usually managed to do this on a “shoestring.”

Our residences are in Florida, one of the places that makes cruise travel fairly convenient.  We tried a Relocation Cruise with MSC, an Italian cruise line.

MSC, Italian cruise line. Great food, service and wonderful entertainment.

What’s a Relocation Cruise?

Many cruise lines move their vessels out of the Florida region during hurricane season. Basically June 1 to November 1st.  These transitions occur during the “shoulder seasons” meaning fall and spring.  Fall is the time the ships return to the U.S. and spring sends the ships to European ports.

Because the passenger’s portion of the trip is only one way (the trip on the opposite portion is up to you), Relocation Cruises are economical.  We booked a 20 day cruise from Miami to Rome. Ports included;

New York City. Standing at the ground level of “Freedom Tower”
  1. Depart Miami
  2. New York City (overnight in NYC port),
  3. Bermuda
  4. Punta Del Gado  Azores
  5. Lisbon Portugal
  6. Cadiz Spain
  7. Barcelona Spain
  8. Naples Italy (tour of Pompeii)
  9. Rome, Italy

We rented an apartment in Rome for four days to tour the area.  After visiting all our ports each couple flew on to their destinations.

Churches in Rome were spectacular, as expected.
Following the Azores, coming into the Lisbon Portugal port
Found artifacts preserved in the lost city of Pompeii

Obviously, the four of us like to travel and have traveled a bit. This trip did not disappoint.  Though I feel a little like those friends who return from their vacations and then bore you with their travel tales and travel slides/albums, I will stop with the photos.

We advocate travelling near, (we live in an amazingly beautiful country) or far.  The new experiences, adventures, camaraderie and friendship can’t be underestimated.  All important to positive aging.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

One last photo in Rome:

Good friends in Rome. In Italy, Mangia mangia! means EAT!

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” — Tim Cahill

Homework:  If you are one of those who enjoy travel, Checkout a relocation cruise.

Dixie

writers@richlyaged.com