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

10 Tips Toward Being a Good Citizen

Being a good citizen was a big deal when we were kids!

I was 10 in 1958, separated by only 13 years from World War II where my father fought and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge.  For his whole life, he got tears in his eyes when the flag went by.  Patriotism and love of country were more than words to all who had lived through that war – something that rubbed off on us, the first generation born after the war.

The idea of being a good citizen was a big deal.  In fact, we even got a grade for it in school.  What was later called “conduct” was then called “citizenship.”  We started our school day with the Pledge of Allegiance, and we were all required to take Civics to learn about our representative form of government and how it worked.

The whole idea of a public education was to train young people about how our system of government works, so they could be good citizens and be part of it. We’re not doing that today.

Sandra Day O’Connor

I agree with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that we should be talking more about the importance of citizenship in our schools, but what can we do beyond that to be good citizens and support our democratic way of life?  The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton has written a great article titled “What Does it Mean to be an American Citizen?”  Many of the suggestions below come from this article.  Others are my own.

So what can we do to be good citizens?

This has nothing to do with politics.  Good citizens come from both parties!

  • Begin with gratitude. You and I are so lucky that we were born in this country in the 20th Century.   Realize that America is never “finished.”  Our way of government is a continual experiment that reflects the “will of each generation.”  We must realize that its continuation is not guaranteed.
  • Brush up on the basics. It doesn’t hurt to spend a little time reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  They are not just words on a page – to be bandied about by whatever political party needs them.  They are living breathing documents upon which our whole way of life is based.
  • Stay informed about issues in our communities and our country. It’s hard to be a good citizen without knowing what’s going on.  Beware of the bias of those delivering the “news.”  It might just be opinion, or it might not even be true.  Check the facts.
  • Run for elective office or work for candidates of your choice. Particularly locally.  President Obama was once just a community organizer, and President Trump was once just a business man.
  • Vote and hold your representatives accountable with phone calls, e-mails, attendance at town meetings, etc. Start a petition or a letter-writing campaign.  Good citizenship doesn’t stop at the ballot box.
  • Join the Peace Corps or the military or non-profit organizations. Care for our citizens.  Take care of a neighbor who needs some help.
  • Accept jury duty and be willing to act as a witness if necessary. Justice is essential to good governance.  It doesn’t happen if people aren’t engaged.
  • Join organizations or parties that reflect your own views. Work hard, but realize that both sides have good ideas, and nothing will happen if we don’t work together for the common good.
  • Check your cynicism at the door. We can be a better nation.  We just need to believe that we can.

Engagement is the secret!

“Good citizenship and defending democracy means living up to the ideals and values that make this country great.”

Ronald Reagan

Liberty symbol

The secret to good citizenship is engagement.  Share with us how you are engaged with your community.  We’d love to hear about it.

Pam

Writers@richly aged.com

Get outside your comfort zone!

I must be honest:  I’m a physical chicken.

I’m pretty brave emotionally – love

Pam and Bob anticipating a retirement life of sailing.

new jobs, adore new cities, even new countries.  But a roller coaster leaves me weak in the knees.  Don’t even mention going up in hot air balloon.  Not so my buddy Dixie.  She barrels down the mountain on her skis, goes para-sailing at the drop of a hat, slalom skis in the Mediterranean, and once even considered hang-gliding off a mountain in Switzerland.  The only thing that kept her grounded was her lack of the language.  Thank goodness she couldn’t speak German because I couldn’t even bear to watch!

So when we first retired, I decided to use Dixie as an inspiration and get out of my comfort zone by facing my fear of sailing – something my husband dearly wanted to do.

You can't control the wind but you can adjust your sails
Dixie: In yellow shorts with toes in the water on a friend’s sailboat on the Columbia River.

Bob longed to become a proficient sailor and enjoy the open water and the mastery of the winds.  I loved the idea of learning something new with my husband and envisioned the times we would spend enjoying the experience and sharing long hours with friends unfettered by the constraints of land.  But I was scared.

Facing my fears, we signed up for a water safety class believing this would quell any anxiety about sailing.

Good idea, wrong outcome!  I tried this sailing stuff earlier in our life but felt like circumstances were different enough now in retirement that this time would be positive.

Stay within your comfort zone.

In the middle of the water safety class that listed all the things that could go wrong – ending with fire – I stood up and announced to the class that I took this class to calm my fears but now knew at least ten more ways we could die in a sailboat.

We eventually made it onto the water, learned to tack and how to get ourselves off when we ran aground, but I was always more comfortable with the boat sitting straight up and going slow.  None of that heeling over for me!

During my final sailing experience, our small motor fell off the transom and into the water.  We had to sail into the nearest gas dock.   Need I say more?  I literally jumped off the boat!  That day I decided that I’d faced my fears and gone to the very edge of my comfort zone.  And that was enough of that.

Remember what I told you about Dixie wanting to hang-glide off the mountain in Switzerland?  Well, there’s more to the story.

Alps language barrier prevented jump.

We rode up to the top of the world that morning on a ski-lift.  In the summer, ski-lifts are very, very high up in the air – especially in the Alps.  I just closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing deeply till we made it to the top.  But there’s no way I could ride that thing back down.  So Dixie and Rick took the lift down at the end of the day, and Bob and I took several hours to walk down.  Even walking, I felt like I was going to fall off the mountain.  I told you I was a chicken!

Still there’s something satisfying about looking something you fear squarely in the eye and doing it anyway.  I’m glad I did.  But if you’ve done it, and it’s still scary, it’s okay to give it up.  I’ll be happy to ride in your sailboat.  I just don’t want to sail my own.  And keep it upright, please.  None of that heeling over!

What fears have you overcome?  Send us a photo, and we’ll post it.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

 

Learning New Things – Okay like What?

 

In our last post, Dixie talked about learning new things.  But what?  Glad you asked!

Most of our friends started tennis AFTER retirement.

Below are a few suggestions that come to mind.

  • Study Art History
  • Play the Piano or any instrument
  • Take up Tennis, Golf or Tai Chi
  • Understand classical music or any other type of music
  • Become a master Yogi
  • Take up painting, watercolor, acrylics, and oils. No? Paint the house?
  • Knit, Crochet, Sew
  • Learn to make magnificent sauces.
  • Horseback ride
  • Make jewelry.
  • Woodwork, build a boat and on and on

Explore your options

Don’t second guess yourself.  Incubate your idea of who you are and let it live. You may have formed restricting opinions about your abilities throughout your work years that aren’t actually true. Discard those opinions and test it yourself.  You are different now than you were when you approached the idea in the past and the idea may be associated with a negative situation that no longer is relevant.  Give it a chance.  Learn new things.  You’ve got time!

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right!” Henry Ford

Maybe your adventure list includes wishing you could play the piano whether to dazzle your friends at gatherings or simply to entertain yourself with the music you’ve enjoyed throughout your life. Make a plan. Start by selecting a nearby instructor who is affordable or a friend who plays and begin at the very beginning or take up where you left off in childhood.

The key is START.  Give it a fair amount of time and if becoming a pianist is a fit for you, then keep on. Remember though, new ventures take time for mastery and can be frustrating, but it takes a grain of irritating sand to make a pearl.  In retirement, you have time.  That fact is as beautiful as the pearl!

Take up a sport, or go back to school!

This scenario applies to tennis, art history, sign language, jewelry making, flower arranging, golf, ice skating, kayaking etc.  Your list could go on and on.   Learn a new language or audit a college course where you don’t have to write the papers or worry about the grades.  Your choices are infinite.

Try a new sport or resume one from yesteryear.  There are benefits from an active, competitive sport combined with exercise.  It’s good for you; it’s fun and you meet other retired people with like interests.

If it’s not tennis, then play golf, bocce ball, softball, bowling, shuffleboard, or swimming. Take up archery, ballroom dancing, or bicycling. There are so many opportunities to exercise and play with others.  Have fun and keep active.   If you still have an unmet need to compete and advance since you retired, this could be the answer to that void.

Learn a language; it’s good for you!

How about learning a new language?  This one is great for your brain!  Well, actually, every single one of these ideas help us to age positively and live the kind of vibrant lives we seek.  There’s all kinds of evidence that learning new things is good for us – both physically and emotionally.  Check out this article.

What are we learning?

Here are some of the things Dixie and I have done over the past couple of years to keep on learning.  We both learned to play tennis and now play on a couple of teams.

Music makes you happy and builds brain power!

We took ballroom dancing lessons with our husbands last winter.  I never thought my husband would do it, and I could barely drag him off the floor.  I’m studying Spanish and learning to play the Ukulele – with varying results on both!  Dixie took a painting course and produced some really great stuff.  And we’ve learned how to blog – a never-ending learning curve!

I agree with our old friend Henry Ford who had something else to say about learning.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

We’d love to hear what you’ve been learning over the past few years.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

Retirement 12 – Create your Ideal Retirement Life

Settle down with a cup of coffee for a little bonding time

Gather up the essentials – your significant other, a crisp glass of chardonnay or a strong cup of coffee, and your imagination – to create your ideal retirement life.  This is a wonderful conversation, so prepare to linger over it.  The sky is the limit.  Don’t be discouraged by incidental problems like a lack of money.  Dream big!  You can almost always find a way.  We’ll talk about that later.  The important thing is to figure out exactly what it is you want your ideal retirement life to be.

We’ve had many of these conversations over the years.  We usually start by each making a list of what we want to do in the next couple of years.  Then we share them with each other and consider how we can make the lists come alive.  It was one of those conversations that got us to Florida 15 years before we retired.  We knew we wanted to be somewhere warm when we stopped working. Continue reading Retirement 12 – Create your Ideal Retirement Life

Retirement 11: Outline Your Ideal Retirement Life – Embrace Happiness

Know what you want and go and get it!

Before you begin to plan the nuts and bolts of your ideal retirement, make the life-changing decision to embrace happiness.   This may not be as simple as it sounds, but it can be done.  So much of how we feel is a decision.  Consider the example of Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln said that we’re just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.  That’s truly amazing when you consider that he suffered from melancholia (clinical depression) and that he had recently lost a beloved son and was responsible for steering the nation through a brutal Civil War.

If Lincoln could decide to be happy, surely we could give it a try!  Here are some proven ways to raise our level of happiness.

Proven Happy-Makers

1.  Be non-judgmental. This doesn’t mean you don’t have standards.  It just means that you’re willing to take people as they are.  We can never change the other person; all we can change is our reaction to that person. Continue reading Retirement 11: Outline Your Ideal Retirement Life – Embrace Happiness