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Home Together All Day—Heaven or….?

Category: Family and Retirement

By S. W. Hubbard

November 20, 2019 — Last year, my husband Kevin was counting the days to his retirement. He had planned the financial aspects thoroughly. On January 1 he would leave behind his demanding job as an operations executive who traveled worldwide and would spend all his days at home.

With me. 

Great, right?

As a novelist and part-time English professor at a community college, I worked at home three days a week and was on campus two days during the academic year. Although Kevin has plenty of interests and hobbies, I was concerned that the aspect of work he’d miss the most was managing events and people. Once he retired, he’d have no one to manage. 

Except me.

Uh-oh.

Since I enjoyed my work and didn’t find it stressful, I decided I would keep teaching after my husband retired. By continuing to spend two days a week at work, I could ease our adjustment from five days a week apart to seven days a week together. I worried that certain facets of retirement were bound to be problematic for our marriage.

Travel

Hiking together

Although I certainly missed Kevin when he would take long trips to foreign countries, his short domestic jaunts had been a nice break from married life: no meal-planning, no cooking, and no waking and sleeping according to his schedule.  When Kevin was gone, I’d recapture part of my bachelorette life style: eat pasta or carry-out for dinner and curl up in bed with Netflix on my laptop most nights. By the time he returned a few days later, I was ready to give up my slovenly evenings and return to a more disciplined lifestyle.

Post retirement, I never got a chance to miss him. Kevin wasn’t going anywhere without me. He planned exotic vacations for us, but my academic year schedule sometimes limited his options.

“If you’re not going to retire from teaching, I’m going to have to take this ski trip without you.” 

Was that a threat, or a promise? 

I got out his suitcase and helped him pack.

Projects

One day before I departed for campus, I suggested Kevin might wipe down the kitchen cabinet doors if he was looking for a project to keep him busy. When I returned seven hours later, he’d spread every single item in the cabinets over the table and the counters. It was as if I’d left a border collie alone  and he’d torn up the whole house looking for a flock of sheep to herd.

Kevin and the cupboards

“I decided to clean the shelves, too. Look at this stuff! Why do you have two frying pans the same size? When’s the last time you made waffles? What do you do with this pan with a hole in the middle? Are you aware this jar of chutney expired in 2012?”

Little did I realize that Kevin had finally discovered his true retirement mission: to reduce our possessions so drastically that we could enter the Witness Protection in under four hours. 

Luckily, the pastor of our church recently came through with a big project that requires all the skills Kevin does best: spreadsheets, action plans, written procedures. My border collie has found his sheep.

Food

Thirty-three years ago when we married, I made a strategic error in saying that I would do all the cooking if my husband did the kitchen clean-up. When Kevin was working, that meant dinner on those nights he wasn’t traveling or out with clients, and a French toast breakfast on Saturdays. I could easily keep up with the demand for my services. Now that he was retired, “all the cooking” had come to mean three meals a day, 365 days a year. 

“Whatcha doing?” Kevin would sidle up behind me and peer over my shoulder.

“Writing.”

“Oh.” Long pause. “Were you thinking of breaking for lunch anytime soon?”

“I’m in the middle of something. Go ahead and make yourself a sandwich.”

Deep sigh. “Never mind. I can wait.”

We’re still negotiating this one. Kevin still claims inability to cook anything other than scrambled eggs, but he’s working on essential survival skills such as locating leftovers in the fridge and going out to Panera. 

Now, one year into Kevin’s retirement, I have finally given notice at my teaching job. 

I’ll have more time to write and we’ll have more freedom to travel.

That’s the plan, and we’re sticking to it!

Comments? How has retirement affected your marriage? Are you still working out your boundaries?

About the Author:

S.W. Hubbard writes the kinds of mysteries she loves to read: twisty, believable, full of complex characters, and highlighted with sly humor. Visit her at http://swhubbard.net

For further reading:

Retiring This Year: Here Are 7 Things You Need to Know

Lunch (Again) with Mr. Topretirements

Posted by Admin on November 19th, 2019

20 Comments »

  1. I can really relate to this article! While my husband claims to “enjoy” retirement, he misses house projects that he once enjoyed, due to living in a 55+ community and having a smaller house and lot. He plays golf several times a week, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for him. I am the type of person who can always find things to do and had hobbies before I retired, so I’m ok. He will “help” in the kitchen but claims it is too small for both of us to be preparing a meal (which it is). We are planning to move back to a larger home with land so that we can have some privacy and he can have his projects back. I think that will make both of us more content. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone!

    by Fionna — November 20, 2019

  2. The border collie comment is priceless! And apt in our case, too.

    My husband has his own business, and at 70, has finally shrunk it to a very part-time endeavor. He recently closed his office/studio, and we built a new home that incorporates his office space, which we moved into about five months ago. He has always come home for lunch, and since I’ve mostly worked from home, we are already used to that level of closeness. He has also always traveled a bit for business, and we get our own space that way, as well.

    Now he spends most days at home, but we are rubbing along pretty well. He now does his own laundry, which is huge, and he’s been pretty good about not insisting that I do all the cooking. We share the vital task of making sure there is fresh coffee, and the dishes are getting rotated in and out of the dishwasher/sink/cupboards with increasing reliability. It helps that we both have our own interests, too. It’s a process, and we’re still feeling our way, but so far, so good.

    by Karen in Ohio — November 20, 2019

  3. Even after 16 years of retirement (initially on a shoestring budget), this is a fascinating topic. Though we are “people” oriented, enjoyed our jobs and continue to enjoy family and friends, my wife and I each definitely claim the title “loner” and each have really different interests. When we designed and built what was to be our retirement home 12 years before our unanticipated early retirement at 55, we combined open space and clearly defined (and sound insulated) separate spaces for each of us. We retired a month apart and immediately took off on a 6-week road trip through the Four Corners states in a small camper.

    What made retirement successful and helped our marriage survive and prosper, were the significant activities we both became immersed in and a home that allowed both of us “alone” time. While we tend to take traditional household roles, we do at times share chores. For me, major activities include home and property upkeep, woodworking and grilling. My wife enjoys local political activities and volunteering. We both spent some years participating on our HOA board (separately), enjoy traveling with our dog(s) and have in-home entertainment in our separate areas (her tv, me music/home theater) which we at times share.

    Our success with a long retirement together comes from our “separate but together” lifestyle and our continued devotion to each other after more than 50 years together.

    by RichPB — November 20, 2019

  4. Wow, Fionna–upsizing after downsizing is a big change! I am lobbying to move to a condo, but maybe we should sit tight for a while!

    by S.W. Hubbard — November 20, 2019

  5. S.W.Hubbard, you may want to think twice about that. We downsized to a condo. There were some advantages for condo living but for us after retiring we were miserable. We downsized a tad more but moved into a delightful bungalow with a tiny yard. I almost think the condo would have been a better option when we were both working full time! As it is we enjoy our very small yard and house. We now have the time to play house. Down the road the home and yard are so small paying someone to maintain it won’t be a big deal. Plus WE pick who does the work.

    by Kate — November 20, 2019

  6. My husband and I moved to Washington State from central NJ in May. He retired on July 1st. Whew!
    We love living closer to our children. However I now realize that he has traveled extensively the last twenty years! We have not really lived together since the late 1990’s. We have been married 46 years. This combined with not knowing a soul in our new area is a continuing challenge.
    I identify with the writer about having to cook 365 meals/3X day now! I would love to hear from other people. I love my husband dearly but somedays I just want to get a place of my own.

    by Deborah Cacho — November 20, 2019

  7. S.W. Hubbard, I really enjoyed your article. How i WISH i had a husband who would take the cupboards apart at my request to wipe them down! (A little OCD music, please.) Anyway, i just wanted to let you know that i just requested my audiobooks app (Overdrive) to purchase three of your books, Dead Drift, Blood Knot, and The Lure. I really wanted to read (hear) Another Man’s Treasure, but it wasn’t listed (available to request). Now, i will relax and hope they are purchased soon. Thank you for your delightful article. Wishing you many happy days traveling with Kevin and enjoying life together.

    by ella — November 20, 2019

  8. I personally don’t know how anyone can live in a retirement community where the houses are on top of each other and so close you could put your arm out the window to the next house and ask to borrow a cup of sugar! I live on one acre and am surrounded by homes all around the perimeter of my acre. I have one very annoying neighbor that is conducting a scrap yard business in our residential neighborhood. Plus, they have up to 14 cars in various stages of running to junk all around their yard. We are trying to keep the peace and know the owner well. It is his son who is doing this stuff and the father is allowing it, illegally. If I could find 10 acres or more, I would like to put my house in the center, away from people. I have two other neighbors with motorcycles and they think nothing of revving up their motorcycles for long periods of time. This was a nice little neighborhood. Why do a few have to ruin it for everyone? You never know who your neighbors will be whether you live in a condo, two family house, or own a home.

    by Louise — November 21, 2019

  9. S.W. Hubbard,

    For us, “upsizing” will not be that much of a change, since I can have everything in the house instead of in the attic, garage, or crammed into the closets. Hub would also have a room for woodworking instead of an unheated garage.We share the housework and have found that dusting, vacuuming a small place is a bigger challenge since there’s not as much room to maneuver around furniture – that was never an issue in our last larger home. And as Kate pointed out, WE get to choose who cuts the grass and does landscaping, not the HOA! Neither one of us minds outdoor work and we feel that being active as long as you are able keeps one healthy. As far as moving to a condo, the biggest issue I see are thin walls and potentially living your neighbors’ life – just my experience from having lived in many apartments in the course of my working life.

    by Fionna — November 21, 2019

  10. This article really cuts to the heart of the matter for married retirees. During the work years couples find that rhythm of their marriage in terms of together time and apart time. Once retirement hits, that changes.
    While my wife and I had discussed possible timeframes for retirement, a situation at work made my decision to retire fairly quickly a no-brainer, and I pulled the trigger. My wife continued to work and I began my home projects and de-stress program with unbridled joy! I still remember the day my wife came home, looked at me sitting on the couch fixing something and said “my God, you are always here!” It wasn’t said with affection or joy. It was a wake up call that showed me that my wife had never been given time to process me retiring and being home full time.
    Being a retired principal it was easy for me to start being an administrative sub part time and I was actually in high demand. Part time didn’t impact my pension, I was ready for a little work outside the house and the money was a nice extra. Next thing I knew I was asked to come on full time in a leadership position and now work full time again. It is a financial blessing and we are now planning the purchase of our retirement home. We have also selected a “hard stop” date that we will both say no more.
    The lesson that we both learned was that when that time comes, we are now aware that we will need to build in activities and times to be together and times to be apart. We have some similar interests, and also stuff that we each do that the other person isn’t interested in. We now know that this will be crucial for our long-term happiness with each other and with retirement. All couples need to work through this prior to actually retiring!

    by Christopher — November 21, 2019

  11. Thanks everyone for your insightful comments on getting along together in retirement. I can see my lighthearted piece struck a nerve! Ella–thanks for requesting my audiobooks at the library. Send me an email through my website and I’ll get you a free download code for ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE.

    by S.W. Hubbard — November 21, 2019

  12. I read this and was entertained and astonished by the TRUTH reveled within. Still smiling.

    by Mike — November 21, 2019

  13. The first year of our retirement has been challenging in many of the same ways. We are both mid-60’s and for economic reasons downsized to a 55+ community in another state 3 hours from the nearest children. It is challenging to keep connected with grandchildren. We like our house but now wish we had purchased a home with 3 bedrooms plus den for visiting family rather than 2 bedrooms plus den. My transition has been better than my husband’s as I am more social and look to trying everything. I have connected with new people which gets me out of the house. Ladies seem to appreciate this need more than men, in my observation. He enjoyed caring for lawn in the past but our HOA includes basic lawn and landscape service which is not up to his high standards. Our garage is not large enough for the cars and all the tools he would like to have kept. The only active men here are golfers and he doesn’t golf. He enjoys walking but can’t do that all day. It is heartbreaking to see him watching tv much of the day. Many people never come out of their homes to meet people. Committees see the same group of people volunteering, some of whom are trying to gain special privileges by forcing change to our design guidelines. Watch out for power hungry people.

    by Patricia — November 22, 2019

  14. I rarely post comments to this website although I usually enjoy reading daily. I must take exception to Louise’s comments about living on top of each other in a retirement community. We moved to a 55+ gated community 7 years ago in Fort Myers, FL with a very strong Master HOA Association and at a sub-level neighborhood HOA’s. Yes, our homes are fairly close together but at our age(s) we all respect each other’s “space” and it’s so rare to hear a complaint, I can’t remember the last one! We also don’t have to worry about junk cars, motorcycles revving their engines, teenagers racing down residential streets, boats and motorhomes parked in drive-ways or in the streets. Our fees are worth every penny for the peace of mind we have and the beautiful community. This year 55places.com voted our community #6 in the United States. Enough said.

    by Toni Olsen — November 22, 2019

  15. You want a friend? Get a dog. 🙂

    by Peder — November 23, 2019

  16. If you liked Susan’s take on the retirement dance, you might also enjoy this contribution from Ed Lafreniere of Retirementhumor.net
    https://www.topretirements.com/blog/family-and-retirement/husband-just-retired-three-months-ago.html/

    by Admin — November 23, 2019

  17. This is so much like Roberta’s and my story when I retired 12 years ago. She is a mystery writer and had her own routines. I first set up shop on the dining room table, moving around the office as the mood struck me. That was too disruptive, mostly because my junk was piling up everywhere. Eventually I settled on the porch until it got too cold, then repaired to my upstairs office. That worked better. My biggest adjustment was my new instant availability for household chores and questions. “Can’t you see I am working here?” was what I wanted to say. But eventually I learned to say I can do that but not just this minute. That was a good solution.
    I think everybody has to work out their own resolution – it is a big change to have 2 adults roaming around the territory.

    by John Brady — November 26, 2019

  18. John Brady — triple thumbs-up! Wish I could remember more often that “not just at this minute” advice. Would improve the serenity. So thanks for that as well as TR.

    by RichPB — November 27, 2019

  19. OMG loved the comment about cooking 3 meals a day/365 days a year!! I haven’t been in the kitchen this much since I had toddlers at home! We are still navigating the challenge of so much time together. I don’t think I realized how much my husband likes his home hobbies. He hasn’t left home once since we retired to FL 3 years ago! Ladies I bite my tongue daily if not hourly. Luckily I Love lots of activities like fitness classes, golf and shopping with my friends. I’ve gone so far as to go to the library to read
    In peace and quiet! Gentlemen, please do your wife a favor and develop some outside interests and hobbies and give your wife a little space now and then!! 😉

    by Jini — November 29, 2019

  20. This article hits the nail on the head! I was in charge of Program Management at my engineering company and had to give direction and encouragement to all the program managers. Needless to say, I was used to directing people, and when I retired, my poor wife got the benefit of all that experience! I am really trying to keep my mouth shut, but old habits die hard!

    We actually upsized upon retirement. Please don’t downsize if you can afford not to! The benefit for me is three areas I can call my own for woodworking, lapidary, and other interests I cultivated over the years in anticipation of retirement. This leaves a lot of room for my poor wife to get away from my “program management” and do her own thing. We also have a nice yard and a small lake to escape to. Believe me, you will appreciate your retirement more if you have room escape to.

    by AV8R — November 30, 2019

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