|I Married You for Life - Not for Lunch |
When you or your spouse start living the retirement life, you’re likely to hear this question: “How’s it going with (Bob/Susan) home all day?” The retiree-watchers are especially curious if one of you already worked at home, or if both of you are retiring at the same time and expect to spend a lot of time around the house. The question’s implication is clear: Your friends expect trouble in the vein of - “I married you for life, but not for lunch”.
You might not have had to face this question yet, but you might do well to think about it -before the day you move boxes of your personal stuff home from the office. Bottom line: when two independent people who are used to ruling their own domain move into one cage, 24/7, it is easy to predict: “Cloudy with a chance of flying fur.”
If you ask around among your friends you will probably hear all kinds of responses to this issue. Obviously in cases where one of the pair, usually the guy, plays a lot of golf or is active doing some onsite consulting or volunteer work, it won’t be a big issue. One common recommendation you might hear is that the new retiree should rent an outside office to give everyone some space and reduce tensions.
Of course having two people around the house all day isn’t the only issue that couples have to work out in retirement. Other issues include finances and budgets, what to do with your newly acquired spare time, and if and where to move. These are not small issues, so we won’t try to tackle them here.
Some suggestions on surviving a spouse in the house:
Every couple’s situation is unique, and every pair has to work out their own solutions. Here are some of the ones we have encountered – please email us or find this topic in the “Discussion Forum” to post your own comments and suggestions.
Stake out different domains
Identify a place where the new retiree can call home, before he or she arrives. Whether it is a spare bedroom, alcove, or space in the garage or basement, pick a place that is quiet and as out of the way as possible. Volunteer to help creating a lived in space, with pictures on the wall and the right electrical, internet, and phone outlets and connections. If the spouse who already works from home has a home office, try to keep some space between the two. Separate spaces help prevent crowding and over-familiarity.
No enforced togetherness
If you have a routine that you are used to – lunch at 11:30 while you read the paper by yourself – stick to it. Discuss what kinds of privacy expectations you have – if you want to be alone all day so you can concentrate or just relax, make sure your spouse is aware of your preferences. If he or she thinks those requests happen to be unreasonable, discuss that too. The newly retired spouse should recognize that the other half of the pair is used to having the house to her/himself. Back off your urges to offer tips on the laundry or comments on her schedule.
Get out of the house, for heaven’s sake
One person who retired from his regular job to work from home had to create a new routine. Every morning at 8 he left the house to buy coffee. Then he continued his commute back home, where he started the day feeling like a normal working stiff. Other people fight feelings of isolation by scheduling lunches, tennis games, golf outings, or volunteer meetings on a regular basis. Getting out makes you feel like you are doing things, which will help keep you focused and happy. Get an Outside Office, Job, or Volunteer Position
You know the kind of person you are. Some people need to leave their home everyday to give them the structure to be productive. For them the best solution is to either rent an outside office or to get some type of job. Getting out of the house triggers an automatic feeling of purpose in their life. In our town, $300/month will get you a small office or studio downtown – a relatively small price for a feeling of independence.
Perhaps you need to work – either because you need the money to maintain your lifestyle, or because work is what makes you tick. If the latter fits you, you are not alone. A recent Gallup Poll indicated that 60% of the people who weren’t worried about money in retirement intended to work at least part time after they retired.
Retirement is such a wonderful opportunity because it gives you the chance to do what you want, including the ability to start over. If you liked your previous job, try to get a part-time gig doing the same thing. Perhaps you could be a consultant to your old firm or clients. Or if you always wished for something else – perhaps you like working with people, or always wanted to work with your hands – you are in luck. In most parts of the country, people with skills are in great demand – either for pay or on a volunteer basis. This work will either get you out of the house or keep you busy in it – and make you a lot happier too.
Draw some lines in the sand – and cooperate
The same issue that applies to personal space comes into play here. One of the most common issues is one spouse getting annoyed with the other over the issue of chores. Suddenly the new retiree is home a lot, and the other person sees this as a grand opportunity to reduce the chore backlog. Cooperation is always a good idea and will produce the best result. But if one person can’t seem to shake the chore Nazi, or the other one person doesn’t try to meet the other halfway – expect trouble.
Talk, talk, talk
Psychologists have an annoying habit - at least annoying to those of us who would rather ignore our problems. They want you to talk about the issues, get the various contentious points out on the table, and then move forward together with a greater understanding of each side’s position. That’s what we recommend too. If your presence in the home leads to “issues” with your spouse– like pouting, snapping, resentments, or some other kind of friction – start talking. Chances are that will make things better. If you find that you are either not making progress or it is not fast enough, see a counselor. You don’t have to be crazy to see a psychologist –they help a lot of normal people work through problems that might be temporarily overwhelming.
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See also: "Lunch (Again) With Mr. Topretirements.com"