Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


572 (010) Retiring Together

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery. Today’s program deals with an exploration of retiring at the same time as your spouse or partner.

I remember deciding to retire and told my wife that I would always drop her a card from exotic destinations all over the world. She didn’t see the humor. She knew that there might be a chance that I would do that very thing. The day I retired she retired.

What has been our experience of adjusting to this new arrangement in our relationship? Well, I have heard horror stories about the idea of the man being underfoot in retirement. I’m not sure that was the case for us, but I don’t think it was a big problem. When I ask my wife for comment for this program, she never mentioned it. So…I guess I wasn’t underfoot.

We each found things to fill up our hours without interfering with each other and many times working together. In the mornings we each went to our personal stations. Brenda slept later than I. We ate breakfast alone. Then she focused on watercolor in her studio each morning. I practiced Tai Chi, walked in the garden, and then played the guitar for at least two hours.  Except for the guitar, there is no sound in our house until after noon: nothing electric; no radio, no TV, no music – other than the guitar. I always ask her if the music bothered her, but she has always claims that she rarely hears it. I guess she is focused and my music is just meaningless background.

A little side note here about the lack of electronic stuff coming into the house before noon. We have found it very refreshing to save all political chicanery, airplane crashes, murders, fires, crashes, and wars for later in the day -usually presented to us in the print media. I could never figure out why people listen to the news in the morning. It seems like such a bad way to start a day. You might want to try it.

At 11 o’clock we join together to get our exercise. She and I see this as a real plus in retiring at the same time. It is easier to keep to a regimented exercise program if you have someone to exercise with. We would ski, play racket ball, run, ride our bicycles, lift weights, or just go for a fast walk. We are to lunchtime without getting into each other’s way. It has worked this way for 31 years – and counting. The routine has hardly varied.

In the afternoons we would again pursue our own particular interests, whatever that might be, or we might join together in some project around the house or in the community. We might work on a woodworking project: building a greenhouse, a table, a deck, or an addition to our house. She might go shopping, garden or run errands. I might work at the computer or write.

Late afternoons always see us coming together again for coffee. We are regular customers at the local coffee shops. We know the baristas by name and they know our drinks. This is not as simple as it seems, since we rotate between four different coffee shops: one in Bellingham and three in Vancouver. Here is where we read a magazine or newspaper, do a crossword, or talk to friends. It is our place to socialize first and foremost. We love to sit and solve all world and local problems within the time it takes to drink an doppio.

Just because you retire at the same time doesn’t mean you can’t do things your spouse doesn’t do. We have each taken different classes and workshops and explored various aspects of painting or music. Sometimes we have traveled separately and certainly spent our time having lunch with friends when the other is banned.

One thing retiring at the same time has fostered is our freedom to work together on projects. We have sometimes worked individually on some political campaign, human rights effort, or community issue. At other times we have enjoyed working together on these. It is great to have the same time and interests to combine efforts.  

I think we have grown closer since retirement. We are more sensitive to each others needs to run off and be alone, or to just sit quietly. We are more sensitive to criticizing each other. After 52 years together, retirement has been our closest years. Perhaps we are more comfortable with our own egos. We are more assured of our place in universe and we are more aware of the importance of each of us to each other.

It seems to me like retirement is not a time when one person has to get in the way of the other. Perhaps that is more of a modern myth. Our experience has been that of a time of coming together even more than one could ever imagine. Each person is freer than ever before and stronger because of the other person’s close presence. You gain strength from each other and thus a new dimension is added to each. Retiring at the same time has definitely enhanced our marriage.

Of course this may not be the case for everyone. Perhaps your experience has been different. If so, drop me a line and I may read your letter on a program. It will be good for all of us to hear different approaches, different practices, and the unique circumstances that may have led to various results.

This is Retirement Talk.

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