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What Will Happen to Me When My Husband Retires?


Are You Worried About How Your Husband’s Retirement Will Affect You? Are You Looking Forward To This Change of Lifestyle? If You Are Still Working, What Will Your Life Together Feel Like?

When my husband retires, I see this going one of two ways: either this is the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time, or I’m going to go crazy.

Crazy Could Look Like This

He will be underfoot all the time, sticking his nose into all my daily activities and micro-managing my life. I do not need him to tell me what to buy at the farmer’s market, or how I should allocate my weekend time. He will feel left out if I don’t include him in my activities (would he actually want to join my girlfriends for lunch?) and he will resent me for continuing to work. He will want to give me advice about how to handle my work stress better, even though I’ve been managing it for years on my own. Our relationship will feel imbalanced, because I will have outside work world things on my mind, and he will not have anything to contribute, and he will become boring. Suddenly, all our attention will be focused on his needs, and he will expect me to cater to his emotional whims. He will worry about money, start watching every penny and I will feel guilty whenever I buy anything. Worse, he will get depressed and let himself go so he is no longer attractive to me physically or emotionally. He will stop exercising and his sleep patterns will go awry, making him cranky. I won’t be my best self with him because I will no longer respect him, and I’ll want to spend less time with him, not more. This is not how I envisioned this later phase of my life, and this is not how I’d like to live. In fairness, this view of crazy is based solely on my fears, with no input from my husband. The reality may be less crazy-making.

A Best Case Scenario

Alternatively to the crazy version, the best case scenario may have us reconnecting and enjoying each other. We would discuss books we’re reading, world and local news events, and share insightful observations. We could travel, go to concerts, art museums and restaurants. We could socialize with our old friends, make new friends, and explore our city. We could take classes, attend speaking events and I could be grudgingly coaxed back into paying attention to the garden (my thumb is not very green, shall we say). He would become more attentive to my needs and to the household needs, voluntarily taking on tasks in the house and in the garden. He would develop new interests, take up new hobbies and he would feel energized. He would reconnect with the facets of his personality that attracted me to him when we first met. This sounds a bit like a fairytale, doesn’t it?

A Realistic Scenario

It’s not likely that either extreme will come to pass. The truth always lies in between, right? It’s all about setting appropriate expectations. I expect there will be an adjustment period, for both of us. Patience, never my strong suit, will be needed to make the transition to the new reality. Perhaps setting some ground rules will be a wise idea to protect both of us. For example, I’ll agree to keep making dinner, with the understanding he’ll be on his own for breakfast and lunch. He will agree to continue to exercise for his mental and physical health, and to stay attractive. He can also do some laundry and empty the dishwasher once a week! I expect he will flounder, trying to figure out who he is now that he is no longer his job title. He’ll flounder not because he's doing household chores, but due to his loss of a team to manage and a place to go every day. He may get a tad depressed or he may feel unnaturally about excited something new for a while. Either way, everything is a phase, and this too shall pass. He may benefit from some retirement life coaching to figure out his new purpose. He may also need some down time before even thinking about anything besides not having to get up for work. I also expect there will be some unforeseen moments of joy and appreciation of this new phase.

What I Can Do

I have my homework cut out for me. I need to give him the space to go through this transition, whatever it may look like to him and remember this is not my transition (my time will come!). I will need to be supportive of whatever he wants to do (within reason – he’s not getting me in an RV to drive across country!). I will listen to his ideas, concerns and give sage advice (only when asked, at least that is my intent – we’ll see just how well I do with that) and try not to impose my own agenda. This agenda will be his and ours, not just mine.

I will need to take care of myself. Just like when my children were very young and needy, I was no good to them if I didn’t take care of myself to ensure I had a full reservoir to draw from. I did my best to get enough sleep, and when I first returned from work each day, I trained them to give me a few minutes to “settle in” before they bombarded me. Now I’ll need to keep my reservoir filled so that I can be there for him, and for us. For me, this means seeing friends alone, going to the gym, spending time on my own (not every waking minute with him!) and making plans so that I (and we) have things to look forward to. Once we are on the same page, we can plan together, to make this next phase of our lives fulfilling for both of us.

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