It is just over twelve months since we returned from a year living up in Fife, Scotland, a
very special time for me, more like a writers’ retreat. It was such a magical period living in a flat overlooking Pettycur Beach – miles of sand stretching all the way to Burntisland in the distance.
Coming home has not been so easy.
First we both went through a period of loss and disorientation, since part of us still longed to be back up north, where life seemed to be simpler, where we relished time living by the coast and where we met so many charming folks who have become our friends.
Once home we busied ourselves with family and friends and trying to put our place in order so we had little time to dwell and barely time to regret.
The next stage was the toughest. The realisation for my husband that he had retired but he did not know what to do with his time. With all the changes in our lives we had made little preparation for this. Whereas I had more than enough with my writing and work with other writers to occupy 36 hours on each day, my husband struggled with the concept of doing mundane jobs he was used to getting in professionals to do because he simply never had the time whilst he was working 12 hour days. We argued and became extremely tense. I tried not to focus on writing activities too much and give us space to adapt as a couple – difficult since I was eager with a head full of all sorts of projects. My husband on the other hand felt that he had nothing he really wanted to do. In fact his mind was still in Fife. I was torn in two.
New Year was a turning point when my husband decided that 2015 would be a gap year. He would stop fretting about what to fill his time with but organise trips of a life time to places he has always dreamed of visitng. We both began to relax. He also started to volunteer at Shuttleworth Air Museum and this gave a small interest, but also gave us space from each other – vital for people who are retired.
Mind you, there lie the biggest hurdle. I am not retired. My writing is a huge part of my life and to sacrifice it would be like cutting off my left hand. (I’m left handed) To help us to adjust I refrained from writing creatively for nearly a year, especially as I found it hard to focus with my husband in the house.
So how are we now one year on? We’ve both enjoyed the trips he’s planned but as my husband finds more things to occupy him, I can now relax and finally I have begun to write again. I know from talking to other women that this moment in life, when one or both of a couple retires, is a crucial time in a relationship. Patterns of life are thrown to the wind and money is an issue in may cases. I have put much thought to the matter and hope my experiences can help others. If you have come to this post for the first time then you might find it helpful to read posts from last summer. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Find time to talk. We book lunch chats, otherwise you’ll drift and never really listen to each other’s point of view. We had not sat down to talk for sometime so went out for a modest pub lunch. Once we’d chosen from the menu I got out a pen and paper and hubby groaned. On our way to the car though, both of us agreed that we felt energised and more content and that we understood each other just a little bit more – so it was well worth it.
- Prepare for retirement well in advance if you can, especially if only one of you is retiring. In our case I can’t see me ever retiring from writing, but that leads me to the next point.
- Be flexible. Give your partner a chance to adjust. You may have to let go of, or put on hold, your own plans for a while but if that is the case reintroduce your needs gently.
- Don’t be afraid to state your needs though, in a loving way.
- Finally, if you are a woman, don’t be a doormat. There’s a saying ‘men retire, women never do.’ It may take time but it is important to set the parameters to your roles around the house now you’ve retired. I know a couple of women who had no end of problems with this. Especially since they paid for a housekeeper whilst in full time employment themselves, understandably so. My hubby has learnt to cook and is proud of it. I still have to encourage him to do other tasks but the emphasis here is on being humorous and loving rather than nagging!
- Relax and enjoy your space, together if you can. You may not have had a chance while you were so busy working.
- Take time to be thankful for who you are and your place in the world as well as for each other.
Can you empathise with any of the above? How did you cope with the changing roles of retirement. Do let me know how you got on. I’d love to hear from you.