In last Friday's post, Betty Has Her Say: A Wife's Perspective on Retirement she answered some questions I posed to her about our satisfying retirement. I figured both you, and I, would be interested in her view of what the last nearly 12 years has been like.
The response was strong, both in the number of clicks and comments. So, today here is part two..the last few questions… with Betty's unique perspective:
…Do you think your husband is happy with retirement? Why or why not?
That first year was difficult for him. I don’t think he was lost as much as bored with the everyday “sameness” of it all. I had to quit my job as a Pre-School Teacher because of health reasons but then thought at age 47 I really needed another job. I took the first thing that came around and I was miserable with it. Bob was now ready to have some fun with this whole idea of retirement but I couldn’t do anything because I was now working 8 hours a day 5 days a week. There was a lot of resentment on both sides that year.
Bob also spent that first year constantly going over the books to be sure we would make it before he would start bringing in Social Security or touch our IRA and have enough left over to enjoy our retirement. I also put a tremendous financial burden on the family because of all of my health issues.
So… that 1st year was difficult but then I quit my job, Bob put down the financial papers and trusted in himself that he planned well for our retirement, (which he did beautifully!) and we both haven’t looked back since!
I think he is extremely happy with retirement and with his life physically, emotionally and most important spiritually!
…What do you see ahead for you and Bob in the years to come? What would you like to see happen?
I see us both growing each day spiritually and in doing so we will not only have a better understanding of God but also each other, our family and our friends. Bob and I already volunteer a lot for our Church and I see us both doing more in the future.
I think that Bob and I will be seeing a lot of the United States in the next 10-15 years. I hope we’ll be able to see not only the fantastic and unusual sights of this country but experience the true spirit that’s in the diverse cultures and peoples of the United States and what makes this melting pot so “united”! Bob and I are so different in so many ways but we work! There are so many extremes in this country from cultures to politics. Yet we all somehow come together to make this country work. I’d like to find out how in subtle ways and not so subtle ways we as a country somehow come together.
I don’t want to give up the dream of traveling abroad. We’ve done a lot of that but I would like to explore some more. There’s nothing better than looking at our country through the eyes of other countries.
I hope that our health, mentally, spiritually, and physically gets better with age. Can it be done? I think we will both try!
I see us possibly moving to another State for the summer months sometime in the future.
Bob and I will be scouting around for a good assisted living community 15 or more years down the line. We have very strong beliefs that neither of us want to be a burden on our extended family. I would like to be very close to one or both of our daughters. We don’t want our family driving long hours just to visit.
…What advice would you give to a spouse whose partner seems unhappy in retirement?
I’m afraid that I am the spouse that would more likely be unhappy and it isn’t about retirement but about chronic health issues. I suppose many run into this problem at some time or another during retirement. If chronic illness does rear its ugly head I have some suggestions for both of you.
First of all without getting into all the boring details, I have several chronic illnesses both physical and mental. It is not easy for the whole family but it can be done! I’ll go one step further and say that these hardships can be frightening, impossible, crazy, wonderful, joyous, hopeful blessings for anyone who wants to grab a seat, buckle up and come along for an outrageous adventure of a lifetime!
God is there for you. Seek God first in all things and trust in Him. Face God honestly and He will take you on an adventure beyond your wildness imagination!
Hone up on your communication and listening skills —Take a deep breath then take a few more. Never be afraid to have a conversation about things but before you speak, think to yourself, “Does she want my advice, or support? Does she want a listener or someone to be a springboard with new ideas on the subject?” Sometimes you might have to ask what she wants but if you ask, show your concern by sitting down and looking at her and show her that you have her undivided attention.
Respect— Everything!— Respect all of the things that make this person a person. That includes all of those weird foibles and odd behaviors as well as all of the good things she or he does. Don’t forget to respect your spouse’s space, time, and how they accomplish things. Do they do these things differently than you? Does that bother you? Are you relaying anger or frustration back at them? Maybe they are pleasers and when they don’t “please” you they become unhappy.
Show an interest in each other’s (Fill in the blank) _____________.It doesn’t have to be everything they do. It’s nice to find some activities that are common ground so that you both can share this together.
Have there been changes in you or your spouse’s life? Remember, it doesn’t always have to be bad changes. Stress can build with wonderful changes also. Sometimes change can happen to you and you breeze by without a second thought, but it could be a devastating blow to your partner.
Pick your fights. And remember, you don’t have to win all the time. Play fair and fight fair. A heartfelt “I’m sorry” can turn your whole day around! (By the way, Bob is almost always the first to say those wonderful words!) You’ve heard it all before but I know that it’s true. Don’t go to bed angry or worse, giving the silent treatment.
Speaking as a women, if I’m crying silently into my pillow half the night and then thinking and rehashing the fight in my head for the other half of the night, I can guarantee you guys that whatever the fight was it is now blown up 100%! I know you’re tired but trust me, you need to solve it before bed!
Bob and I now have two figures (they can be anything) that sit right above our heads in bed. If one figure is turned away from the other, then one of us is upset about something. Does it work? Well, not always. Sometimes Bob doesn’t look at the figures for weeks. Ya gotta love him!
Be creative in solving problems. Don’t just think outside the box. Saw a hole in the box and look through it or better yet just get rid of the box altogether!
We all need to have a short pity party every once in a while. If you know you need one try to let your loved ones know ahead of time even if it’s just a verbal signal like, “Time out!” or even a red index card. (Yes the card might be hurled at your spouse but hey, we’re all trying!)
One word… Humor. We have a great situation right now at our house. Our grown daughter is now living with us. I have a severe hearing loss in both ears and Bob has a moderate hearing loss. I wear hearing aids and he doesn’t. (but should!) I sometimes I take mine out. One spouse will ask a question, the other spouse will answer with something that makes absolutely no sense, the other gets angry because of the silly answer and so on and so forth.
Bob and I do this on a regular basis and one evening our daughter clocked us going at this farce for 20 minutes! She finally burst out laughing saying we should write this material down as a sitcom. We’d make a fortune!
Be realistic. Really know what your limitations are. Have they changed in the last year, month, or even week? Sometime these limitations can change for the worse but sometimes they can get better. Take inventory often and then tell your spouse. He or she might think that you still feel that you can’t do something where now you feel you can tackle that something. They might try and talk you out of it and you want them to support you. Poor communication can be brutal.
Know that your spouse might be scared, nervous, worried, frustrated angry etc… as you are at this latest bump in the road.
Body language! Need I say more?
I'll add nothing to these fabulous answers. You must appreciate how tough it was for Betty to be so open on all these questions and share real emotions. My publishing them was the easy part.