I had been hoping for peace and relaxation in retirement but it looks like this is not going to happen
PROBLEM: I am about to retire, and I recently had a bit of a row with my wife: I said I did not want to interfere with her domain (the house) but I did not realise I was stepping on a landmine. She is adamant that my being around the house more should not disrupt her domestic regime. Our relationship has been functional and busy with the raising of three kids, and I’m worried about what will happen when I leave work. Two of our three children are now in their 20s and are still living at home, and they do not contribute to the household either financially or with elbow grease. This raises my hackles, and there can be harsh words. I had been hoping for peace and relaxation in retirement but it looks like this is not going to happen.
ADVICE: Retirement certainly comes with its challenges, and there is no doubt you are going to have to meet those head-on if life is going to be good and fulfilling. We often think of retirement as an end to worries and strife, but, like all other phases of life, it requires us to stretch ourselves to meet new and sometimes unexpected demands. Facing into lots more time with your partner can be intimidating, and often rows erupt about small and relatively unimportant things.
You are unhappy your adult children are not pulling their weight at home, but you wonder whether you should participate in your wife’s domain. Common justice might prevail here – if adults live together and all are healthy, then all should bear the burden of the work of the house. The upside of you doing your share is that the children have a role model and your wife will feel valued, and perhaps your relationship might improve. Some research suggests a man with a vacuum cleaner triggers desire in a woman’s brain.
Often when adult children live at home, they act and get treated as young people, and resentments can fester on both sides. A good idea is to have a family meeting facilitated by a relative, perhaps, or a family therapist if there are serious issues. That way everybody can be listened to and suggestions agreed for a way forward.
It is often difficult to come from the world of work, where your voice is treated with respect, to home, where your opinion is derided.
Arguing can be the most intimate thing couples or families can do – it is important we have robust relationships that can take on challenges, but how we argue is key to the success of the relationship. Here are some suggestions:
Ground yourself: pause, breathe and remember your aim is to be heard and understood.
Start with a question to lessen the aggression, for example “Are you up for a difficult discussion?”
Own your own feelings: “I feel very strongly about this issue, and so I might come across as angry.”
Remember the relationship: “I’m always going to have your back, so this issue will not change that.”
Humour: a light, optimistic approach will get you a long way.
Listen: if your partner or child feels understood, there is a greater chance they will be interested in hearing your side.
Relationships are always evolving. You say your relationship is functional and busy so now might be a chance to take the risk and see if romance and intimacy can get some attention. This is often daunting as people who are together a long time make many assumptions about the other person, and they are often wrong. Be romantic, take chances, put rose petals in the bedroom and don’t be afraid to be laughed at.
Even though retirement is often longed-for, it can be challenging. The lack of structure can initially be wonderful, but can quickly turn into apathy if there is no need to be met in the day. Activities and engagement are key to feeling useful and happy. Volunteering for a cause, sporting group or club is a way of giving back to the world.
Your job retires, not you. Take the opportunity to be irreverent, courageous and adventurous.