This weekend I attended the two-day International Justice Mission (IJM) conference in Washington DC. This is an organization that I support and care about—the fight to end slavery and violence against the poor.
After returning home, I joined my husband at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. He was waiting for me at the bar while watching the Syracuse basketball game. I loved the way his face lit up when I walked in. Our time away from each other always brings new energy to our time together.
In retirement, couples often struggle to find a good balance between couple time and solo time. As one woman said, "My time is never my own. I make my plans around his plans. I feel like I'm living a contrived retirement instead of creating a retirement."
This is when I shared a quote from The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years after 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot: "that out of the intimacy and constancy of their relationships they are free to become more individuated and autonomous; the stead bedrock of support lets them take on the risks of change and reinvention." In other words, it is because of our commitment to our relationship that we can also become more individuated. Time apart is not a threat to the relationship. Neither is developing an interest of your own or experimenting with reinvention.
As a couple, it's very important to discuss how retirement will affect your relationship and change many of the patterns and expectations you formed when the two of you went separate ways for 8 to 10 (or more) hours each day. It's true that in my 32-year marriage, Dave and I have never had so much time together as we do now in retirement. But, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
This is why it's important to identify your interests as individuals and separate these from the interests you have as a couple. With one couple I coached, they found that she was drawn to working with children, while he preferred a more business-like atmosphere in his volunteer and part-time work environments. Their different interests often took them to separate places. By making room for the other person to grow and be significant in his or her own area, they reaped a better relationship when they were together: it was more interesting, vibrant, and fun. Dinner conversations were more exciting because they each brought something unique to the table.
If you are struggling to find yourself in retirement, to come to an agreement about how to navigate retirement together but not lose yourself, then I encourage you to learn about the Third Alternative. This is when you throw out your first two competing ideas for how to get what each of you wants and seek out a way to get what both of you want.
Retirement will be a lot more interesting when you get to do the things you love, AND the things you love to do with the person you love. There's time enough for both!
Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.