It seems that whenever we tell people our story, one of the first questions they ask is, “How can you stand to be together 24 hours a day??? Apparently, this is the thing that keeps some from making the decision to retire at all. Jeremy has talked with lots of guys who have said, “I’d love to do what you have done, but I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had to stay at home with my wife all day!” Yikes! Ladies, I don’t know what we’re doing to scare our men out of retiring, but if your hubs is feeling this way, take him by the hand, get your coffee, sit down and share this blog with him. It really isn’t that difficult!
I will admit that some of our friends say that our relationship is somehow unique…that we are not a typical couple. Now I don’t know if that’s true, but I can tell you that, by choice, there are certain premises that we have adopted over the years, that seem to be working during the voyage:
1. We made a conscious decision to be kind and respectful to each other. Neither one of us will participate in a fight. I can hear some people right now saying, “If you say you never fight, you must be lying.” Well, believe what you will, but here’s the deal…My mamma taught me to “keep a civil tongue in my head.” That advice has rung true for a lifetime. It does not mean that I am not honest with the hubs, or that we never disagree. It simply means that if I’m about to say something hurtful, I bite my tongue! I will wait until calmer heads prevail, and then we’ll figure out a way to discuss. I have always judged it this way – Would I say this to my best friend? Many times, the answer is no – I wouldn’t say something to my best girlfriend because it would hurt her feelings. Why, oh why, is it true in our culture that married people believe that they can say anything to each other, without regard for hurting feelings! The one thing I am proudest of in our relationship is that in the 35+ years we’ve been together, Jeremy has never, ever said an unkind word to me! And while I know this is not true for all, it’s something to consider…
2. We have separate individual spaces in our home. Early on, we realized that each of us needed a personal space. In our home, we created separate “offices,” but it could be a desk, a corner, a room, or even a garage. There is some truth to the concept of the man cave, just as I had need of a ‘woman cave.’ We each need a place to retreat to, to hold our stuff, to call our own…
3. We’ve been careful to keep and nurture separate outside interests. He’s a car guy. I’m a golf girl. He has guy pals. I have gal pals. He does guy stuff. I do girly, crafty stuff. The point is that by continuing to go our separate ways, learning new things, making new friends, engaging with others, we bring a fresh perspective and new topics of conversation to the table.
4. We’ve learned new things about each other…and adjusted. You would think that after being together for so long, a couple would know just about everything there is to know about each other. WRONGO! I would never have believed it myself, but being together during the work day hours was very illuminating. Who knew that the hubs was such a linear thinker, who absolutely hates to be interrupted when he’s involved in a task. For a couple of months there, I about drove him crazy when I would derail his train of thought. I’m sure he learned some choice things about how I operate as well. The point is that we always keep #1 in mind, while working out ways to co-exist!
5. We became more flexible in our roles around the house. It’s not unusual that during their working careers, people fall into a sort of routine about who does what in running and maintaining the household – He mows the lawn, She does the laundry, He takes out the garbage, She does the cooking…But when the perception of available time changes, the nature of the roles must change as well. Early on, I started feeling like I was the “charwoman” at our house, while he was working hard to build the business. We learned that we needed our roles to be more flexible.
6. We plan, always with consideration of the other person in mind. We share a calendar on our computer, and we make sure that we communicate what events get scheduled. Neither gets to plan an event involving both without consulting the other. No one’s event is more important than the other’s. You would think this would be a no-brainer. But in retirement, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “Of course, we’ll both be there!” Or, “Sure, I can schedule the plumber to come, cuz hubs will be home.” It only takes a couple of times of misguided expectations to figure this one out. I hope you learn from our missteps…
7. We’ve become better listeners. You see numbers 1-6 above? Well, in order to make them work, you’ve got to listen…really listen to what your partner needs, thinks and feels. Just sayin’.
8. We find ways not to take it all too seriously, and to laugh at the quirky things that happen daily. And they will happen…believe me they will! I did not know until recently that hubs is able to quote a huge amount of Looney Tunes dialog!
9. We are a team in all things. We plan together, make lists together, prioritize together, budget together. I can see why the guys in the introduction to this piece don’t want to be home if they feel that they are alone in the journey. The voyage is a shared one in every way.
10. And finally, our guiding principle – When we were first married, we both read John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. (Gray, 1992), and for all of our married lives we have taken to heart what we believe to be the most important phrase of the book:
Men want to be appreciated,
Women want to be cherished.
It’s quite simple really, and if you think about it, so very, very true. And to that end, I try to make sure that every day of his life, I let Jeremy know how much I appreciate him – things he does for our business, for me personally, for us as a couple. And every single day of my life, I feel truly cherished by him. And in the end, that’s all it really takes!