“I thought these were supposed to be the Golden Years. If that’s the case, why am I so unhappy?” This is the response of some women who now face being with their husbands on a full-time basis. It isn’t the lovely time of life for which they had hoped. Some express frustration, others downright depression. There is a remedy for turning this unhappy situation into a joyful one. It will take a little effort, but will be well worth it. Here are a few suggestions for wives with retired husbands.
Allow him time to adjust
He may have thought he was being thrown into the briar patch (think Brer Rabbit loving his briar patch). Instead of finding it a place of fun and frolic, the briars are sticking him. He’s missing his job. It’s a physical and mental loss. He needs time to mourn about it. Be gentle and understanding as he deals with these feelings. Now that he’s no longer employed, he’s trying to find his purpose. Even if he didn’t enjoy his job, he’s suddenly at a loss as to what to do with his time. A job is a big part of a man’s identity. Be patient.
Allow yourself time to adjust
Instead of having free time with no one hunkering over you, you now have to share a good deal of the time with your retired husband. You may not be ready for that. You may need a little time to mourn the loss of your independence. Wives get used to having this freedom to do what they wish with their time. Losing it can feel like a giant loss. One women faced with this predicament said, “I had to get used to having him around all the time. It was hard. I learned a lot about being unselfish, and it wasn’t easy, but then I began to enjoy his company. I even learned to have fun going fishing with him!” Ten years following his retirement, he passed away. She said, “I would give anything to have him here again.”
You need to renegotiate who does what tasks
It’s difficult for many women because they’ve had the freedom to choose when they want to do different tasks and how they’re done. These are now joint responsibilities: doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and gardening. He most likely won’t do the tasks the same way you’ve done them. Appreciate his efforts. He may not be sure of how to do a particular job, so help him learn in a kind and caring way. He has gone from being needed in a job to feeling like he’s now in the way. This is his home, too, so help him feel needed and loved. He may even have a better way of doing a task. Be open to learning from him, too.
Sit down and have a discussion about what each other needs
You could initiate this by saying, “I would like us to share with each other what this new time of life means, and what each of us needs.” Ask your husband the question, “What are you going through? How can I help you?” It’s really important to stay focused on him because you asked the questions. Do not shift the focus back to yourself. If he says, “Well, I don’t know,” accept that and give him some time. Assure him that you really want to know. Ask him to think about it. Then suggest a time when the two of you could talk about it.
If he asks “What do you need?” share from an “I” position, such as “I would like ..., I need ... , I want ...” Avoid any statements that attack him, “You must do ...” or “You’re not doing ... ” It becomes important to share by owning those things you’ve been thinking about from that “I” position.
Remember, you two got married to be together
People forget that. This time can be the perfect opportunity to renew your love for each other. Do the things that got it going in the first place. Go out on dates, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. Have fun snuggling on the couch together as you watch a favorite movie. Notice the good things about him and compliment him. It’ll be catching, and will start coming back to you. Ignore the things that don’t really matter in the end. Keep a positive focus. By all means, stay married and show your children that marriage can be wonderful throughout an entire lifetime. Enjoying your posterity together will be richly rewarding.
With a little bit of polishing, you can bring out the shine in these golden years. Start today by having that discussion so you can begin meeting each other’s needs. And smile a lot. It’s fun to be around a happy person.