The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)


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New Options 4 Retirement EZINE

Why are you living on the edge since your spouse retired ?

As you probably know, cats have a high sense of their own territory.
Since everybody was moving to an entirely new territory much, much bigger than the one the cats shared beforehand, you would have thought there would be no problem. Even so, our two oldest female cats regarded Minouche as an intruder.

Minouche, an elegant black and white female cat, was abandoned with her brother some years ago just across the street from our previous home. They each chose a different family to live with, avoiding us because we already had dogs and cats.

Minouche lived just next door for years. She avoided the garden with our dogs, but she shared a courtyard with my cats where no dogs could come. Then we bought our farm and she came to live with us in the country full time. Our cats (which included by this time her brother) already knew her well, but they now treated her as an intruder.

After two years of spitting, of raised hair on the back, threats and growlings, they have now finally divided the farm buildings between themselves and share peacefully our two hectares of land.

Are you a cat?
If you are the spouse of a recently retired man, you probably feel lot of empathy with my two oldest female cats. You may even have internally been growling since your husband or wife is at home every day. You feel quite edgy.

So what happened when your partner retired?
He is not going to his office anymore and stays at home most of the time. In the morning you used to share a breakfast at 6 am and he left. You quickly cleaned the kitchen and the other rooms before starting your own day whether you are a home-based professional or without an income-based activity.

And now, breakfast has moved to 6.30 am, 7.00, and lately even 7.,30 am. He stays forever in front of his cup of coffee reading the newspaper. There is no way you can clean the kitchen. So you do the rest of the house and start your day.

You are now focusing on writing an article or a report... and here he comes - Have you seen my blue tee-shirt? A bit later - What are you planning do cook for lunch? Aren't you hungry yet?

Aren't you hungry yet? No, not yet, thank you.
The first time it happened you answered nicely. But it happens almost every day: the questions about trivial things. You are getting annoyed. You tried to explain to him that you are working. “Hum, Yes sure, sorry, I did't realize it.”

And 10 minutes later - Would you like me to cook lunch? Or -What do you think if I paint the bedroom? Can you give me a hand to move the furniture?

Your frustration rises as you are feeling even more trapped by his tentatives to be nice to you.
You are having more difficulty focusing on your work, feeling you should spend some time with him. He is having a hard time adjusting to his life without a job. You know you should be more supportive but at the same time, a little voice tells you that you should not have to give up what is important for you. What you want is to keep having the peaceful time to work like you used to a few weeks or months ago before he retired. In fact, he retired not you!

What is happening is that your routine, your day's organization is now out of your control.

It feels like someone kicked the anthill.
Not only your work seems out of your control, you are getting behind on many things, you even seem to have less energy. But your house is also becoming untidy, things are misplaced. You have difficulty coping with it. You feel invaded, annoyed, not in charge anymore. Where is your time & space for your life?

Why are you getting annoyed with your spouse?
Well what happened is that your space is re-arranged without you planning it, without you knowing it consciously. You knew your husband would be home but somehow you did not realize all the implications.

You used to have the whole house for yourself from 7 am to 7 pm. It was your space and your time. You could stop your work for making a cup of tea or coffee while thinking about a project of yours, sitting on the terrace with your eyes wandering in the distance while getting your ideas clearer and then walk back to your home office and get on with your project with no interruptions, still in the flow of your thinking.

Now if you get out of your office for a cup of tea, your husband falls on you like starving fleas on a dog, and start talking to you about his ideas. So you try to tip-toe to the kitchen or just stay locked in your office and of course you are less creative.

Remember if you had children, when they were born, you knew things would change but you were probably astounded how much change they brought in your life and how much you had to adjust. Well this is almost the same thing now that your husband retired. The difference is that your husband is an adult and not a new born baby.

You still have to share your time and your space with your husband who has his needs and desires, needs space and time too.

It cannot be that simple.
It cannot be just a problem of territory and space, because you do not have the problem over the week end or during the holidays. Yes, but it's also true that at these special times you have a different organization of time and space.

Unconsciously years ago you designed your time and space so you were available to be with your spouse and share the same territory. But now you and your husband have not re-designed your respective times and common space to take in account the fact that your husband is now present even during the 7am-7pm Monday to Friday time slots.

What do you both need to do?
You need to take the time to discuss the situation as soon as possible. For a constructive discussion, you both need to be individually clear on your own needs, in term of space, time and socialization. After having both shared and listened with an open mind to your partner, you will want to discuss how both of you can have their needs met to a satisfactory level.

You might need to rearrange your house. And you the working spouse, you might decide to rearrange your working hours...

As soon as you recognize the need for taking time to solve the problem, you will both notice that your life seems lighter, and there are less tensions in the air. Once you have arrived at satisfactory solutions, you will notice that your relationship has deepened and you are both much happier.

To summarize,
Time and space: when your partner retired he became present in the house during those hours which used to be entirely yours, and in addition you have to share the house's physical spaces with him during these same hours.

What does it means for you, the spouse, your territory and your time which got invaded, and which resulted in you feeling frustrated, annoyed and cranky? What you both need to do is to have an open discussion so that you can both be clear on your needs and then find solutions to rearrange the space and the time to meet both your individual and your common needs.

You do not need to keep looking at your husband as an intruder. And you certainly do not need to spend two years of spitting, of raised hair on your back, of threats and growling before you finally divide your space and time to fit you both.

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Why are you living on the edge since your spouse retired ? by Catherine Marechal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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