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Lisa and her husband Ray
Lisa and her husband Ray
Lisa Graff

Lisa Graff

Can there be too much togetherness?


You may have heard the old adage, “For better or for worse, but not for lunch.” One of the challenges of retirement can be adjusting to a bit more togetherness.

I recently heard a girlfriend lament, “I’ve been cooking dinner for 33 years, and now he wants me to make him a sandwich! He can make his own d— sandwich.”

My friend Cindy, a recent retiree, told me she and her spouse have ended up at the toaster at the same time every morning, so she switched to eating cereal. Then when she opened the refrigerator to get the milk, her husband elbowed her to grab the jelly.

Yet I know a couple that eat breakfast at 8 a.m. and then walk together at 9 a.m. every morning, and have been doing this since they retired seven years ago.

When my friends Joan and Tom retired about 10 years ago, she was looking forward to spending time with him, but he took a job as a dock master. She felt conflicted because she knew he was happy, but she was looking forward to having lunch together for a change.

I know one spouse who wants to travel and another who wants to stay home. Josh says, “Now we have the time and money to go to Europe, and my wife wants to stay home and work in the garden.”

For my part, I used to get home two hours ahead of my husband, and I relished my alone time. Once we retired, I couldn’t wait for him to volunteer – anywhere – just as long as he left the house. Now it seems he’s gone more hours than he is ever home, and it’s like old times when we get together for dinner and can tell each other about our days.

My in-laws struggled with retirement because he quit teaching and she not only stayed in the classroom; she decided to get her doctorate at UCLA. They lived apart for two years, but eventually reunited and moved to the mountains of Tennessee where they pursued their own interests. For her that meant porcelain painting, and for him it meant golf.

Retirement is about pursuing new interests or spending time doing whatever makes you happy, and that is different in every marriage.

I met two elderly retirees last week who approached the counter at the All Saints’ Thrift Shop where I volunteer as a cashier. The woman asked to see two necklaces. Her husband waited patiently while she tried both on and then said, “I’ll take the gold one, please.”

He said, “Why not get both of them, dear?” She smiled and said, “Alright.”

I smiled at her and said, “He’s a keeper.”

“After 70 years, I think so,” she replied.

I was thinking that after 70 years of marriage, they must have developed a few strategies for getting along. So I asked the husband, “What’s the secret to a happy marriage after 70 years?”

His winked and whispered, “Good whiskey!”

What makes you happy in retirement?

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Published in Cape Gazette on August 22, 2021. Read Here

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