As you can tell from this post title, this "trend" doesn't strike me as a healthy way to resolve relationship issues and build a satisfying retirement. I'll begin by raising a question about the characterization of this activity as a growing trend. That seems wildly overstated. For some people this may be an answer to deeper issues. But, to infer this is a likely decision for many retirees strikes me as hype. Consider for a moment the cost of a split lifestyle. How many retired folks do you know who can basically double their living expenses for whatever period of time they are living apart?
Some of the couples quoted in the story made it quite obvious they did not want to be around their husband (or wife) all day, everyday. One lady noted all her friends were sick of having hubby around 24/7. That statement is both sad and revealing. Clearly, these couples had already lived separate existences while sharing one house before retirement. The implication is the other person is an irritant, has little to contribute, messes up "my" schedule and system, and is fine only in small doses.
Let me be quite clear: separate time and separate activities are crucial to any marriage or serious relationship. I have written about that need before. If you missed it, check under Related Posts below. But, there is big difference between me doing prison ministry work and blogging while why wife attends various women's groups at church, and one of us living in San Diego for part of the year.
One of the report's conclusions is this idea of living separately for part of the time is something women push more than men, perhaps reflecting the power they've gained in the past 40 years. As a man I won't pretend to analyze that conclusion, though I hope some comments from my female readers will address this statement. But, I will suggest that there is a real point of friction if a man retires with the intention of changing how a household is run, or decides he is free to sit in the recliner and watch TV half the day. If he does not have interests and activities that allow his partner time to pursue different interests, there will be problems.
Where to live after retirement is also a possible trigger for this living together/apart type of situation. Moving to a "dream" location really needs to be a decision both parties agree upon. If the man wants to experience a winter in Alaska and his wife has lived in Southern California her whole life, I will guess there will be problems if he insists she accompany him on this adventure. If he simply wants to "rough it" for a few months maybe he should try it while she stays at the family home. But, what would disturb me a great deal if he decides to move to Alaska and spends only a few months of the year together back in L.A.
My wife and I have taken a few separate vacations over the past 35 years. I went to Hawaii alone for two weeks on two different occasions. Betty sent several weeks traveling through Wisconsin on her own. We both enjoyed those experiences and don't regret them at all. But, I'm pretty sure that we would both agree that we couldn't wait to come home and tell our partner all about it.
My conclusion is that a marriage in which two people look for reasons to be apart is not much of a marriage. If volunteering for two months in Honduras is important to one person then I am all for that happening. But, if that turns into one person traveling the world on various mission trips while the other half goes scuba diving in Fiji for 5 months a year, I would wonder about that couple's commitment to each other.
My attitude my strike you as old fashioned. You may argue that a strong relationship should be able to weather extended separations while each person does what feeds his or her passion. I sincerely hope you will leave your thoughts below.
If, like me, you find the idea of living apart from your spouse or significant other for long blocks of time as troublesome, I'd welcome your thoughts, too.
In case you didn't see the original report I have a link here that takes you to both a video and a web story of this "trend."
Note on August 2nd: I found this interesting story about a couple facing a situation where the soon-to-retire wife wants to join the Peace Corps and the husband does not. Read it here