September 22, 2022

Keeping Yourself Alive and Well In a Relationship

 


Some time ago a reader posed an interesting, and important question. She wondered about retired couples whose desires aren't always in alignment. What can be done if one half of a couple wants to go in one direction, while the other person doesn't?

She cited travel as a good example of this type of conflict. One person really has his or her heart set on seeing the world, or at least someplace farther away than the local shopping mall. The other is a homebody and resists travel requests. Why? Health issues, financial worries, the horrible state of airline travel, fear of uncertainty, or simply being comfortable with the familiar,....there are all sorts of reasons why travel is a turnoff for someone. 

This type of disagreement is important to resolve. Travel may be one obvious point of contention, but probably not the only one. Loosening the purse strings is difficult for many of us. We spent decades saving, but now we find it tough to spend on ourselves.

Downsizing or moving to someplace with a different climate, eliminating or adding possessions, redoing the budget, cutting back to one car (or maybe none in an urban setting), and even interactions with other family members, are other possibilities for differences of opinion.

Virtually any aspect of a human relationship can become magnified during retirement. Being together full-time and maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship takes compromise. It requires each person to be able to listen to another's concerns without becoming judgemental.

So, what to do? How does a couple maintain a balance between different wants and points of view? It certainly isn't healthy for one person to always dictate what is done. May can present a few possibilities for you to consider.

Each of us must accept the legitimacy of the other person's point of view. While we may disagree, it doesn't help to dismiss something as silly or wrong. By definition, an opinion does not have to be based on facts. But, that doesn't mean it isn't very real to someone.

I can't stress enough the importance of compromise for both members of the relationship. If you don't accept the other person's view of things, you will have to develop the ability to find a way to blend their approach and yours. It isn't likely to be a 50-50 split; sometimes you will get more of your way and sometimes you won't. If you can't accept this, the long-term health of the relationship is in doubt.  

Understand that we don't lose our individuality when we form a bond with another. Even as part of a couple, there are times we need to do what is important to each of us. That doesn't diminish the power of two, it accepts the fact that there are two separate human beings involved. That means each of you needs "me" time to be happy when together. 

I know couples who require individual time apart, either for a few hours or even longer. Many years ago when my travel schedule was hectic and home life was a bit tense, Betty suggested I take a two-week vacation, alone, to my favorite place in the world, Maui.  After I got over the amazement of the generosity of the offer and her ability to know what we both needed at that time, I spent a glorious 14 days, alone, decompressing, shedding most of my tensions and concerns. I returned grateful, in much better condition to carry on with life, and with a scuba diving certificate as an added bonus!

Fair is fair: Betty also took a 2-week "sabbatical." After I returned from Maui, she headed off to Wisconsin for a 14-day drive around the state, doing what she loves best: staying in B&Bs and taking lots of movies and photos.

We passed our 46th anniversary a few months ago, so our ability to compromise and blend is still passing the test of time.

If I leave you with just one thought it is that a couple committed to each other will resolve these differences. Accept that both of you are equals, each view has validity, and there is a way to blend all ideas into a workable plan. Feel free to think outside the box. 

A two-week trip, alone, to Maui or Wisconsin, certainly broke most "rules," but was exactly what was needed at that time. Something that dramatic isn't always called for. Sometimes just an afternoon of  "me" time can work wonders.


32 comments:

  1. I would surely hope that communication begins shortly after marriage and/or commitment as significant other. We've known for decades that I'm a traveler and hubster is a homebody. We saved and made decisions accordingly. We purchased a small cabin just 2.5 hours north. We both enjoy being there and we spent 15y rehabbing it doing all the work ourselves. Hubster is a woodworker by hobby, so milled all cabinetry, trimmings and moldings for windows/doors. His first retirement plan is to finish the new woodshop that was shelled/roofed 8y ago. As for me, I travel. I tell him where I am going next. Does he want to go along? What would he like to see/do? If he says no, I sometimes go alone or ask my older sister if she'd like to go and on occasion a friend along.

    These conversations however, began before we were 30. I cannot imagine suddenly trying to do all of this in my 60s. Our relationship is the most important part of our happiness and our future. Housing, traveling, hobbies, cars....all a far back seat.

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    1. I am glad to learn we are not the only couple who found solo travel restorative. I should add we have not taken separate trips since retirement 21 years ago, though it remains an option if one of us feels the need.

      As an aside, I am always envious of those who can do woodworking well enough to build cabinets and all the finishing work your husband does. I find the smell of sawdust pleasant.

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  2. While I agree with Elle to a certain extent, even if at 30 everything aligned, people change interests and priorities over time. Let's face it, the last three years might have turned many of us upside down. I can only speak for myself and spouse, but we'll be figuring it out new as we approach that period of our life.

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    1. Absolutely. Covid has given all of us a good shake. I know it has forced Betty and me to rethink priorities and timing.

      Neither of us is the same person we were 46 years ago. Certainly in my case, that is a good thing! Growing and changing are necessary. Besides, can you imagine how boring it would be if we had exactly the same thoughts, knowledge, and opinions for an entire lifetime?

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    2. Relationships certainly evolve over time (at least I would hope so). If folks aren't constantly communicating and working on it, they've got bigger problems.

      Agree with Bob. We barely resemble the kids who got married 42 years ago and our relationship has developed beyond my wildest 19yo dreams.

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  3. I know it's not really related to your topic, but you mentioned "the horrible state of airline travel", and I just wanted to tell you about our recent experiences. We were on 8 different airplanes between August 5th and September 11th. Only one flight, from Amsterdam to Montreal, was about an hour and a half late departing and arriving. Otherwise, everything happened according to schedule and didn't seem any different than traveling during pre-Covid times.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. You were lucky. My daughter who travels for a living has endured cancelled, delayed, and re-routed flights for most of this year, primarily on Air Canada.

      We have experienced two cancalled flights that required us to spend a night in a motel before we could get home.

      I want your travel god watching over me!

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  4. I would say I am more of a traveller than my wife but it's not like she isn't a traveller at all, I guess it's a matter of degree. My wife is English, and she immigrated to this continent on her own at the age of 21 and made her life here (I met her 5 years after she had immigrated). I think that's adventurous for a young single woman to strike out on her own in a new country. However, once we were married and had children the only travel she would do was back to England with the kids to see her parents and sister. For the first 10 years it was alternating, we'd travel to England and the next her parents travelled here. While they were very nice people, fantastic grandparents, and treated me like a son, I wasn't really getting any vacation time with just my own wife and children. Of course, it didn't bother my wife and she got to see her parents, she had a job at a school with summers off, 2 weeks at Christmas, and another week off in March. In the end I had to say I was no longer going to England using my vacation time to sit in my in-law's living room. Of course, my wife continued to go to England annually and that's how it was until the kids were grown. Is that separate vacations? In any case that was the arrangement we came to that held for many years, with some adjustments, right up until her mother passed away at age 86.

    On my side… In our retirement I knew for sure I wanted to winter somewhere where it was a lot warmer than Canada. We settled on Mexico, but my wife was very unsure about being away from home for months at a time. We started with 2-1/2 months, then 3 months. Eventually we bought our own place there as 3-month high season rentals were getting hard to find. Of course, with a place there the trips got longer (a bit at a time) and we are just about up to 5 months now. We are both good with the 5 months down south now but without owning a place there I never would have been able to convince my wife to extend our winter trips. The other thing I wanted to do in retirement was to see parts of the world that we’d never had the chance to see when we were working and raising children. For me a month somewhere is a good length of time to see somewhere but my wife isn’t so sure. The agreement we have now is that most years we visit her sister in France (where her sister retired to) for a week and then go wherever else it is we want to see from there for 2 or possibly 3 weeks. It is also true that while my wife might not travel like this if I weren’t around, she does enjoy it once we are underway. So far, in addition to the mandatory stop in France, we’ve been to Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Australia & New Zealand, and most recently Spain.

    I suppose the idea is to see it from the other person’s point of view and then try to find a solution that fits the needs of both. In our case for travel we seem to have found a way to do that.

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    1. Your travel and vacation mix-and-match has worked out well for you two. Having relationships based in Europe certainly has made it interesting! Betty and I are looking forward to a week or so revisiting England and an 8 day river cruise out of Paris next summer.

      I know we couldn't spend even 3 months away from family. We managed a 2 month RV trip a few years ago but it was tough for us. We have considered a month or two in Flagstaff in the summer, but that has yet to happen.

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  5. For years,Ken and I have traveled together, with other groups and not each other . Ken belonged to a ski club and also had 3 male ski buddies who also had wives who hate the cold and don’t ski. I must be the only person who went to Telluride and did not enjoy it (I only went once.) So a few times a year he took off with them for ski trips. A few years back Ken expressed an interest in taking an ALASKAN cruise by himself so he could enjoy time alone in the COLD, go out in the rain and ice which he loves, and just do every thing he wants to do on any given day.. he loves the buffets! And he enjoys the ease of seeing different towns and forests without packing and unpacking.. I said “GREAT..!” He has done that 3 times now! I also have taken trips with lady friends to Vegas, Seattle, Cozumel, and some cruises with a craft group. I have gone alone to Santa Fe and enjoyed a week of ALL the art galleries I wanted, the food I enjoyed, and some cooking classes.I sat in cafes and wrote poetry.Soooo refreshing to get away alone sometimes! Now, Covid put a dent in ALL of that but I know Ken is anxious to do an Alaska cruise again.. the season is over now, but maybe next year.Me, not sure..but i am beginning to get an itch as well.. We change as we grow older, and a good marriage allows for some shifts in plans… I think that we spend a lot more time together in retirement, and so it may be even more important to schedule some “ME TIME” regularly!! Together I would like us to return to o Bucerias in Mexico for a couple of weeks..maybe 2023.

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    1. Your recitation of some of the solo trips you and Ken have taken is exactly the point of this post. You two have had a long and happy marriage, but realize you are not always joined at the hip. I believe, in the right circumstances and with a strong relationship, solo time can be great for the individual and the health of the relationship.

      You have also given me, and us, some ideas for future trips!

      And, I must add, "me" time doesn't have to involve travel or long breaks.

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  6. Hi Bob,
    First + foremost, I have very much enjoyed your retirement posts: They have been uplifting + entertaining! However, I tend to disagree with you + your wife on separate vacations. My husband + I have been married 50 years in May 2023. I love vacationing with him! Our interests are very much alike. Though, at home time, we do "our own thing," so to speak. For example, I am more outgoing + he is a homebody (go figure?)..;So my take on your most recent post, is, as always, every couple is different. Do what makes you happy...Simple rules.

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    1. We vacation and do things together all the time now. The
      Maui and Wisconsin trips were a one-off when they were important to the strength of our marriage.

      As Madeline's comment above shows, two people can coexist and still need to fulfill individual longings.

      But, rest assured, Betty and I travel together and love it. Over the years we know our own likes and dislikes. The England trip next year is for her. The river cruise was at my prompting.

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    2. Like you Bob, we do love to travel together having just returned from 15d doing what he loves-4 NASCAR races, and touring our way by car through historic towns that were of interest to him. We both had a terrific time. Now I am in Dallas/Houston visiting a niece, several friends and attending a wedding. Hub had no interest in this trip.

      I love the sharing here of what works for a variety of couples.

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  7. Living alone, I'm very aware of the luxury of not having to compromise or make concessions. I go where I want when I want. I cook what appeals to me. I have uninterrupted time and my schedule and budget is mine alone. I used to travel with a chuckwagon racing team for 5-6 wks each summer. There was a hectic schedule with people of all ages living in a big 5th wheel. Doug would sometimes remind the kids - leave her alone; she's old and she's used to living by herself! I'm reminded of that when my young cousin lived with me for 8 mos while she attended a local practicum. Again, when I had 4 houseguests for 2 wks this past summer. Being aware of myself relative to others is a good wake-up call. Communication is key. Each of us is responsible for making our needs known and in return, respecting those needs in others. For myself, it means carving out quiet alone times at the beginning and end of the day.

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    1. I am glad you commented, Mona. While the post is written from the perspective of a couple, there are a whole lot of us who are single and have important points to make.

      Obviously, you know yourself well and how far you can go in accomodating changes in your lifestyle. Respecting each other's needs is the key.

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  8. We love traveling together, but there are definitely places and activities we like to do individually. I have no interest in going on golf trip and hanging out waiting for 18 holes to be over -- with the exception of Hawaii or Sedona. ;-) We have different interests, and while we love our trips together, we've always done some of our trips separately. It works for us. Every couple is different, and as you said, you have to do what works for you. We're not back on the travel train yet, but partly because we have a new-to-us dog and DH isn't keen on boarding her. Yet.

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    1. Another "Blender," a new term I just made up for a couple that combines solo and together travel. Good for you; you two know what works.

      The new puppy-kennel conundrum is a toughie. I am with your husband. I could not put a newer dog in a kennel. It would tramatize me as much as the pup.

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    2. I did not know how much fun traveling solo and/or with lady friends was till i tried it..we traveled together only, till my early 50’s, then I semi retired and Ken worked a lot of hours, and I had more time on my hands..my first trip without him was a women’s tour to Seattle,focused on art, river cruises, and music. I had such a good time and found out that traveling with the gals is a totally different and fun experience! I branched out and did some solo trips..to places my husband only likes to spend limited time.. and voila! Our travel experiences morphed in a nice direction. Since that time we both Love to go places together, trips all alone, and trips with peers for our special interests. NONE of that’s been happening since 2020 but I am getting an itch and need to get out there soon…

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  9. This is very interesting. My husband and I are somewhat joined at the hip about travel, although at one time I did travel to New York and Texas alone to see friend and family. But I was in my 30s and he in his 40s when we married so we were more settled in our thoughts and preferences than the young. Now, I wouldn't dream of spending even a night away without him. Our list of things to see overlaps about 90 % so it's not at all difficult to find a great trip that we both want.

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    1. Betty really wanted to go to her 50th high school reunion in West Virgina last month. I had zero interest but would have gone to support her. In the end, the trip didn't come together, much to my relief. But, that would have been an example of compromise learned after almost half a century together.

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    2. That's a true compromise, Bob! DH has gone to class reunion with me, and I have to admit it's big ask. LOL.

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  10. As Sam said, people change. In terms of interest and goals. I was married to an avid skier and golfer and did neither. While I could find self entertainment on golfing expeditions I was never going to spend my day sitting in a mountain top through the daylight hours until he made it up for dinner and bedtime. So there alot of three to five day trips like those that I did not partake in and quite a few times he and my son traveled without me and I without them. As far as non travel we were married in our thirties and had some very different hobbies and interests. He did umpiring. Skied, was very active in community theater and a couple other things. My interests were in other areas. But we both enjoyed travel as a family, fine dining, sports and a host of other things. I am not of the joined at the hip theory of relationships. And having now been single a decade olus, ike Mona I so appreciate the lack of a need to do much compromise. So I have been all over the place in terms of this perspective

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    1. Your experiences on both sides of the relationship spectrum is a nice addition to the discussion. I believe not being constantly together is an important part of a healthy relationship.

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  11. It’s funny,Ken and I both appreciate alone time for completely different reasons: I am an “only child” and crave time by myself on a regular basis. I grew up. In a very quiet household. I recharge when I go off by myself sometimes, and just enjoy my own company.I like a certain amount of quiet from time to time. Ken grew up in a raucous household with 3 brothers and a Mom who kept things moving at a fast and furious pace, lots of rules and expectations..so ken absolutely craves time all by himself with no agenda, some quiet, and space to think,dream, wander in the woods in some remote place, etc.. we both recharge by having time alone.He is my best friend, and we’ve been married a looong time, but our times doing “our own thing” add to the relationship and keep us both mentally and spiritually healthy! I know that doesn’t work for many married couples but it works for us.

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    1. Your explanation of the possible effect of different environments while growing up makes lots of sense. I wouldn't have considered that, so thanks for raising it as a factor.

      Betty grew up mostly alone while I had two brothers and a busy household. That could explain some of our differences.

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  12. Like Mona, I bookend my days with quiet time. I've always been an early riser, and I've been getting up an hour or two before Alan (and our kids) throughout our marriage. In the morning, I catch up on my favorite blogs, travel news, the RV forum and weather while savoring the two cups of coffee that jumpstart my day. In the evening, I wind down by reading whatever books have captured my interest for about an hour before bedtime. Having that time to myself sets a good tone for the day in the morning and the stage for a good night's sleep in the evening. I enjoy the quiet time and the opportunity to have just myself for company.

    Because Alan and I have so many similar interests and preferences, we almost always travel together and share activities. That being said, his need for travel is slightly lower than mine, so I know there might come a time when I travel alone to visit far-flung friends and relatives or a particular destination. He is acutely aware that his knee issue can hold us back from some of the activities I enjoy, and he has encouraged me to continue to do things that are no longer comfortable for him like strenuous hiking. For the times when our needs, wants or preferences diverge, there's always compromise. Works like a charm.

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    1. You do something I have never been able to master: be an early riser. I have made many attempts over the years but simply cannot maintain the practice, even though rhe idea has strong appeal. The mind is strong but the flesh is weak.

      Like Alan, Betty has enough physical issues that our travel plans must take them into consideration. So far, that has not been a problem. My restrictions are not as serious but lean toward less physical activities, too. So, we are growing old and adapting together.

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  13. I've enjoyed reading all of the replies. My wife is really not a traveler but goes with me so that I won't be alone. However, once we are at the destination, she really enjoys it. She refuses to do any travel planning, delegating all of it to me. Fortunately, she is quite flexible and easy to satisfy. I enjoy seeing the excited look on her face when she first enters the beautiful apartment rental or restaurant I chose.

    We travel together 90% of the time. However, when she wanted to go to Israel with her church, I had absolutely no interest. Consequently, she chose a friend to be her roommate. She had absolutely no interest in my desire to visit India. Consequently, I went with a tour group.

    To encourage her to continue traveling with me, I plan a few things around her interests. For example, she loves to shop. So I set aside some travel time to visit knitting stores and boutiques. If I want my wife to visit art galleries which I love to do, I need to be patient while she shops. I just sit on a bench outside the boutique and sketch. Sometimes I'll even say "Please go to two more stores so I can finish my sketch." We are so different. Yet, we have a wonderful marriage--50 years next year.

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    1. Jake, this is a perfect example of how give and take can work in a relationship. Being there for each other, while allowing for the satisfying of individual needs equals 50 years together.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Art and I usually travel together, but in the last few years I've taken some trips with a friend. I always invite him first when I've got a travel destination in mind; if he says no I find a different companion. Some of our best memories are from past trips, to places we won't go again because of the limitations our older bodies put on us. We're flying together on October 21 from Seattle to Tucson for the winter, and the next day I leave for a European river cruise with a friend - the price was too good to pass up. If I like the river cruise concept, I'll set up something for Art and me for next year.

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    1. You two have made it all work. But, your point about our bodies and stamina can make solo travel necessary. We loved our Rhine river cruise and are taking one out of Paris next year. You should throughly enjoy it.

      Will Art participate in plays this coming year in Tucson? I remember you mentioning in your blog how much he loved it a few years ago.

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