KEEPING ACTIVE – DAVE BERNARD– When retirement finally comes chances are we will spend our days in the companionship of a spouse or partner. Together we will brave this new frontier, this second act filled with promise and freedom to do what we choose and actually want to do with our time. The world around has so much to offer and who is more perfect a travel companion on the journey than our significant other. Let the games begin.
Beware though, flipping the switch to living together 24/7 is not always without its challenges. Prior to retiring, each has created a life outside of the relationship. Whether it is the case of a typical dual career family or where one member remains at home, a significant portion of time is spent pursuing separate paths. Yes you come together after hours and over the weekend and on vacations, but that’s not quite like being together every minute of every day, month in and month out. A little preparation and discussion prior to making the move is probably not a bad idea.
Before setting out on your new adventure, it helps if the parties involved can share with each other their individual vision of the retirement they hope to experience. We likely have common expectations in some areas but there may be others where we differ. Although disparate views of retired living are not necessarily a red flag, it is good to have a better understanding of where each is coming from. Do you see yourself the intrepid adventurer in perpetual motion, ever in search of that next challenge, that next notch on your belt of accomplishments, with no mountain or molehill safe from your assault? Or are you more comfortable with just taking things easy, getting up when you are ready and meandering through the day without the need for an adrenaline rush to make you feel alive? Most of us fall somewhere in between wanting to have some adventures but also happy to savor the quiet time.
Obviously, it’s important that as a couple you share common interests. Heck, if that were not the case you might not have found each other in the first place! Doing things together allows us to experience the moment in an enhanced way, sharing our special time with that most special person in our life, creating wonderful lifetime memories. My parents offer an excellent example of how to do things together so that you both enjoy the experience. With a calendar packed full of events and commitments, they busy themselves by playing bridge at least twice a week with friends and local groups, attending community plays twice a month, playing doubles tennis (perhaps a bit less these days but they are 81 years old after all), traveling both near and far to share new sights as well as revisit old haunts, sharing a dinner and a dance with other couples that they have grown to know and love over the years, and typically ending the day seated side by side in their flower laden patio listening to the melodic fountain while sipping a nice glass of vino as the day comes to an end. If you ask me, that is one excellent prescription for retiring happily ever after!
After witnessing their success over many years, I believe the single most essential ingredient in their recipe for happiness is this: no matter what the undertaking, if both members remain considerate of each other and genuinely concerned with the welfare and happiness of the other, it all works out in the end. Mom and dad are the proof in the pudding.
As retirees, doing things you enjoy together is a given. But I think it’s equally important to have individual interests that each pursue. There will be things your spouse is excited about that do not interest you in the least, and definitely visa versa, but that is okay. It makes sense for the sanity of all concerned to encourage our significant other to pursue those passions that light his or her fire. Some time apart to break up that steady 24/7 togetherness gives everyone a chance to breathe, a moment to step back so that your reunion is that much sweeter. My dad has been a trumpet player since he was in college and is still a member of the local band. He practices by himself and then with the group, allowing him time to pursue a passion that he has always had for music. Mom has never been overly musically inclined and so gladly gives dad his me-time. And she gets to join him when the entire group presents to the community on special events like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day.
If all goes well, you can hope to live your retired lives as a couple for 20 or more years. That is a lot of time with one other human being. But if you can figure out the right mix of time together and time alone, if you better understand how each of you hopes to live your retirement days, and if you remain ever dedicated and sensitive to doing what makes both of you happy, why should you not have a chance to retire happily ever after? Enjoy