Most readers remember the Brady Bunch. This television show featured a dad with three boys

and a mom with three girls. Neither of the parents had a spouse (and we don’t ever find out why

they are single). According to the theme song, they decided, “That this group must somehow

form a family. That’s the way we became the Brady Bunch.” Pretty simple, right? Throw in an

easygoing housekeeper named Alice, and all is right with the world.

We have learned that retirees may benefit from having a “yours, mine, and ours” approach to

interests and activities. We suggest that in addition to planning to spend time with your partner,

each person should nurture their own interests separate from your spouse. While some couples

may do well spending most of their time together, this can be a significant change and even

cause a disruption of the relationship. During the working years, spouses are apart for 40 or 50

hours each week. This represents nearly half of the waking hours. Upon retirement, suddenly

spending most of that time together can reveal differences that may result in friction, conflict, or

driving each other nuts. In extreme cases, the conflict can be so extreme as to end a marriage in

divorce. Some of the challenges can be:

Different approaches to time

One partner may be very punctual or structured about time

while the other is more likely to go with the flow

Varied expectations about how productive one should be during the day

Some people feel a need to crank through a multi-point to-do list (yep, that’s me!) while the other is

interested in rest, relaxation, and having fun. (By the way, for us to-do listers, getting

things done is fun. I know, it’s weird. But we can’t help it.)

Personal habits that you don’t notice

-about your spouse when you are busy working can

nag at you when you spend most of your time together. Vacations during the working

years don’t really serve as a test of how you will do in retirement together. Vacation time

is special, set apart time. Typically you are in a different location for a short duration. It is

quite different being in your home (where one or both might be somewhat territorial

about the kitchen or the garage or the TV room) for the rest of your natural life.

 

OK, enough negatives. Here are some positive reasons to maintain some of your own activities

apart from your spouse:

1. Having your own activities gives you something to talk about with your partner when you

get back together afterward. “How was bowling today?” is an opportunity to share about

the people you met, news you heard, ideas you were exposed to. This is great for you and

your spouse.

2. Maintaining your own schedule allows you to have your unique needs met. My wife Julie

probably wouldn’t want to go to an archaeology lecture with me. If I dragged her along,

she would be bored and likely unhappy. If I stayed home because she didn’t want to go, I

would be unhappy for missing the scintillating lecture. If we took the “yours, mine, and

ours” approach instead, she could stay home and read a book she likes while I go to the

lecture. Afterward she can share what she read and make fun of me for being so excited

about a new pottery find in southern Israel from Iron Age II.

3. The third benefit has to do with the reality of mortality. In most relationships, one person

is more likely to plan or initiate activities. If the planner dies first, there is a real threat to

the survivor. Their social contact, purpose, and meaningful activities may be reduced or

end altogether. The results can be very ugly. On the other hand, if both spouses maintain

individual interests in addition to joint activities, the death of a spouse may have a lower

or less severe impact.

I hope it is clear that I am not suggesting shutting your spouse out of your life. On the contrary, I

want every couple to have an awesome relationship. Being purposeful about cultivating

individual interests alongside mutual interests can go a long way toward ensuring a happy

marriage and engaged life.

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