Q: I’ve been married for 34 years and am now retired with my wife. We belong to a caravan club and enjoy going away. At the destination she wants to look at gardens, but I want to socialise with the group. I miss the people I worked with and feel this is a time to catch up with friends. We fight about this every time.
A: Retirement is a stage of life like any other, and requires adjustment and compromise. You and your wife are now constantly in each other’s company, but it is possible to live in the same house, sleep in the same bed and still not really achieve a sense of closeness. Could it be that when you get to the caravan rally, you are so eager to spend time with your friends that your wife feels excluded? You may both need to talk about this.
You are still the distinct persons you were before you both retired with individual needs and personalities. It’s good to remember that extroverted personalities get their emotional energy from others, while introverts need time alone and may feel drained when being with people. It may be that you are more extroverted than your wife.
Making the years of retirement fulfilling for both of you will require communicating with one another and being willing to compromise. It is going to be important for both of you to have some shared interests and also some individual interests. Could it be that you’ve reached this impasse because you’ve lost the ability to discuss your needs and wants with each other? Telling each other what you would prefer to do with your time, without blaming or bringing in other issues, may be the start of better communication in other areas as well. Communicating without blaming is a skill we all need to practise.
You and your wife obviously have differing interests and needs and it is appropriate for both of you to get your needs met to a certain degree. A possible solution would be to agree to alternate your activities, thereby going out to look at gardens on one occasion and then staying in the caravan park for the next rally.
You could also possibly divide your time away and do a little bit of both activities. Another solution would be for your wife to find another woman friend who shares her interest in gardening and would be willing to go with her to look at the gardens in the area, leaving you to socialise with the other people. If you are both willing to talk about this issue and come to a compromise, I am sure that you will have many happy weekends to share.