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Planning Retirement Online

Retired Husband Sydrome

When my father retired at 70 he embraced his new-found freedom with delight. He had worked full-time since the age of 14. Much of this work required him to work out in the fields. Imagine, 56 years of often solitary work. He looked forward to having more time in his garden and, given the increased output, he began taking his wonderful veg and fruit up to the village stores and the butcher, both of whom would happily buy from him, but, and here's the thing, would spend time chatting. Yes, it can still happen in rural places!

That was when my mother, whose sole social contacts were walking to the village shops or church, had her social life unwittingly reduced. She soon realised, when they shopped together, that Dad was fast becoming a 'good ol' boy', who spent time working his way round shopkeepers and fellow villagers, exchanging pleasantries, stories and gossip.

Soon my mother, being rather reserved, refused to shop with him, feeling embarrassed by his jolly exchanges, and after a year or so she began to retreat into the house and saw few people. Then the rows began...

My parents were of a very different generation, but a similar thing still happens. Now it is known as RHS...Retired Husband Syndrome. In Italy, America and Japan it has been recognised as a genuine reason for many wives of retired men becoming depressed. Japanese marriage has had clearly defined boundaries for centuries. Men work for most of each day, often at weekends too, and wives keep house and ensure the children excel at school. All is regulated. When the men retire their expectation is that they will be able to advise the wife on how to improve on all aspects of running a home. The Japanese wife naturally finds this hard. She has being doing exactly that for decades! But, her culture dictates that she must defer to her husband. Depression sets in.

Now there are so many of us reaching retirement at the same time, world-wide, born at the end of WW2, that this syndrome is becoming recognised in much greater numbers.

My parents were of a different generation. Few couples spent time talking about their relationship, or pending retirement. The culture in Japan is quite different to much of the western world, though things there may be changing.

My point is that we can, and we need to, talk to our partners about our joint and individual hopes for retirement. We need to talk with them before, during the early days, and every time we feel a change is needed. Marriage is a contract. Living together is a partnership. Both of these ways of sharing our lives need to be on an equal footing and renegotiated as things change for us.

I have been practising renegotiating. I admit it isn't always easy, but it works. As you might see by the cartoon, there is just a little bit of an issue in this household regarding the distribution of labour.

D upstairs in his office (my husband) loves arranging our social diary, inviting friends and relatives to stay or weekends away, not always taking seriously my pleas for some time when I have a whole week with nothing planned. M downstairs (me) finds little time or space to sit and read, or write or make all that is in my head waiting to be freed.

NB.. I must be careful here as today I have been surprised by finding that the porridge I spilled on the hob yesterday, was spirited away and I have a sparkly clean hob again. No matter that the brushed stainless steel surface has been scrubbed against the grain and will never look quite the same again (!), it is done and I now have extra time to do something else. And, as I write, I have been brought a cup of tea in my eerie across the yard.
I feel lucky to have my husband with me, happy, healthy and eager to do things with me and organise our great adventures. And, in truth, I love seeing friends.

Yes, we niggle now and then, but we talk. We laugh. We negotiate. We remind one another of our preferences – dodgy memory is another fly in the ointment which salves – and both of us compromise. No matter how long a relationship lasts, that is always an essential tool.

First try to work out what your own hopes and concerns are for your or your partner's retirement. Then ask them what you asked yourself and compare notes. This is a starting point, not a place to make concrete decisions. Find out where you agree and then work out the differences and negotiate from that strong point.

For many women, having the daytime routine at home – often their work place – disturbed and permanently changed by the presence of another person, is hard to accept. He needs to know that - and she needs to accept some alteration to her daily pattern.

Either we stick to our routine tasks and recognise that feeling a little overworked now someone else is at home all day is our choice, or allow our menfolk into the secrets of using the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner or the shopping list and embrace the different approach. Likewise the retiring man needs to find lots of all consuming hobbies or interests which keep him occupied, or allow himself to be guided and welcomed into the housekeeping world, knowing he risks walking on quicksand occasionally!
D likes to help by doing the shopping, tho I swear the list is seldom read, judging by the amount of items we already have plenty of, or caramel biscuits, toffees and chocolate bars that come home instead of the essentials I really needed! But most of the items are found and for that I am thankful, and his eccentric purchases amuse more than annoy.
I have my parent's sad example to remember and avoid repeating., naturally, has much on the subject of preparing for and making the best of retirement. Take a look at some of the really good ideas, opportunities and guidance, and have a look at some of the problems in recent monthly 'Relationships' columns.

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