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Planning Retirement Online


Relationships - July 2012

It could be you ....


Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.



I can't settle

It is 8 years since we moved away from the area we lived in throughout our younger married life. Our children went through school there and left for university or to their first jobs and adult homes from there. All my very best friends live there still and I miss them very much indeed. We moved because my husband thought it would be better to sell the larger family home and find a smaller house. We wanted one in a place where we would be close to all the amenities we would need as we became older.

I had hoped we'd find something close to where we were living already, but to maximise our capital, in my husband's words, we needed to move further away from the city we all knew and live in an area of countryside 150 miles away.

Well, it sort of worked in a way because we have invested some of the money we got for our old home and use it to supplement our tiny pension pot. The cottage is in a very attractive village and when we came here there was an excellent bus service to take us into the local town, where there are all amenities and a rail station. Now the bus service has stopped and we must drive.

But I haven't settled. I have done voluntary work, which occupies me, though I haven't made close friends, and my husband has made the garden his main work. Our children and their families come to visit of course, but they spend more time in the area where we had all lived before. They have so many friends there that they visit there more often than they come here.

My friends have never understood why we had to go so far away and ask when we're coming back, and now my husband and I have constant rows about where we live. I can't help thinking that if we had stayed where we were our home would have been full of the children and their families almost every weekend.
My life seems full of regrets and arguments.


Maggi replies

First of all you need to find a way of letting go of your regrets. There is nothing can turn back time so try not to waste your energy on wishing things were different. What you do have is a pretty cottage in a village which is popular, from what you tell me, and a small town nearby which, apart from the buses, offers all one needs as an older person. You also now have enough money to live more comfortably. So one of your first moves to change the way things are is to 'forgive' your husband for bringing you here. His decision was necessary in order to fund a more comfortable and less worrying future in retirement for you both. Once that is achieved it clears the way to some more productive discussion on how to improve things.

The most important thing however, is to talk to your husband in a way that doesn't lead him to think he is to blame. When you row he's probably defensive. He needs to know and to understand how you feel, so quietly ask him to listen and ask him to help. Then together you can start to re-arrange life to suit you both better. Nothing stands still. We all change, and what suits us now might need a rethink five years down the line. A healthy marriage will make allowances for change and adjustment. We can only do that if we regularly talk openly to one another. No-one is a true mind-reader.

It is certainly harder in later life to make new close friends. People often become close when they have lived through similar experiences such as raising their children, working in the same place or daily walking pets together. The friends made in your previous home are lifetime friends. Your mutual friendship endures distance and absence, but they aren't helping by asking when you're coming back!

A local friend of mine is presently enjoying the company of a really close friend from way back in teacher training days. The friend lives in Australia and visits England every 3 or 4 years. Their friendship is as strong now as it ever was, thanks to modern communications.
Frequent phone-calls or Skype chats as well as email, usually keep them in touch.

But it is day-to-day contact which you are missing; the phone call to ask if you fancy a walk or for lunch or a bit of shopping. I'm sure you and your husband go back to visit, but I'm wondering if some visits could be tailored to your need to be with your friends. Do you go to stay with them on your own? Is that feasible for you and for whoever you would stay with? Can they come for solo stays with you? That to me sounds like an ideal way of getting more 'pal time'. You can plan a trip back to stay, have visits with all your pals and sit late into the evening, talking listening and laughing in that wonderful way old friends can. How would your husband feel about this? You will need to explain to him a little of the closeness you feel with your friends – reassuring him that this is not in any way a hint of inadequacy on his part.

Women form very close bonds over the years –through sharing the anxieties, panics and pleasures of bringing up children. To be away from your friends gives you feelings of isolation from one of the most life sustaining gifts we are given. Make sure you listen to your husband if he has reservations about you taking solo trips to your old haunts. Try to meet his concerns calmly and explain to him what you will be doing - and go through how he will self cater in your absence. ( My husband tends to skip lunch if I'm away, but would cook himself lamb chop, frozen peas and mashed potato every day if I didn't leave him specific things to eat!)

Putting aside your husband's reasons for moving so far in the first place, which were obviously well thought out in terms of future financial and physical needs, is he happier where you are now? Perhaps, if you are able to talk with him about his and your feelings he might find ways of making your retirement more interesting than work in the charity shop and garden. Finding new mutual interests– and individual ones as well – at any age, can bring much more colour into life that you might find more within your marriage to sustain you as well.

Your children still have friends where they grew up and none where you live now, so will naturally tend to seek out their own pals. This isn't to say they prefer them to you, but they will naturally gravitate towards people of their own age around their old home. As they, in turn, make new friends when their children are old enough to go to school, their territory will shift too and most of their old school friends will be dropped. My own sons maintained contact with many of those they grew up with for some years after we had left the area and then, as they settled down, their children entered school and work situations stabilised, new friendships were formed which will sustain them for many years. They too, see more of their own close, but everyday, friends than they do of us. It is a natural progression. But parental visits are often for a few days or so and we have a true family get-together. So the balance can work for everyone. Talk to them. Tell them how important their visits are. Suggest you might share an occasional family holiday close to everyone's old friends in a rented cottage.

You say there are three or four old friends you miss very much. Talk to them all. Get them discussing it amongst themselves. They all know you really well and could find ways of helping.

But that misses the underlying reason for this difficulty. There might be things you can 'do' to ease the feeling of being cut off, but under it all it sounds as though you have still not settled in your new home. This not a failing, either of your husband's judgement, or of your having no new close friends. It is that you have tried to adjust, got stuck, and resent the decision to move so long to be back near your friends. Without the regrets and arguments there's every chance to get things into a more satisfying balance, doing some of the things suggested by husband, family and friends as you discuss it with them. Try them all. Give them time to work. If you still find life too solitary then have the discussion about moving back. But, given the state of the UK economy for the foreseeable future, and your own need to make your pensions stretch, you need to look upon this absolutely as a last resort.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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