Looking back on 40-plus years of marriage, I realize when we said “I do,” we carried our own set of blueprints under our arms for our marriage. And they might as well have been blueprints for a tent, considering the foul weather we didn’t anticipate. So how could we possibly think retirement, changing health, and decline in the years to come would not have some similar surprises, challenges, and changes?
The “house plans” we’d verbally and imaginatively sketched and planned for retirement turned into a totally different structure than we expected. Retirement can be tough on marriage!
My husband was a dentist for 41 years, while I was at home with the family (or writing and speaking around the country). I realized this was the beginning of us being together all the time.
All the time.
I’ve read the horror stories that render women job-seekers just hoping to get out of the house. I’ve seen men lost beneath a jumble of sporting events and hobbies just to avoid too much marriage.
I certainly didn’t want that to be us as we approached the golden years we’d meticulously planned and prepared for.
With a little help from our friends
With that thought, we decided to call upon a few of our friends for their thoughts on this bewildering experience.
Along with them, we celebrated some glorious new realities.
- We love waking with no need to function fast—as well as sleeping in later and staying up later.
- “What do you do now that you’re retired?” people ask. It never gets old to answer, “Whatever I need to stay busy, because I don’t want to be bored.”
- I thought retirement was for old people, but I don’t feel old.
- I wish I’d exercised more to keep up with my active retired life!
- I feel blessed to be healthy, happy, and living the dream.
- I cherish our opportunities to volunteer together.
But talking with my friends, I realized discussions that lay ahead for my husband and I.
- I did not realize how much of my persona was a result of my work and career position.
- Not having a schedule has been an adjustment, too. Every day is now Saturday.
- We now must get used to having each other underfoot all day long.
We are new to all this. But one reality surfaced in these conversations: We need to find what the new purpose is the Lord has for us in this season of great health and minimal responsibility. Doing nothing isn’t good for us. It’s a waste. And it’s boring.
I realized that to make my part of the retirement different, it would require different rules than the rest of my life. Home with our special-needs son and two active daughters, I kept a lot of plates spinning. I made sure clothes were ready to go, schedules , phone calls and bills were taken care of, errands were run.
That was what would need to change.
I, too, was ready to click the knob to Retirement Mode. I no longer wanted to be the responsible party for making life spin well. Joe and I needed conversations so I could envision my days. Joe’s career door was closing, and I was welcoming him into the office I’d been running for those same 40-plus years—the one where I no longer wanted to be the cog that kept the well-oiled machine running.
What could that look like?
I experimented with a new reality that tested my organizational skills.
“Cindi, I think we should put mulch in front of the house again this season.”
Then: I would make the call, arrange it, be there for the delivery, make the payment, and take a picture!
Now: “Joe, that’s a great idea. Here’s the number.”
“Where is the stethoscope, Cindi?”
Then: I’d grab it and throw it in my purse just in case.
Now: “It’s on the bench where you put it.”
Him: “I wanted to give that to Kathleen for her and Nathan to hear the baby’s heartbeat.”
Me: “Oh, I didn’t know I was to bring it. It’s your stethoscope.”
“Where are my shoes?”
Then: I’d check the laundry room and garage and retrieve them.
Now: I wouldn’t have a clue to tell him where to start!
“Cindi, where are the furnace filters?”
Then: I would get up, go next to the furnace, and give Joe the filter.
Now: “Joe, they are next to the furnace where they have always been. Write down the size so you can get replacements.”
“What are the kids doing on Sunday?”
Then: I would text, pick up the phone, or leave a message.
Now: Here’s your phone.
Learning our new moves
After many years of perfecting our dance of marriage together—and stepping on each others’ toes until we moved in sync!—we now have a new dance floor, with new footwork:
- relationship changes.
- altered, often matured ways of seeing and responding to the world.
- freedom in planning our days.
- less time constraints.
- more time available for family, ministry, writing, speaking, and other engagements we enjoy.
That’s all out of the realm of our normal! There will be some missed steps as we yet again find our new groove.
Some of the ways we’ve learned to sync?
- We’re discovering techniques to communicate when our tasks can’t be disturbed.
- (He’s learning to fold elaborate napkins and set an eye-catching table.)
I want to be the couple that keeps learning steps to the new dance to find we eventually move with a whole new beauty. It’ll probably now be a slow dance. I know it will take some stepping on toes to make retirement for both of us rotate smoothly.
Enjoying each other’s company has been a good first ingredient to starting us off well. In the end, I hope we’ll look at the replay of the dance and recognize we navigated retirement like we did the rest of life: together.
Copyright © 2019 by Cindi Ferrini. All rights reserved.
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey. They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife’s Weekend To Remember Marriage Getaways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and on Facebook.