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24 August 2011

The long run

In the most recent gardening post, Patricia asked about how Hanno and I work together and added: "Mainly I ask as quite a number of friends would like to retire but are not looking forward to spending full days with their partner. Therefore its very interesting to read how you balance this as there is a big adjustment all round when two people are retired together."
Lemon butter ready for the cupboard.

Homemade pasta.

I don't remember having too many concerns about spending all my time with Hanno - maybe I was too focused on being at home and working here, or maybe it's because I always think I can do something about the problems I face. I gave up work first, then he did; we swapped paid work for unpaid work at home. We knew we'd have far less money but the work we did in our home would make up for some of that. We were excited - it was a challenge for us. At a time when most people slow down, we made the conscious decision to work more, to do for ourselves as many of the things we used to pay for and therefore cut our costs. Of course, we also slowed down and lived with less stress because we were our own bosses, we didn't have to go out into the world to earn a living everyday and we could choose to do our work in our own time. 

Jam drops.

I think that if you give up work and don't replace it with anything, you're looking for trouble; you'd be arguing with everyone who crossed your path. I'm not saying that Hanno and I never argue, we do, but it's soon forgotten. And things go wrong here, it's not all smooth sailing but we know now that most problems are fixable and we don't stress too much about anything. I think our key is that we have mutual respect. I don't tell him what to do and he doesn't tell me. I think the most common question we ask each other is: "What will you be doing today?" It's not a competition anymore. I think when you're younger and raising children, working, paying off debt, trying to get ahead and generally trying to be two places at once, it can become a bit of a competition about who is doing the most work at home. When you retire, you have to give all that up, you have to  commit to harmony in the home and work on becoming friends as well as husband and wife. You hear jokes about henpecked husbands, overbearing husbands, wives under the thumb and dominant wives and maybe those jokes bear some truth in some circumstances, but it doesn't have to be like that. Like anything important, you have to work at it. Putting two people together inside four walls can be your idea of hell but it can also be wonderful and enriching - two people working towards common goals.

Chitting potatoes.

It helps if you can divide up the chores according to your strengths so that you fill your days with meaningful work, and by that I mean the work that helps your home run smoothly and makes you comfortable. When those important daily tasks are done, then you have time to do all the things you want to do. I think it has worked well for us because we both want it to. Give and take. And although we rely on each other for the vital elements of any marriage - love, respect, trust, honesty, commitment, fidelity and shared happiness, we don't rely on each other for everything. We have time away from each other too - Hanno went on a holiday to Germany for five weeks last year and it is important to me to have time alone almost every day.

So even though living together in retirement isn't always easy, when you work at it, and give everything you expect in return, it is. So I guess it's a matter of how much you want that. If you're prepared to work towards a balanced relationship - a 50 - 50 cut, and when you don't get that sometimes, it's okay, I reckon you're on the right path. You have to work towards balance but be okay when the scale tips 70 - 30. It won't be balanced every day, some days it will be 60 - 40, some days 90 - 30, occasionally 100 - 0. You have to accept that as part of an faithful and steadfast relationship. Because in the long run, the scale will balance out, and that's what you're in it for - the long run.


  1. I'll be honest. Retirement is some 20 years away for us, but the idea of spending all my time working alongside my partner is something I look forward to.

    We are equals in so many ways, and opposites in others - my skill is with words, he is a graphic designer and artist. I make yoghurts and cheeses, he bakes and makes preserves. He digs and prepares the soil, makes raised beds and structures, I propagate the seeds and cuttings.

    For someone so creative, he is very practical, being able to put up a shed using only hand tools, bake a cake and design a poster in the space of one day. (And he likes washing up).

    I guess we share the same dreams, and have grown into them together. I think the only disagreement we've had of late is how soon he should dispose of the hideous 1990's era cycling shirt he's been wearing for the bike part of his commute.

    I know I am very lucky.

  2. Excellent post Rhonda...I am lucky that my husband is my best friend...and we were best friends for years before we got together as a couple...sure; we've done things a bit backwards in some ways...but it all worked out well in the long run....I think communication is interested in what each other is doing....and most of all, agree to disagree sometimes.....We both look forward to spending time together and have already made lots of plans....
    Thanks for a lovely post....Oh, and that must have been a huge task for Hanno to get rid of that tree root. Well done to him as well.

  3. Another wonderful post. My husband and I are in our 40's and are looking to him slowly weaning away from a paid job as we have a military retirement which until we moved to our farm seemed small. Now it seems so large and sustainable. Of course we have learned to have more by living on less, and slowing down.

    As to splitting the tasks and having time to oneself that is normal before both are home and after. We all need a reboot whether a long soak in the tub or a vacation. The key is respect and focus on the unified goals instead of the divisions.


  4. My partner and I have been working together in our own business for the last seven years. I think the key to spending this much time with someone - retired or not - is also knowing HOW to argue. Because you are going to argue - there is no doubt about that. My man and I argue once or twice a month. We shout a lot, we slam doors but we are never nasty with it. And when one walks away, the other never follows (cooling down time)- we have lots of little 'rules' like that. It means that our rows are constructive and stress-relieving rather than destructive although it's a fine line.

    Little things can also help- you have to keep the romance going even though you are both there all day, every day. Daft stuff like drawing a heart on his sandwich in ketchup. And he always walks on the traffic side of the pavement - he says to 'protect' me - from speeding cars, I presume!

    It also helps that I too take a holiday from the whole family every year! Sometimes I go overseas with a friend and most years I have a long girly weekend away with my Mum and sisters. We all enjoy that.

  5. with Hubby retired, we're both home these days, but fortunately, the alone time comes often enough. those jam cookies look scrumptious...betting they'd be good with a side of lemon curd!

  6. Wow. To be honest, this post made me really sad. I have never understood why anybody would want a full time job if they could help it. Filling the time has never been a problem for me! I'm always just blown away by people who don't want to retire because they have no idea what to do with themselves. I "retired" five years ago at the ripe old age of 39, and would have done it much earlier if I'd had the guts.

    I think it's never a good idea to use work as a buffer between you and your partner. I'm not saying you have to spend 24/7 together, but if you're relying on any external circumstance to create a situation that you feel OK about, you're just asking for trouble.

    Seems to me that if you're concerned about spending too much time with your partner, the first step would be to work on your relationship! Just sayin'...

  7. I have to say my husband and I enjoyed it when he was working more seasonally and we were able to work together to get the gardens planned and started together before his work season started.
    We've gotten into the habit of enjoying the things we enjoy together, and giving each other the time (and space!) to enjoy our individual hobbies/chores/passions as well. I'm not a fan of football, but I'll sit with him and crochet while he shouts at the t.v (they need him, you see). I just can't work on anything that requires keeping an accurate count ;)

  8. Hubby and I are in the position that with his work (we are self employed) he quite often needs me to help. While I'm on the job he is boss. He has the experience and trade qualifications and I'm just the worker and that's fine. At home we are both "boss" but both have our areas of expertise and each defers to the others experience.

    Do we fight - of course but not often. We are lucky that we balance each other in lots of different ways and we both see each others strengths and weaknesses and support each other.

    As for retirement. Bring it on. The idea of having him at home is one that fills me with excitement as he will finally have the time to tinker with all the things he enjoys but lacks the time to do. As I'm home most of the time I already get to "play". We both do our own things but we also check in and offer encouragement on what each other is doing and lend a hand when it's needed. We also are brave enough to tell the other person "that doesn't interest me" or "I don't want to do that". We are individuals after all and have that right. We have also cultivated friendships that support both of us in our interests. Some are friends that both of us spend time with, others (like my spinning group) are friends that share our individual interests. Both types of friendships are important and enrich our lives both individually and as a couple.

    I am an incredibly lucky woman in that I married a wonderful man who is my best friend and who does support me in everything as I do in him. Communication is the key.

    Thank you for a fabulous post Rhonda and well done Hanno on tackling that huge tree root. You are awesome.

  9. We are working together pre-retirement so maybe we can regard it as our training wheel days? :)

  10. Great advice Rhonda. My family & I are hoping to move to acreage soon and have my husband at home a lot more, so I read this post looking to learn from your experiences.

    I heard of a local couple that were married for over 65 years. The wife was asked what was the key to a long & successful marriage. Her reply was 'He doesn't come in my kitchen & I don't go in his shed'. I know that each couple will have different needs, but perhaps your comments on having time to yourself is one of the keys. Thanks again for sharing this.

  11. Dear Rhonda, I've re-written my response to this blog about 3 times. At first I was distressed that your readers all appear so content and I was envious. When I was first married, 25 years ago, my husband was such a liability to me. He could do nothing. I had to educate him in the ways of domestic life. It's taken all of those 25 years to now have a partner who can contribute in the home by vacuuming, washing and ironing. He does a great job of mowing our half acre property and he loves to cut down branches from my beautiful trees when I'm not looking. I will always envy women who have husbands who can use a hammer, fix broken taps, patch up a leaking roof etc. Both my sisters are so lucky. Because of this shortfall in my dear husband I am terrified of retirement for both of us. He's so proud of what I do in the garden and home, but he is clueless really and retirement for him will be a nightmare. Unless he is made redundant he won't retire for 5 years. Therefore I have 5 years to work out how to deal with our spending the following 30 years together if we both live to 90 which could possibly happen as our parents are still alive and approaching their late 80's. I'd better get a wriggle-on as 5 years will fly by.

  12. I am consistently amazed at how after so many posts you still manage to come up with new and fresh angles, topics, and discussion. This is a fascinating post that has given me pause to consider the life Matt and I are creating together. We are still not able to give up paid work, but your blog is very helpful as we endeavor that direction little by little. Thanks as always.

  13. "Honey how can I miss you if you are never gone?"We fell into full time partnership in an odd way.

    In 2005 the school district Geoffrey was employed in had a sunset for folks who were 55 or over and had been in the district for 30 + years.

    It linked a sweet deal concerning medical, dental and vision insurance. To which I nudge him and said "honey if you don't grab this now we will be sorry".

    He did and then 6 months later we ran away from home. After living for 51 years (me) in the central valley of California we moved to Mendocino Co. of nor. cal. He retired me on a new adventure. I went back to school at 55 and became a Vet. tech.

    For 4 years I worked full time and still managed to care for a herd of dairy goats. Geoffrey cooked, cleaned and kidded out does for me.

    Then I said "nice ride, I love my work but not where I work". The choices were limited so he said "we can make this work". And we did.

    So after a full year plus I can say that with 40 years of marriage come October it can work.

    Sometimes you love, sometimes you yell, sometimes you cry. But if the life goal is a common one and there is respect it is not always easy but fun!

  14. Rhonda,

    Everyday..there is not particular time...i look forward greatly to touching my favourites button and logging on to the Down to Earth Blog.

    Your wonderful thoughts and ideas make me feel like i am still sitting at the table with my dear nanna and auntie who i miss so much and from whom i have learned so much and credit for moulding me into the person i am today.

    Again thank you to you and Hanno for allowing us the priviledge of having a peak into your lives.

    I wish your post today could be archived as i guide to retirement...absolutely wonderful i am sure it will help many.

    Thank You.


  15. Your mention of time alone daily hit a nerve with me. That is what is missing in our retirement life. Some down time alone. Just time to relax and enjoy things we each enjoy that the other does not so such. We must discuss this and work it in. It seems since retirement we are together 24/7 and the little relaxing things that brought extra joy to our individual lives is absent. Only a short time every day would be wonderful and then working together again would be welcome. So simple. Health issues have made us change some arrangements but we manage to keep the gardens and home going. We are really enjoying these years. Thank you for sharing your story. Sarah

  16. This is a great post! We are the same. We downsized when both kids went their own way, both cut work back to part time, became minimalists and started the journey to become more self sufficient. Both in our mid 50's.

    We both have our own businesses at home now, as well, to fill the time and are both very busy with those, but it's doing what we enjoy. Mine is painting and farming, online seed sales and writing "how-to" books. He has a computer business, mostly programming, so we don't work together all day. We both get a lot of alone time, me doing my thing outside and he doing his inside. He gladly helps me outside when I ask, but I do so rarely. (I'm so fearcely independent!)

    We don't feel the need to entertain each other. We enjoy sitting and comptuing together, he on his computer and I on my laptop in a recliner beside him. We can sit like that for hours, occasionally sharing and chatting, but both working. In the winter I paint quietly beside him while he works on the computer.

    We don't feel the need to share a lot of common interests either. We are rarely interested in the same things, but we compliment and understand each other and have respect for what the other is doing.

    I think couples have problems in retirement if they are depending on the other person to keep them from getting bored and don't have interests of their own, or expect the other one to help them with or participate in their own interests and goals.

    People are different. If you live with someone else, you have to respect the differences and work with them and let the other person be who they want to be and persue their own agenda.

    We have been married for 34 years now. Been through just about everything possible together. "Letting go" of control is important.

  17. I am looking forward to the retirement years not so much to put more time into our lives at home, but to put more time into others outside of the home eg

    1. others less fortunate/the "underprivileged"/the "poor"
    2. Christian discipleship of younger women
    3. volunteer activities in the community/city (different than #1)
    4. grandchildren, if they are in the picture

    We would most likely still employ a domestic worker/maid for cleaning the house--both to give her a job (there's 40% unemployment in this country regardless of the worldwide recession) and us an opportunity to use our gifts/skills elsewhere.

    A balance of spending time with husband, self, family, friends and aquaintances would be what I'd hope for. And not being too hard on myself....if we chop & change our minds re some aspect, that's fine. Listening to God's daily directing would be the key.

    Cape Town
    South Africa

  18. Hi Rhonda,
    I don't really have anything to say on retirement, I'm only 23 so it's a bit of a distance away.
    I just had a quick question about the lemon butter photo you posted above. I literally looked at your lemon butter recipe yesterday to make this weekend, however the recipe says it should go in the fridge but your post says the cupboard? Can I store it in the fridge if I seal it properly?
    Thanks for your help!

  19. My hubby has a medical discharge from the military (he was wounnded in Iraq)and he is on disability.I stopped working 8 year ago when our son went to school.We work together very well,and get along fantastic,but I do need my own space each day.We have turkeys,chickens,and a garden.Hopefully we will be getting dairy/meat goats in the future.

  20. Hi Rhonda, this reminds me a bit of the "Unschool" movement. Where parents let their kids do whatever until the kids find their own groove. Even if it means letting the kids sit around and do nothing for a while. With everyone else in the household up and doing their own thing, eventually the "sitter-arounders" get up and do their own thing. I think this works great when you have shared values. Also, approaching relationships this way is a great way to let go of any control issues. Ya know?

  21. Cara, the lemon butter can be stored in the cupboard or the fridge, but always in the fridge after it's open. There is enough sugar and lemon in the recipe to preserve it in a properly sealed jar in the cupboard. If you jars don't seal properly, keep them in the fridge.

  22. I loved this post. I am a stay-at-home wife, and it is so true that if you give up work and don't work at home, you will be unhappy and fighting with those around you. It's important to have meaningful work to do, whether you get paid for it or not. For me, having goals (gardening, sewing, writing, etc.) and seeing friends keeps me much happier than wasting time watching television, and since I've been home we fight less and see each other much more, and work together better! If I don't get out, or watch too many movies (we don't watch T.V.) I get cranky and life at home isn't so pleasant :).

  23. One of the best things about retirement is that it frees up your time to volunteer where you feel want to get involved. For one hour or one day or whatever. There is no end to things out there to do if you just ask around. Work together on projects with your spouse or alone which ever you agree on. We work together but do different things on the same site. Think first what you want to accomplish in your home to keep your simple life going and only then see if there is time and energy to do other things. A few times when we did not feel like working away from the home we invited people over. We had lunch together and they have enjoyed seeing how we live and have come away later doing some of the same. Many still do not know they can live simpler. JoAnna

  24. loved your post. recently retired and i'm never alone. learning to balance is right, and I have learned to laugh out loud a lot. Perhaps, I am mad.

    We are selling a home and disposing of "things & stuff", you can imagine, I'm sure.

    Thank you for sharing.

  25. Hi Rhonda, thanks for your post. We are many years away from retirement but it is definately food for thought. The jam drops look amazing, do you have enought time to share your recipe? thanks Julia

  26. I have been married 20 years and we have never had a fight. Sorry to disappoint, we have had raised voices very seldom. When we first got together I tried to argue with him for a year or 2 or 3 maybe but he wouldn't argue back, not at all. Said it would make him angry and he didn't know how he would react. After a while I realised that it was my own sense of self destruction that comes from low self esteem that made me want to argue. So I took up meditation and realised that calm thoughts and actions don't need arguments. But that is my way, I did here of a couple who had a problem when he retired, perhaps it was all there married life. He wanted sex and she didn't. So they found a solution. Every year they went to Asia, her for the shopping and him for the brothels. It worked for them and they are happy with this arrangement. Not for me though.

  27. Margaret BlairMay 18, 2012 9:51 pm

    Hello again Rhonda,
    My husband retired at the age of 60 and myself at the age of 55 years.That was 15 years ago.We both have hobbies, his are Golf,Woodturning and winemaking. Me, I do lots of things apart from cooking. Quilting,card making, knitting,sewing,Pyrography,
    gardening ,not the grass cutting or heavy stuff as I have had a hip replacement. My husband also trims the topiaries and cleans the chook shed since I had my hip done .We share the household chores too and we have been married for 51 years ,very rarely argue so I'm very lucky because when they made my husband they threw the mould away.

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