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.
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.
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.
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.