Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Togetherness-More or Less?

I tend to visit quite a few blogs on a regular basis. As one who blogs herself, I appreciate the perspective of other boomer and retirement blogs, as well as creative blogs, money saving blogs and travel sites. I enjoy almost all of them. Unfortunately I don't link to articles from other bloggers as often as I probably should, and I rarely comment on blogs. I say this even as I know that we all appreciate comments and input and emails (an I will try to be better on this). Occasionally though, I read a blog post that I need to comment on or share here. More rarely, although there are blogs that speak to me, are those times when I want to say "Yes, This", "I can so relate", or something along this vein. And so it is with Kathy Merlino's current blog post. I hope she'll forgive me for piggy-backing to her post on the topic!

When I was in Germany, my department chief was English. She was a joy to work with, and a lovely person. (as an intelligent woman who travels in Europe and works outside the UK regularly I know that she is totally distraught about current events, but that is a story for another time) I learned more than a few phrases that are now permanently in my personal dictionary, including stone the crows, and I'll come around and knock you up. Celia's husband is retired military and the Chief of Staff. They had no children. More importantly to this discussion, they did everything together. When he was getting his doctorate, she went to the library with him. They literally spent all of their free time together and much of their lunch  and mid-day time as well. 

I remember well one of the first times that my husband went on a four day ski trip via bus with the Frankfurt Ski Club. When she realized where he was, her first comment was "You have plenty of vacation and comp time, you and your son should have gone along".  When I let her know that I had never, ever gone on any of his ski trips, she was shocked. "Don't you want to be with your husband?" I reminded her that I had a damaged knee, and that skiing was not in my proverbial wheel box of skills and never would be. Spending three and a half days sitting in the ski lodge reading or doing whatever while John was skiing with his buddies from dawn to dusk was not my idea of quality time. This was something my friend never quite grasped. She was of the belief that our time should be spent together, always. And the idea that he might be officiating a basketball game on Saturday while I was doing quilting with my friends was equally foreign to her.

My husband and I married later in life than many do. We had both been in committed relationships, and I even had a young child. More importantly, we had both lived alone for years after college and had our own habits and quirks. More importantly we each had developed our own hobbies and interests-many of which we did not share. My husband skied. He officiated a variety of sports, both youth and adult. He was active in small community theater. I had no interest in the former, could not really participate in the officiating and while I occasionally filled in helping at the dinner theater, was not really involved. My son played many sports (the reason my husband started officiating), and helped with set design and other non acting jobs at the theater. He was always an avid golfer, a hobby which my son identified with and joined him.

I on the other hand loved all forms of quilting and crafting, long distance walking (usually alone), bike riding and Volksmarching. I played pinochle. I took college classes. I could go on, but you get the drift.

 Obviously, we had many, many interests together. We both loved to travel, both locally and far away. We had both lived in Germany for many years prior to marriage, and both had already been considering moving to Germany and even retiring there (that move took along time). We both loved film, although he, having attention span issues, preferred to watch at home so he could get up and put on pause. We both loved really good food and would eat almost anything you can name (my list of things I wont touch barely passes five fingers). We both loved the theater, classical music and classical rock and bluegrass and the blues. We would love to spend the day downtown in Washington DC going in all the museums. I could go on. The thing is though, that I never thought he should stop doing what he enjoyed just because it wasn't my thing, or because I had another commitment, any more than I would have cancelled my annual quilting expedition because he would have no interest.

This this extended to other areas of our relationship-including parenting. When there was a van tour with limited seating the first year we were in Germany to visit the Battle of the Bulge site and see Patton's grave, I passed. And they both had a wonderful time. On the other hand, since my husband had no leave when we first arrived in Germany, I took my son for a week's vacation in Normandy. Where I saw every single battle location, every one. My kids are ten years apart and for many years, I was the mom who drove the girls to the mall, where I then went and saw a movie by myself, while my husband stayed home with little bit and watched the sporting events of his choice.

Prior to my husband's illness, we had begun the discussions of where to retire, and what we both needed in terms of geography and and services. We also discussed what we didn't want. As many readers know, our choice was to remain overseas, and that is very likely the long term choice I may make eventually, but that is beside the point. We were excited to be able to do the things we enjoy together more often, and both looked forward to slower times together. We also took into consideration our individual interests, and how we would fit those into our retirement lifestyle.

I know that everyone has expectations of what marriage will be like in retirement, and sometimes both views mesh and sometimes they don't. Without picking on the men, it does sometimes seem to me that men who retire seem to have the post retirement "togetherness" need more than women-but maybe my perception is skewed. I do know that for us, our togetherness really needed to be balanced by both alone time and by individual time. It always worked for us and I somehow feel sure that would have been true in retirement.

And, while we don't plan as such for death or divorce, I do have to say that I believe our lifestyle was a big help in my post widowhood world. While I did have grief and loneliness, and still do on occasion, I did not have to wonder what to do with myself. Since I had hobbies I did alone, I was not someone who looked at everything I did and rejected it out of hand. It took me some time to appreciate the joys of single travel, and sleeping alone. I missed him cooking for me, and so very much more.

On the other hand, when I quilted, went to book group, went out to lunch with friends, and went to the morning matinee?  These were things that I had always done with other friends or alone, rather than with him. So every little thing, every single day, was not a reminder of him. I can only imagine how someone who literally does everything with their spouse survives those experiences. I also had many friends, separate from my husband, and he did the same, which was a great help, but probably a topic for another day.

The bottom line is that I appreciate the kind of marriage and independence we each had, and cannot image another. But that's just me, and others need their own level of togetherness. How about you?

16 comments:

  1. As a man, I second Kathy Merlino's perspective and point of view ... it's good to be together, and it's also a good idea to have some friends and interests of your own, for many reasons including the fact that eventually one of you will be gone.

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  2. I agree with Tom. My husband and I have some common interests - including the ability to laugh together - but we are fairly independent. We both know how to be on our own. I think that's a good thing.

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  3. I think many factors affect how a person adapts to a spouse's death or divorce. You make a good point that having experience being an independent single adult can prepare one should they be in that position in the future could certainly be an asset. I think it can be helpful that each person has interests of their own -- too much togetherness can sometimes be a problem. Others seem to have a need for being each others shadow -- some I've seen adapt better than others when they're alone.

    My husband and I had a number of years living independently before we met and wed. We mostly shared similar interests but weren't locked into doing everything with each other when he was living. Many factors affected our social lives, especially during the years of his declining health, that impacted my life after his death. Having had our own interests and activities did matter after my spouses death but other circumstances that developed over the years came into play, too -- none the least of which was the rapid increase in loss of family members and intimate friends. The best of the latter are acquired over time and in our older years developing those deep relationships is much less likely, I find. This seems to be a common thread numerous others have shared as their experience, too, over the years since I've been blogging.

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    1. Yes. I am not one of those people who had a lot of deep relationships outside of family and that's still true. However I have made a lot of friends since my cc move. They are mainly not of the friends for life type but the kinds of folks you enjoy doing things with it who you can call last minute and say "lets do this" which works for me.

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  4. My husband and I did many things together but I really didn't like baseball. He wanted me to go with him. I told him "I won't drag you to the ballet if you don't make me go to baseball" and he said "Deal". After he died I was grateful for the activities I did by myself-working,walking to the park,exercising, yoga and going out with my girlfriends. It was tough enough living on my own. I don't know how one would be able to do it if you did everything together. And I still haven't learned how to travel on my own.

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    1. Donna. I know many people. Even long term singles who have travel alone fears. Not sure why it's so easy to me. My first trip alone was driving my college student across country to school and the enjoying the trip home with lots of stops, so i guess I had an easy in.

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  5. Another thoughtful post, Barbara. I agree with everything you say here. In my younger days, I was pretty clingy but as I have gotten older I have valued my independence. Hubby and I have similar interests but also our own. I am retired now but Hubby is not. He also works at home. One of his friends said to him shortly after I retired, "Does Rosy hang around you and bother you all day?" or some such remark. He replied that he never sees me. And he is right. I am busy with my own things and don't need him to be with me during the day. We meet up for Happy Hour when he gets off work! :)

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    1. And you are right. It's the men who cling!

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  6. Hi Barbara,
    I am glad that you found your way to my blog. I went and commented on the post you highlighted and I have little else to say here, except that I couldn’t agree more with what you say.

    My Beloved and I (second marriage for both) have had a wonderful time; it is drawing to a close, sadly. But that is how it is.

    We have never lived in each other’s pocket, in fact, when we teamed up I made it a condition that I would always have a bolthole of my own, wherever we lived. We still spent time apart, and then get together to be close and on the friendliest terms the rest of the time.

    I can’t understand how people can need to be together all the time. I’d find it utterly stifling.

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  7. Harvey has his own interests, and I have mine. He has his friends, I have mine (though we do share a few).

    Somehow I can not see how being in each others pocket all the time would make us any closer.

    My best friends husband on the other hand wants her full attention all day every day and it is starting to drive her crazy.

    God bless.

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  8. I always think it is so sad when one person of a couple really wants to travel and the other is a home body....so they don't travel. Only occasionally will I run into an older lone traveler who, like me, goes exploring new parts of the world while the spouse stays happily at home.

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    1. Glad you stopped by. I hate to see people stay home when they can travel alone
      ...

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    2. That would be me. I love to travel and do so often. My hubby loves to hang at home. It takes all types!

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  9. I agree with the writer; my husband and I (married 45 years) have quite a few separate interests and activities. Other couples do most every thing together; whatever works best, I say.

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  10. My husband works in Steamboat and I work in Denver. People can't imagine how this works for us, but it does. IF anything were to happen to him, I am completely comfortable being on my own (my Mom has been on her own for 20 years).

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