Recently my husband and I spent a great deal of time reminiscing while visiting with long-time friends who are in their 80’s. When our discussion wandered into my writing on retirement marriage and how some couples struggle with the adjustments this life stage typically requires, Mary said, “Life can get a lot easier as we age…things just don’t bother me as much as they used to. Sometimes Bill’s actions used to really irk me, but I realized it wasn’t worth it. He has his quirks, but so do I, and when I get annoyed over little things, I’m just wasting energy,” she continued.
Mary went on to note that their retirement marriage was blessed because each of them had many of their own activities and didn’t have time to get on one another’s nerves. There’s much truth in that statement because they are actively involved in their community and have a mountain of interests. However, the real success of their retirement marriage lies in the space they allow one another to be, to do and to mess up without recrimination. Mary may call it an energy saver, but the calm in her manner says it all; “Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
I was reminded of this conversation while reading an article on the Huffington Post by Paula Davis Laack. She suggested that when we get annoyed over something someone has done we ask ourselves what factors might have contributed to the problem. She points out that we often don’t see a situation with 100% accuracy––or at least not from the other person’s perspective. To deal with the issue calmly she suggests that we ask ourselves a few questions. The space and time this action brings to the situation helps dissolve many struggles in early retirement marriages. Before blowing up over something your spouse has just done it could be helpful to ask:
How did my spouse contribute to the problem I’m seeing?
How did I contribute to the problem?
What specific behaviors contributed to the problem?
Often, when we get the answers to such questions, we see, like my friend Mary, that the issue isn’t such a big deal after all, and that helps us put our energy into things that make retirement fun. What’s your approach to maintaining serenity in your relationship? Please share your thoughts for someone who is seeking answers.
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