Managing Couple Closeness in Retirement

Real love is about being loving much more than being loved.

There are so many ways to manage “closeness” in retirement. The most important part of the equation is to be sure to love and respect each other at retirement. Don’t be that kind of couple who stays together forever only because you are afraid to be alone. I know from personal experience, the loneliest I have ever felt was being in the wrong relationship or marriage.

Mike and I met at age 50. By that time both of us were pretty clear on who we were, and who we wanted to spend our time with. We found spending time together was easier than with anyone else we had ever met before, but we also had very different interests. He loves making and fixing things, especially electronic or motorized things. I enjoy the world of creativity, writing, editing, photography and gardening.

In psychology, this is called “differentiation.” Differentiation has to do with your ability to  stand up to group pressure to be like those around you. The less susceptible to the pressure of others, the higher your differentiation level. A high level of differentiation means a strong sense of who you are, separate from others.  The process of holding onto your sense of self and self-interests in a close emotional relationship is what develops your sense of differentiation.

Luckily, because Mike and I had each lived alone for years before we met, we had each developed a strong sense of self. We had little “fear of disappearing into a relationship.” That is not to say that we didn’t struggle at times with maintaining strong, separate selves.

Beginning from this groundwork, our retirement has been an easier transition, mostly because we have so much respect for each other. We also planned our retirement home around having separate work space for each of us. I have my own office space where I do my work, and Mike built an extra large garage for his projects, what he likes to call “Mike’s Badass Mancave.” We also maintain separation of chores. I do most of the cooking and he cleans up, etc.

I believe too much closeness is a real buzz kill early in a relationship, especially when one partner needs a lot more support than the other. I don’t know where I first heard this saying, but it works for me when it comes to self development:

First have the strength to meet self, then have the strength to let go of self.

 Our psychological task as young people is to learn to appreciate who we are, separate from everyone else in the world. As adults, it can be quite beneficial to learn how to let go of self or ego, no longer needing to impress or defend who we are with others.

Self-acceptance is the BEST GIFT you can give yourself!

10 thoughts on “Managing Couple Closeness in Retirement

  1. My favorite room in the house where we moved to 3 years ago is my own office. Was in a bedroom/junkroom for years! I agree – separation and having your own interests makes the time together sweeter!


  2. I met my husband when we were fifty, too. And now it’s a quarter century later, and I couldn’t be happier. We do have our own separate lives and activities, and separation of chores, which works very well for us. I’m so glad to hear you are happy, too. 🙂


  3. Barbara: If there is one thing I’ve learned through my long life, it is NEVER GIVE UP YOUR TRUE SELF. That can only lead to an angry, frustrated life. It may seem like a small sacrifice when you’re young, but it grows exponentially as you age and learn who you are. Valuing your Self is an integral part of psychological healthiness. -LLC


  4. Pingback: Boomers and Their Lives | Adventures of the NEW Old Farts

  5. I never thought I’d get over James’s death, but five and a half years later, I’m excitedly moving forward. While it would be wonderful to find that kind of relationship, again, sounds a lot like you and Mike, I don’t want it enough to hookup with the wrong man. I know a couple of women who’ve done that and sometimes wonder if they feel trapped or too embarrassed at this age to divorce.


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