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!