June 16, 2017
All Couples Need Space
For years, my advice to older singles who tell me they’d like to meet a potential mate is to get off the couch, out of the house and involved in activities they enjoy. By doing so, they will start meeting new people.
Now that I am retired, I find it coincidental that the same get-out and get-moving advice applies to older married couples, couples who live together and people never married. Senior married couples need space and time away from each other.
Two years ago, just before I sold Tutor and Spunky’s, the Dana Point, California, deli I opened and ran for 25 years, two couples in their 70s had lunch there. They appeared to be having a good time and enjoying themselves. When they left, one of the men stayed behind and said, "Don't you write that dating column?" I said yes.
He said he had been married 40 years and had retired the year before. He mentioned he didn't properly prepare for retirement and was around the house nearly all the time. "My wife and I are driving each other crazy," he admitted.
And then he added, "I've got to do something that will get me out of house."
I said, "That would be a good idea. You wouldn't want to jeopardize the marriage after 40 wonderful years."
His wife poked her head back in the door and said sternly, "Harry, we're waiting for you, let's go!" He looked at me and said, "See what I mean, even that bugs me."
Not an hour later, another older gentleman named Tom said, "I like reading your dating column in the newspaper, even though I've been married to my Julie for 50 years. I've been retired 20 years. Our marriage is the best it's ever been."
I said, "Tom, how do you and Julie keep your relationship so fresh?" I told him about the comments Harry had made an hour before.
Tom said that he and Julie are both very involved in outside activities. He volunteers at the Cabrillo Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano (California) and at Habitat For Humanity. Julie volunteers at their church and is an avid quilter who belongs to a quilting club. They enjoy separate external activities five to six days a week.
He said, "For a marriage to last, there are times when you need space, to be away from each other. There is nothing negative about that."
Tom's comment made me think about couples who meet later in life and say to me they either want to be or are together 24/7. That's likely not going to work. They may smother each other and then part ways. Everybody needs space, particularly as we get older.
Carol wrote, "Every self-help book written tells us to have a life of our own, and I have followed this advice."
Yvonne shed light on why married couples may be together at home so much:
"Fewer people attend church or temple. Fewer people socialize in other ways, like the old bowling leagues of the 1950s, for instance. Fewer people even go out to go to the movies now, instead preferring to watch at home on DVD or Netflix.
“Our homes have become so comfortable that people venture out less than they used to. If we're retired, we aren’t out and about as much as we were when we were still working."
Another reason retired couples aren’t out socially as much is financial. They may be on a reduced income and simply need to watch their spending, which causes them to camp out at home. Also, they may not have the energy they once had and tend to stay home more.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, early 50s, lost his job. His wife privately told me it was taking a toll on them because he was staying home and watching TV out of boredom. They were on each other’s nerves. Fortunately, he got a new job and it made a tremendous difference in his attitude and has re-energized the relationship.
There is a simple lesson in today's newsletter that applies to all couples--married or otherwise, and to single people as well. To be an interesting person, each person needs to have individual interests that keep themselves occupied. We've all got to take a break away from each other on a regular basis, and then, when we do spend time together, we will appreciate each other more.
Being out of the house doesn’t mean having to spend more money. Exercise can be free; it’s as simple as putting on your tennis shoes and heading out into the neighborhood on foot. Or, join a walking group.
Space and time apart can be nearly as precious to a relationship as time spent together.
Even these couples, seen in Lagos, Portugal, last month, need a little time apart from each other:
This stairwell leads up to a fancy restaurant in Lagos, Portugal. Note the stuffed mannequins