Along the sole searching journey I got very distracted in the first few months focusing on what Gary would want me to do. Since he is still running his business in IL and going back and forth monthly from Tucson I thought of course that I should go back to being the “good wife”. It was my responsibility now to take care of the house in Tucson which meant to me no more house keeper because I had the time, and of course gourmet dinners by candlelight, because someone with my voice had said that is what I wanted. In all this newfound sole searching I believed Gary would be different after my retirement … supportive, loving, and appreciative for all I was doing. I frequently became angry when my needs were not understood or met. I felt drained having to give what I thought was so much. So I suppressed my anger by pointing out everything I thought he was doing wrong. It was just part of the normal marital turbulence of learning how to be retired, I thought.
But it was not that simple, our marital turbulence became worse when I was convinced he acted as if he did not live here. When he was in Tucson I was angry when he could not find things around the house or when he put dishes away in the wrong place. Silly things like him putting his dirty dishes in the sink or throwing his dirty clothes on top of the washer and not in the hamper drove me nuts. When getting dressed he could not find anything. I started to imagine he thought I was his personal maid. So subconsciously that added much fuel to the conflict between us. With my trying to regain a feeling of being in control I of course tried to control the wrong things and so did he which only continued the marital turbulence for us both. It took me months to understand this bit of the transition would not end until we both develop a renewed purpose in life. Literally we both needed time to just breathe.
When here I served him coffee in the morning as he sat and read his paper and then I fixed breakfast. It seemed as if we had just finished breakfast when like a puppy he whipped into the kitchen eagerly asking when we were going to eat lunch and to hurry up because he had a 1:30 p.m. tee time. When we got married I vowed to love him forever but did that really include making him lunch every day after retirement!
Every time I turned around I was grocery shopping. Making three meals a day suddenly seemed daunting and no longer creative and fun. I just finished one meal, cleaned up the kitchen and it was time for another. I had not had to do this for years and right or wrong I felt as if I had become a lesser portion of the woman I was. It was wonderful for him and here I was left in Tucson with my own private little pity party to cope. So hiding in my pajamas was my new found way to regress to something that took the stress away. What I did not take into consideration Gary was also changing and the challenge of traveling back and forth, keeping all the dots connected between two offices, dealing with an unhappy wife and an entirely new home had soon begun to take its toll. We were both stressed, upset, angry with each other and not discussing why. Marital turbulence was always the black cloud in the room. I read in one of my retirement books it is so important that we transition from results-oriented to heartfelt connections. I cannot stress how important that is personally. Dr. Sue Johnson author of Love Sense says “that relationship bonds begin to fray when one partner needs reassurance and understanding and the other doesn’t come through. She notes the key attachment questions to gauge this: Are you there for me when I need you? Will you put me first?” She also says “keeping love alive as we age requires a constant care and feeding of the bond.” When I read her book something dawned on me and it made me look at my relationship with Gary differently. For the past 45 years Gary and I had been working very hard to establish businesses, our collective and individual careers, build a life, raise the kids, save our money and look to what our future together might bring. During the years we had little time to dedicate to the care and feeding of keeping love alive. We of course always loved each other we were high school sweethearts for goodness sake. But what I discovered when I retired was that emotionally Gary and I was on totally different plains. When you finally stop the day to day rat race and actually sit down on a daily basis with someone you thought you knew for all those years and find out you don’t it is quite unnerving.