She Said, He Said: My wife retired and now I don't see her
Dear Jeff and Lori,
My wife retired three months ago. She had a fulfilling career, but felt it had run its course and was ready to begin enjoying life more. Financially, we're in good shape, but I can't stop working for a few more years. I've noticed myself becoming more frustrated and irritated with my wife recently. It seems like all she does is hang out with friends, play tennis and shop, and she doesn't even seem all that happy. I thought after she retired she would want to spend more time with me, and would take up more responsibilities around the house. Now, I'm supporting both of us and she's not really showing up in the marriage. Am I expecting too much?
Missing My Wife
Lori and Jeff: Many couples approach retirement with diligent financial planning, fully aware of how the change will affect their bottom line. But many miss the opportunity to explore how this immense transition will affect roles, identity, sense of purpose and connection within the relationship.
Lori: In the grand scheme of things, three months is not all that long for her to find her new groove. Retirement is a complete disruption to the structure and routine of one's life, layered with vast freedom. It's easy to get a little lost. While it may look like all fun and games on the outside, I'd imagine this journey is a little scary for her. She's having to rediscover how she fits into the world, how to have meaning and value, and how to balance that with enjoying rest after many years of work. Instead of focusing on what you're not getting from her (and allowing resentment to build), find ways to invite her to connect. Focus on enhancing your bond, and she'll likely be more invested in showing up in the marriage. Also, be aware of how your frustrations, and dare I say envy, could be seeping out. You have to check whether what you're putting out is pushing her out.
Jeff: You are now the sole breadwinner and seem to be expecting that your wife make up for her reduced contribution by being a better partner — spending more time with you and taking on more of the household duties. She's out having fun while you're stuck working and somehow that means she owes you something for that perceived imbalance. So, yes, you are expecting too much. You need to initiate the same kind of conversations about responsibilities, expectations and partnership that you hopefully had before getting married so you both can be clear about your needs and each of your abilities to meet them.
Lori and Jeff: These kinds of transitions involve both partners adjusting to new relationship dynamics together. Invite her to talk — she probably wants to share her experiences with you, and it sounds like it's time to let her know you're missing her.