Dear Liz, My husband has just retired and I'm having a hard time dealing with it. He trashes the house, and I've always kept it clean and neat. He has control of the TV. He thinks I'm here to wait on him hand and foot and that housework is beneath him. Do you have any suggestions on how I can co-exist? Thanking you in advance for any help you can give me.
- Mary in Illinois
I can't help thinking of my grandmother who would say to us when my grandfather retired, that she agreed for better or for worse but never did she agree to all day every day.
A few things come to mind that might help you begin to tackle your new life. I get a lot of questions from newly married or cohabitating couples, who are challenged by navigating their new living situations. Believe it or not this is comparable. Your situation is brand new to your marriage, completely changing what the face of daily life looks like to the two of you. This is going to require serious boundary making, task distribution and keen communication skills. You have to attempt to change the dynamic and the first thing to do with that idea is to commit to it.
It's important to remember that in general men are very task-oriented, and often respond well to ideas presented in black and white. If he resists in the beginning you must figure out a way to communicate to him how crucial this is. If he still resists, then perhaps you re-think some of the tasks you provide for him every day. You will have to sit down with him and have a real conversation confidently and directly. You cannot live this way, you want to change it, and here are your ideas.
I've listed a few things to help you begin implementing some changes.
1. Make a list alone, go over the tasks and responsibilities you feel are reasonable for him to be a part of.
2. Figure out the best time to approach for a conversation, I suggest doing this when all is well and not strained between the two of you.
3. Show him the list of things you feel he can contribute to this new life. On this list be sure to ut things that apply only to him that you are doing for him now.
4. COMMIT to this. Mary make him understand that due to many things beginning with your health that you simply cannot go on the way you are.
5. If you must, leave the house during a time when you are normally servicing him, mealtime maybe, whatever you have to do to show you are serious.
6. Find an ally for yourself. Does he have a sister? Do you have children? You need support and people with whom you can vent and share these difficulties. They can try to appeal to him also.
7. There are several on-line support groups to help you navigate this time in life. You would be astounded to learn how many women are suffering this exact same transition. Commiseration is the greatest food for the female soul find a way to partake it will surely ease the difficulty.
And Mary, so often in life we think we know people so well, "he will never bla bla." What we forget is, sometimes that stance we take is not productive for us. I don't care what he's been like all these years, you need it to change, and you mean it! Marriage is a constant work in progress. Please know if you don't think you want to get a new plan into action, you don't have a choice, your health and life depend on it, and I think you know that or you wouldn't have written in. Don't forget, the things in life we feel will be the hardest to shift often end up being less difficult than we anticipated…once we commit to doing them.
Tackle this Mary, with pride and conviction, you can do it – Good living to you!