The Good Life: One Couple, Two Retirements

Couples are pursuing different dreams often in different locations.

ByABC News
July 19, 2011, 12:13 PM

July 19, 2011 -- For many couples, marriage may have meant till death do us part, but for others, the parting is coming in retirement. Staying together but spending time apart is fast becoming a trend for retired baby boomers.

"I can't foresee wanting to spend 24 hours straight with someone," said Susan Ross, a retired teacher, who has been married to her husband, Jim, for 31 years.

While Jim stays at home in a suburb of Austin, Texas, and pursues his passions by working at a museum and biking, Susan can be gone for weeks volunteering in Honduras or days helping underprivileged children in San Antonio.

"We are both pretty independent people, and so it really helps us to have our own interests as well as things we do together," Susan told ABC News.

Dorian Mintzer, author of "The Couple's Retirement Puzzle," said it's important for couples to openly discuss their desires and goals for retirement, even if it leads to spending more time away from each other.

"I do think more pursuits will be done separately," said Mintzer. "We're going to see more living together but apart."

Susan said many of her friends are tired of being with their husbands all day, every day.

"I talk to friends who do everything together," Susan told ABC News. "[They] grocery shop together ... clean together. The wives are sick of it."

Jim has no question he and Susan made the right decision.

"I see how happy it makes her," said Jim. "Why would you not want to do that?"

Living together apart is something women push more than men, perhaps reflecting the power they've gained in the past 40 years.

"It's a different generation of women that want to have a voice," said Mintzer. "It's no longer just adjusting to the husband's retirement.'"

John Chatfield had planned on retiring to Maine with his wife, Jane.

"I have always loved the beautiful scenery," John told ABC News. "We had our first conversations about retiring in Maine sometime before we were married."

But a funny thing happened on the way to full time existence in vacationland. His wife didn't like it.

"I got through the first winter and I felt 'all right, I can do this.' But that's a sense of a person stranded who says ... 'I can hold on,'" she said. "People tend to eat supper around 5:30 and go to bed at 8:30. My life isn't over yet!"

One winter after spending time in Cambridge, Mass., caring for her mother, Jane decided to make Cambridge her winter home.

"I realized John was ready to accept my being away for that period," said Jane. "The Charles River, Cambridge, all those young ponytails bobbing up and down as they stay in shape. The rowers on the river, that's gorgeous."

Both say the separation has enriched their relationship; having the courage to pursue different dreams has strengthened their bond.