Separate Tables

20 Mar

Dear LetterBalm: My wife and I have been married for 40 years. I retired in December, and I feel like a lost guy. There’s no job to go to, my kids are grown with lives and kids of their own, and my wife has her own activities and friends. She’s also very involved with our grandkids, taking them places and spending time with them. My wife and I didn’t have many interests in common before, but now I’m unconnected to her more than ever. She doesn’t have patience with me around the house, and she goes off with her friends or on her own. What can I say to her to help bridge the gap between us?

–Moping around the House

Ms. L.B. wonders if you’d recognize your wife if you met her on the stairs. Sorry for the snark. It’s pretty terrifying to realize your spouse is a virtual stranger, but this is becoming a common condition as boomers retire, especially couples who didn’t share that much when one or both worked full-time. You need to have a heart-to-heart with your wife, who may not realize your desolation. Can you suggest activities you both might like? (If it comes to it, couples counseling may help ease awkwardness.) Meanwhile, continue to develop hobbies and interests of your own to hold you in good stead in retirement, no matter what happens:

Gretchen, now that I’m retired, I realize that, over the life of our marriage, you and I have never developed interests in common. You have a life you’ve been living all these years, and I’m not part of it. This is a state of affairs that both alarms me and makes me sad. I apologize to you for not being more aware of the good qualities that drew me to you in the first place. I guess it was easier for each of us to go our own way as the years went on. I’d like to change that. Can we talk about setting up a day or two every week when we do something together? Right off the bat, I’d like you to clear your schedule so I can take you to Giorgio’s for dinner tonight to continue this conversation.

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