Oh, that feeling of having the whole house to yourself – your partner/kids/whomever has left for the day, and there is no one home to talk, witness, nag, need, or judge. Sheer bliss. Even more so if it is a rare day off. What happens when your partner comes home from work one day and announces, “They’re closing our office, I get to telecommute 5 days per week!”? Well, some adjustments need to be made. Even more so if your partner retires and will be home permanently. Every. Single. Day.
Sure, there can be huge plusses to having your partner home – casual conversations and jokes, getting his/her opinion about the latest news or interactions with relatives, neighbors, and friends. Yet, for many couples it can be a turbulent time. A time to re-clarify roles, turf, expectations. The idea of someone commenting on what you’re eating and why it does not sound appealing is not pleasant. Having your train of thought interrupted multiple times a day can be annoying. Temptations to grab a bite together, watch a show, sleep in, be a sounding board – all lovely ideas unless you have your own agenda, social commitments, routine that need to get done. Retirement is considered one of the most stressful times in a long-term relationship for good reason. We have heard clients state, “We do everything together now, I mean everything, it’s exhausting”, “I love her, but it’s too much, I can’t even think”, or “I feel guilty arranging lunch with a friend and sometimes eat in my car in a parking lot just to have some time to myself”.
Good news! There are ways to maneuver this new arrangement to make it easier and happier:
- Claim your territory
From the get-go, set up an area that is all yours, a place you don’t need to clear up every evening, and is as private as possible. Unfortunately, not everyone has a separate office where they can close the door to be alone, keep others out, or have everything undisturbed. Even if it is a 3-foot section of the kitchen counter or a small desk crammed into your bedroom or living room, claim it and defend it at all costs. Although not ideal, it can be the dining table or kitchen counter and needs to be cleared away every day.
- Set Expectations
This is huge and can make or break the arrangement. Explain that your work area (however big or small) is a no-go zone, a place that cannot be accessed or approached during certain hours. If you need quiet, let that be known. If you are on an important call (even if it’s your sister), have a system where your partner knows not to turn on music, ask a question, run the blender, etc. Ask your partner what they need, honor and respect it.
- Communicate honestly
No matter how long you’ve been together, your partner cannot read your mind. They may have no idea that whistling in the kitchen distracts you. That hearing “What’s up?!” 12 times per day is annoying. You will likely need to remind your partner of the rules when violated. The reminder can be gentle, but it must be firm and immediate. If you wait for several violations before reminding your partner of the rules, both of you will be more frustrated.
- Focus on the positive
It is easy to give your attention to the annoyances and frustrations that will inevitably occur. What you focus on has the most power. With that in mind, be sure to give attention to what you like about having your partner home during the day. What drew you to them in the first place? What do they add to your day? You will see more of your partner’s good if you give it attention.