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Give Me My Space

By Sunie Levin

Resident Blogger


Highly explosive comments were heard during recent interviews with couples living in a retirement community who requested that their real names not be revealed. 

“When I wake up in the morning I turn to my wife and say I’m sorry,” relates Martin, a retired 70-year-old Kansas City grandfather. I asked why? “It takes care of the rest of the day if I do something wrong,” he chuckled. 

JoAnn, his wife of 45 years, didn’t find that one funny. “I married him for better or worse, but not for lunch,” she sighed. She said it with a smile. 

Retirement is, for the most part, a guy thing. “Women never retire,” complains Nancy, whose husband has been home for many years. “We just wind up getting another child to housebreak.” 

“Absolutely true,” chimed in Gloria – an active, vivacious 68-year-old from St. Louis whose husband has been home for the last five years. “When Tom was working I was able to take care of the house fine. As soon as he was home full-time he turned into the Inspector General. Obviously nothing I’d done all those past 40 years was right. He didn’t like the way I folded the laundry. He didn’t like the way I made the bed or washed the dishes. I told him if he put on white gloves and began inspecting for dirt, I’d punch him in the nose. I then gave him the choice of doing it himself, because he seemed to know how to do it so well, or let me do it without comments. It worked.” 

“When he first retired, he followed me around all day,” complained Shirley from Naples, Florida. “Frankly, I would have rather had a poodle, I could have put it outside.” 

It all comes down to space. The woman feels the house is hers, and suddenly it is invaded by a full-time, unavoidable house guest – and one who doesn’t feel he always has to be on his best behavior. 

What it all boils down to is that constant togetherness is, inevitably, smothering – no matter how much love there is. We all need our private space. On average, retired couples have 20 years left sharing the space. Men and women work all their lives looking forward to retirement. Here are tips on ways to make it more enjoyable: 

  • Have a desk in a corner of a room or an office in a spare bedroom you can call your own.
  • Communicate what things you would like to do together and what you would like to schedule on your own.
  • Encourage your spouse to develop separate interests, hobbies and volunteer work, but also plan time to explore new things together. 

Like George Burns said, “The trick is to live to be 100. Very few people die after that.” But there’s another trick. That one is to make the first few years of retirement not seem like 100. 

Sunie Levin is author of four books and a popular lecturer. Her recent book is “Make New Friends…Live Longer” a guide for seniors.