Friday, November 20, 2015


                          RENEGOTIATING A MARRIGE


      Many years ago, I was married to a wonderful man who was very different from me. He was an introvert, and I was/am a raging extrovert. Some might have thought that this combination would have created a wonderful balance. About 20% of the time, it did. The rest of the time, I found myself very frustrated because he wouldn’t talk. That’s what I told people; however, that was not completely true. He talked; he just didn’t talk about what I wanted him to and to the extent that I needed. He was not wrong. I was not right. We were just different. Had I been able to renegotiate our marriage all those years ago, maybe it would have worked. Probably not. We all have our individual needs. No matter whose “fault” any argument or breakdown of communication might be, it is very difficult, perhaps impossible to change our needs. I made the mistake of many women (even savvy 21st century young women of today); I tried to change him. Didn’t work. Doesn’t work. Will never work. The only person we can change is ourselves, and the only way that will happen is if
we want to.

     After a heartbreaking divorce for both of us, I remember thinking, “Maybe if I had taken a sabbatical. . . “ Nope. Wouldn’t have worked. We take ourselves wherever we go. Moving to a new house, a new state, having babies, getting a butt lift—nothing will change the way we are wired. I didn’t get that then, and although I get it now, it still doesn’t make communicating that easy.

     A new friend and I were talking about adjusting to retirement and the issue of renegotiating in a marriage. When two people work full time for 20+ years, raise children, marry off children, bury parents, deal with domestic issues day after day,  the energy drains quickly. By the time we retire, we might think, “Whew. Now we have time for the intimacy we always dreamed about.” This is true, but now there’s time for him to play golf five days a week or watch football four nights a week or for her to play bridge three nights a week. There are two scenarios:  not enough time together or too much time together.  They both can cause issues; thus, the need to renegotiate.

     It’s all about balance. Personally, I believe that we each need our own separate lives as well as the one we share with our spouse. If each of us has a life apart, then we don’t rely on the other to fill the void. When we come together whether it be for lunch or dinner or for a day’s hike, we have things to share that the other doesn’t know. It keeps the marriage fresh, and each person has his or her own identity. When one person is super busy and fulfilled, and the other is lonely and bored, there is bound to be trouble.

     Then there’s the issue of the domestic schedule. When we both worked, we either self-assigned tasks or discussed and divided them (ideally). If that didn’t happen before retirement, watch out afterwards. 

     Because we are around each other much more often, the things we may have overlooked when we were working now seem to stand out in neon. Why does he sit in the same spot on the couch every night watching TV? Do I ever get to watch my programs? Why does she always play her music so loud? Does she realize I’m trying to read my book? Why is he always here when I need my alone time? Can’t he just go somewhere for a while? Why does she wait until the last minute to get ready to go somewhere. Doesn’t she realize the traffic problems? All of the things we took for granted in our working life now stand in line to be addressed, ignored or resented. 

     I have friends who just couldn’t renegotiate, so one or both went back to work. I have friends who just suck it up and do whatever the King says. I have friends whose wives run the show, and they just follow along. I have friends who bicker constantly, yet they say they are “very close.” No one knows what goes on behind closed doors, and that’s a good thing. What I do know is that if my needs are not being met, I am not a nice person. If I don’t ask for what I need by the time I’m retirement age, I am stupid. If we can’t renegotiate at any time in our marriage, we have a problem. I remember my aunt saying, “Honey, you just have to accept it. Relationships with men are 80/20, if you’re lucky.” Well, I don’t buy that. If it’s not close to 50/50, then people are living in the 18th century, and they deserve what they get. 

     Now I’m not saying it’s easy to tell a 65-year-old man that you can no longer deal with his snoring and farting. It’s not easy to tell a 65-year-old woman that she drinks too much and gets loud at dinner parties. It’s all in the semantics. The bottom line is that the groundwork has to be laid long before you cash the first social security check. Good luck with this.