Monday, September 3, 2012

Retirement Conversation or...He said/She Said


      She said…He said!

So...after 48+ years, we are having to learn how to talk to each other again.  I think I'll call this "retirement conversation."   All of a sudden, I seem to have heard his stories over and over, and I don't want to hear a synopsis of the news.  And all of a sudden, he thinks I don't have patience and am not listening to him carefully.

How did this happen?  Is this another retirement mystery?  Only in the sense that who we talk to and what we talk about has changed since we have been fortunate enough to retire healthy and happy together.    

I've been thinking about this a lot and I have a few ideas (of course I do - it's my issue!)  When we both worked, we were out of our home for large portions of the day sharing ideas, opinions, some pretty ridiculous and more often some treasured collegial conversations.  Then we came home, updated each other on what happened at work and what was going on with the kids as various ones checked in to one, the other, or both during the day.   That was our communication pattern.

Now, we share most of our days together.  That's the good part.  We have our work still - I'm up dealing with my writing and professional interests or just enjoying time to read and learn He is downstairs playing his music, studying or doing his own research and learning.  Then over leisurely meals or long walks or drinks on the patio we catch up.  It's the "catching up" that's the issue.

He has time to update me on the news of the day (and I've already looked at what I wanted to and avoided that which just drove me nuts (a lot of it actually) and tell a few stories.  I often cut him off quickly, and tell him I've heard it, don't want to hear it or act impatient.  These are not good strategies for meaningful communication.  HOWEVER, I need him to listen to my deep thoughts and challenges and other stuff rolling around in my head.  Often he seems like he isn't that thrilled by my conversations either.  What a shock!  

So...what are we doing.  We're talking about it and finding ways to give each other space to communicate (both listen and speak) respectfully and meaningfully.  I make it sound easy but of course it's not.  I'm learning:
1)  Give MiVida  time to tell his story - maybe I have heard it but sometimes there is a reason to retell it and focus on a different part.  (not always, but I'm trying)
2)  Let him tell me the news that is important to him.  Sometimes I even learn that what I dismissed as not interesting was really important after all.
3)  Remind him, gently, that he needs to hear my IMPORTANT thoughts too.  (not always important - but they often seem earth shaking to me.)
3) MOST OF ALL, remember to say thanks each day that we are learning about retirement communication together instead of wishing that we would have retired while we were still young enough to enjoy and learn all about it.

Retirement Rule #3 - Listening is maybe even more important than talking now.  And we finally have time to DO BOTH!