Angry older couple arguing with each other

Dust if you must …

Or how to stay together in later life.

A Facebook post that I read this week posed the following question –

“My husband is so untidy about the house I could scream.  He leaves clothes around the place, doesn’t put things away when he’s finished with them and our garage is full of his junk.  I love hm dearly, but sometimes …”

Retirement throws up a lot of challenges – financial, social, health and many more.  But not the least of these is that the partner that you lived with for many working years becomes a more significant other.  When working, it was possible to tolerate differences of opinion, moods, humour and general irritations.

But in retirement you are spending more time together, and issues like those described above become more that irritations.  In fact, Forbes reports that grey divorces are on the rise and that is sad.

Very often couples say “we grew apart”, or perhaps one (or both) parties are looking for something different at 60 plus – more excitement, travel, energy, sex than their partner can provide.

But divorce is always expensive, most often depressing and can lead to loneliness and later life misery.  How can it be avoided?

It is possible that two people can be different in their approach to life but still be happy in their relationship.  You won’t often find couples at the extreme ends of the political spectrum, or with completely different views on the environment or equality – but other than the extremes it’s possible to disagree but remain agreeable.  Most of the time.

And of course it’s possible for two completely different people to happily coexist (think Taylor and Burton).  The marriage will be volatile, perhaps exciting, and it may be that providing the boundaries of respect are maintained it’s really no-one else’s issue.

Cleanliness is a case in point. the title of this post and the delightful poem by Rose Milligan – don’t spend too much time on the dust, because time is precious.  Never more so than in your later years.

Let’s take our Facebook poster – her husband is irritatingly untidy and that may be because they have different standards of cleanliness and clutter.


dust if you must

Perhaps they were always so different, or maybe retirement has highlighted their differencies and heightened the tension.

I suspect that if I came across his post it would say something like “my wife is driving me mad.  She’s always nagging me to put things away, fussing around and tidying up – and she wants me to throw away perfectly good tools that I know will be useful some day”.

There being two sides to every story.

So how can this be reconciled?  Some of the replies were not helpful –

“Sneak into the garage and throw things away when he’s not looking”
“He’s a slob, ditch him”
“Don’t be such a nag, cut the man some slack”
“He’ll never change, just accept it and move on”

So here, for what it’s worth, is my advice. 

A marriage can only survive with tolerance, give and take and an occasional shrug of the shoulders.  On both sides.  If something is really important to one person they should be able to explain why – “I think we should try to keep the garage a bit tidier as I nearly tripped over the wood yesterday”

“Ok, perhaps we can pile the wood in a different corner and create a clear pathway”

And then again perhaps acceptance that putting the newspaper back in the rack is not always necessary.

Clutter is an issue – in the end those drawers full of old tools, equipment and general accumulated junk needs to be kept under control.  It’s hard – you just know you will need that small tenon saw that belonged to your dad – it hasn’t been used in 20 years but one day …

I think the Proclaimers had it about right – The One Who Loves You Now.  Irritating, stubborn, doesn’t understand – all of those things might be true.  But in the end separation ain’t no cake walk, finding a new soul mate in your wrinkly years won’t be easy – and they’re not really so bad, are they?

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