“Honey, have you seen my coffee?”
For the second time this morning, my spouse has misplaced his coffee cup. Since I chose to not hear the first ask, I decided to get up from my desk to help him look for it, as he was becoming louder and more exasperated. I spied it atop the refrigerator, informed him of its whereabouts and walked back to my garage office. I sit down, quietly sigh and prepare to begin my workday.
To say that the pandemic caused a drastic change in my life would be a drastic understatement. It was more like a seismic upheaval.
I was told one morning in early 2020 by my company to leave immediately and work from home indefinitely. What was supposed to be a temporary solution to an imminent national health crisis became a challenging new norm. Although it permanently altered my present, COVID-19 also provided an interesting glimpse into my future.
Before the pandemic redefined the meaning of “the office,” I drove 40 miles daily to mine while my spouse walked 40 steps to his — our garage. He was an established remote employee, so I moved into a spare bedroom down the hall. We settled into a comfortable routine and enjoyed the financial and social distancing benefits that working from home afforded.
A wrinkle formed several months into this new arrangement when my spouse announced he was retiring, an event for which I wasn’t adequately prepared. Our union became known as a “mixed-retirement marriage.”
He vacated his garage office and I relocated there, naively believing it would provide more space and privacy. I forgot that he had vital stuff stored in the garage, like machinery, an extra fridge and every type of screwdriver ever made.
He began to appear in the garage at inopportune times during my workday which forced me to adopt the mantra of “Be Prepared”. I activated the mute button to deafen online co-workers to any expletives hurled by him after watching the news. I selected a desktop background that obscured random body parts, should he wander in to search for a misplaced tape measure.
I stood ready to stop a video call should he have the urge to power up his weed whacker.
Retirement has afforded my spouse time to view endless hours of YouTube renovation videos and peruse Pinterest for decorating ideas. When he renovated the guest bath, he made all the selections. But I was asked to leave my desk many times to admire the finished handiwork.
He loves to shop and purchases big equipment items, which he stores in the garage. On occasion, he has activated the garage door opener during on-camera meetings, leaving my co-workers to wonder if my Internet connection has fried.
He spends an inordinate amount of time angrily reading X (formerly known as Twitter), guffawing at TikTok, and yelling at former presidents during newscasts. He asks several times a day if I’ve heard the latest gossip about a canceled celebrity. He also delivers opinions on who he has determined the Idiot of the Day. He wants to discuss all of this, while I am busy creating a PDF on my computer and want — no, need — quiet.
Although I am not at that point in a trend reportedly happening in Japan, where “Retired Husband Syndrome” is a leading catalyst for divorce, I do get overwhelmed with frustration at his frequent and noisy interruptions. In those moments, I just want him to go somewhere, anywhere.
I encourage (okay, beg) him to go to Home Depot. I jump from my chair to close (okay, slam) the door he has left open, while I reach (okay, almost) for one of his tools to hurl when he interrupts yet another conference call.
In a 2023 article in the Los Angeles Daily News, Dave Hughes, founder of Retire Fabulously, has advice for retired or mixed-marriage couples that helps in setting necessary boundaries. We have implemented some of his suggestions.
· Go to bed together and rise at the same time.
· Renegotiate household chores.
· Have honest conversations about income.
· Encourage the retired mate to stay connected with the world.
Yes, adjusting to the constant togetherness has proved a challenge to our relationship. I have learned that patience, open communication, boundaries, and most importantly, humor, are musts in mitigating tense situations that arise daily.
I chuckle when he yells, “Honey, want mac and cheese for lunch?” (I am working, no!) and try to laugh (even while cursing) when he turns on a buzz saw.
This unexpected life event has provided me the unique opportunity to see our future as a retired couple. I have a few years to work until retirement and hopefully, I will never have to drive back to an office 40 miles away.
I know what it is like to be together, 24/7, and I am hopeful that a gray divorce — those that happen at midlife and beyond — nor a targeted throw of a large screwdriver is on our horizon. I see us as a couple committed to making our mixed marriage thrive and am optimistic that we will (eventually) live happily retired together.
If I can just keep him out of the garage.
Do any of you have a spouse who has retired while you are still working? How is it going? Let us know in the comments below.
My Husband Has Retired and Is Around All the Time. Not Fun!
Here's how the future will unfold.
“Honey, have you seen my coffee?”