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Early Retirement Couple - it's not all easy

Last week’s post looked at the couple dynamic in early retirement – what it’s like spending a lot more time with your significant other. I hadn’t really thought about it ahead of jumping into my early retirement, although I suspect Sally had some reservations ahead of her career break.

Fortunately, the extra time we’re spending together seems to be working fine. But that's not been the only change in our couple dynamic, and a some things are proving to be more challenging.

Different plans at different times

I was excited to start my early retirement life and do some of the things I had planned for my new found freedom. Longer term travel was high on my list, plus the simple luxury of being able to go off and do things whenever I wanted.

That was three years ago - the theory was good, but the reality wasn’t quite the same. Why? Because Sally still wanted to work. Our timing didn’t match.

I had to change some of my thoughts about my first years of early retirement, and I sometimes found it frustrating when ideas had to be cancelled or deferred because they didn't fit in with Sally's work. It wasn't the complete freedom that I had imagined.

Of course, it’s right that Sally gets to do the things that she wants too. We had to find compromises but, by definition, that means neither of us quite gets our preferred answer. Perhaps that’s life. I delayed or cancelled some plans and did some things alone that would have been better together, while Sally agreed to a career break so that we could travel. It’s a solution, but I’m not sure it’s a perfect one.

Next year, Sally will return to work so we’ll go back to a life more tied to her job. Some of the things I’d like to do won’t be possible or I'll have to do alone. It’s OK, but not quite the freedom early retirement that I’d envisaged. Perhaps I'm being a bit selfish, but I can't deny feeling a little frustrated by this at times.

My mindset changes

Why do I keep believing the Instagram pictures?

A favourite thing of my early retirement is the way my mindset has changed. I think about things that would never have entered my mind before. Downsizing, an interest in a more minimalist (or valueist – thanks to Mr Nomad Numbers for this new word) lifestyle, travel for a year or two, and perhaps converting a van into a camper - my latest brainwave (probably just a fad). I look at Instagram, believe the images (d'oh!) and think, yeah, that could be me…let’s do it!

So what’s the problem? Well, Sally (perhaps more sensibly) hasn’t changed her mindset – she’s not having these new ideas. She feels life was OK before, so why change - if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Before my early retirement, we were almost always on the same page. Now, it seems a lot more of our thoughts, dreams and priorities are quite different. Sally wants to work whereas I want the freedom. I want to travel, Sally’s not so keen. Sally wants something closer to our pre-retirement life, I want more things to be different. I’m not sure how we square that circle.

This feels like a big deal. We've had a relationship based on wanting the same things, and suddenly I'm finding a lot of what we want is different. If I were to make a list of retirement downsides, it would be a very short list, but this would be at the top.

Trying to square that circle

Squaring the circle isn't easy

We haven't figured out the answer yet. Where there are conflicting wants, someone mostly has to compromise more than the other, so who “wins” and who “loses”? Making these calls can impact on the emotions and the relationship in ways we didn’t come across much in the past. Keeping quiet about these feelings isn't right, but they can be difficult to talk about too – it’s not easy.

I'm certainly conscious that it’s not Sally’s fault that I’ve discovered this new mindset, so why should she change her plans? A small part of me also wonders if some of my weirder new ideas are me still trying to figure out activities to keep me busy and entertained. But whether or not that's the case, they feel real, and I want to chase my dreams too.

Probably, some people will be thinking "you have a good life, stop whinging". I’m not meaning to complain, I do appreciate that I have a good life, but these new differences in what we want is a genuine issue that we need to deal with. No doubt Sally and I will make a plan and figure out how to do the things that matter to us most, even if a few things have to wait a while. Perhaps some of the compromises will lead to new opportunities, for example, who knows where in the world Sally will find her new job, and there are quite probably new thoughts and adventures to be found if it's in a new country.

Last week’s post focused on what it’s like to spend more time together as a couple in early retirement - it hasn’t been an issue.

On the other hand, my changed mindset is causing us to start having more different interests, plans and ambitions - trying to juggle those is proving to be much more difficult.


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