Here we go, I think, he’ll be laying down the law about the activities of the next few days.
Retirement, it turns out, is far from straightforward. It is something which is planned for, anticipated, even longed for, but when it happens, all sorts of difficulties are revealed as roles are renegotiated. A friend told me recently of one occasion when her newly retired husband tried to teach her how to peg the clothes out on the line. He got more than a flea in his ear as a wet tea towel was thrown at his head!
Every relationship is unique. We bring with us the example set by our parents, the hopes and dreams we have for our own marriage and, for some of us, our understanding of Biblical principles. Somehow in the midst of all of that couples work it out together and roles are arrived at through discussion and a good amount of trial and error.
Our own marriage jogged along quite happily for many years. Once the children were old enough, I trained to become a teacher, with Nick’s support and encouragement – in fact I couldn’t have done it without him. We both worked full time and shared the domestic responsibilities. In the school holidays I was happy to take up the slack with experimental cooking and the odd bit of spring cleaning and Nick enjoyed having a ‘mark 2’ wife for a while.
It worked well. There never seemed to be an issue about who was in charge, or dominant or submissive. There was very little conflict as we carried out our joint enterprise of earning a living and running a home.
But now, oh my goodness! How has it become so fraught? We are both in the house all day and every task and activity seems to require a ‘plan of campaign’. My daughter recently remarked that we are the only couple she knows who run our marriage on military principles. We: divide and rule, regroup, have debriefing sessions. I blame his early boarding school experience and having masters newly retired from the armed forces.
Some of us know the familiar verses from Ephesians 5 about love and submission in marriage. I guess when it comes to the really big decisions we would hope to reach an agreement, having listened to each other’s point of view and prayed about it, and I would trust God, if there was a difference in opinion, to guide Nick to do the best for our family, and then submit.
In the smaller things, his ideas are often the best, but something makes me dig my heels in and determinedly want to do my own thing. He becomes more bossy and I sulk. Not a happy outcome.
I think we are trying – sometimes feebly but mostly with hope of success – to help each other to thrive in retirement. On Strictly Come Dancing the judges sometimes commend the man for ‘presenting’ his partner beautifully – showing her grace and poise. She in her turn is able to rely on his strength and leadership to create the perfect 10. I would like it to be like that for us. Encouraging each other and delighting in each other’s different gifts and skills.
We went for a walk by the river the other day. At one point there was a choice to be made about the route. I watched Nick’s raised eyebrow and heard his unspoken words, I hope you will ‘fall in’ and my thoughts that there might well be ‘dissension in the ranks’. But on this occasion restraint and good sense prevailed.
“Of course, my darling, let’s go your way”. After all, in the end, we are both foot soldiers and our captain is The Lord. “And I know you want to get us home in time for lunch.”