Ask Amy: Rebalancing your life in retirement takes work

Dear Amy: I am a very active 66-year-old woman. I hate being idle.

My mostly amazing husband doesn’t mind idle time.

This would be OK, except he resents my constant coming and going.

After retiring from a stressful corporate job, I have two part-time jobs; one that takes about eight hours during the week and the other four hours on the weekend.

I also enjoy fitness, riding horses, playing with our grandson, and socializing during the day.

I let my husband know years ago that I would hardly be home when I retired. Rarely do I go out with friends in the evening as we are both happy at home cooking and enjoying TV.

My husband doesn’t understand my daytime activities and doesn’t share my interests. We’ve fought about this and he gets very upset.


I could never be happy at home every day, but that is what makes him happy.

I love him and don’t want to cause him hurt, but after 24 years together I’m wondering if we are incompatible.

He won’t go to couples counseling and I’m not sure what, if anything, I should do.

Your thoughts?

– Keeping Busy

Dear Keeping Busy: You seem to define “idleness” as a pejorative, and I wonder if you send your husband some signals (unconscious and overt) that you don’t approve of the way he is spending his time.

During your busy corporate career, I’m assuming you spent more time away from home than you do now – but your husband may have assumed your choices would change appreciably once you left that job.

I recently read a study profiling several couples newly in retirement, and in each case one partner seemed quite frustrated that the other wasn’t busy enough; these couples seemed to be struggling to adjust to the changed balance in their lives. Rebalancing takes time and effort.

You and your husband might compromise by choosing an activity out of the house that you could enjoy together. You should research some new pursuits that might be of common interest to see if you could build up a fresh dynamic.

Also – knowing your weekly schedule in advance might help him to be less triggered by your coming and going.

Otherwise, since you seem unwilling to change your lifelong habits for him, your husband needs to understand that ultimately he is responsible for his own happiness.

He might reject couples counseling, but individual counseling could help him a lot.

Social connections are vital to health and contentment in the latter years, and he would benefit from connecting with other men at a similar stage in life.

• • •

Dear Amy: My wife and I have an older dog that we got when we were first engaged.

“Cassie” has grown along with us and now that she is in her elder years, we are protective and concerned about her.

Well, about six months ago we fell in love with a small-breed young dog and brought her home. It did not occur to us that this might create a problem.

Cassie now seems stressed and unhappy all the time. She tries to hide from the younger dog, who has playfully nipped at her.


We spoke with our vet, who suggested “rehoming” the younger dog. She told us that some animal dynamics just don’t work out.

We don’t want our elder dog to spend her final years stressed and unhappy.

We have learned that friends of ours would like to take the young dog, but we feel so guilty about doing this.

We are reaching out for some of your compassionate common sense.

– Guilty

Dear Guilty: Assuming responsibility for the life, health, and happiness of an animal is an almost sacred stewardship. We owe it to our animals to make the hard choices in what we believe will be in their best interests. And yes, oftentimes guilt follows the hardest choices.

You are choosing to protect the more vulnerable animal, and that’s the right thing to do.

• • •

Dear Amy: “M” reported a “mysterious mourner” at their father’s funeral, which took place many years ago.


This mysterious mourner didn’t introduce himself to anyone, leading to speculation that he was perhaps a “love child” of the deceased dad, who had been an alcoholic.

It is quite possible that the mourner was a friend from AA.

– Friend of Bill

Dear Friend: Several readers suggested this. Thank you!

“M” was fixated on the thought of having a half-sibling out there, and, according to the narrative, this was a distinct possibility.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy,” which is carried in over 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million readers daily. Email