My husband and I are both long-ago retired and empty nesters. Our persistent issues have now become obvious. Although we interact over meals, he spends most days by himself doing errands, shopping, at a park, etc. I’d like to join him sometimes but he obviously doesn’t want this.
When I ask about his day, he’ll share but rarely asks about my day. He often just ignores me as I’m talking.
His ploys to discourage my participation include announcing he’s leaving while going out the door, saying he’s just getting groceries but not returning for hours.
I’ve tried asking his plans in the morning but he gets annoyed. If we do go out together, he’s impatient, rushes me. However, he’s happy to socialize with my friends and family.
Discussing all this results in an argument. He sees nothing wrong in his behaviour. We end up not talking. I’ve mostly given up trying to do things together. I’m here alone. I can occupy myself, but it gets lonely.
None of this is totally new behaviour, but exacerbated by retirement and Covid. He’s self-centered, opinionated, wants things his way, and is disinterested in others.
I’m more positive, helpful, and self-effacing. I praise his achievements to others while he slips in derogatory statements about me.
I contributed more than equally to our retirement funds. It’s late in life and would be very disruptive to be leaving the marriage. And I may miss the limited companionship that I have with my husband. I work at thinking positively and cheer myself up with small things. But underneath I feel sad, hurt and rejected by his behaviour.
Married and Lonely
It’s interesting that you didn’t ask for relationship advice, indicating that you’ve already concluded that nothing would change in your marriage.
That may be true... but it doesn’t mean that you personally can’t change some things that would make you happier and less lonely within the marriage where you’ve apparently decided to stay.
You’ve described your husband’s daily behaviour and activities outside the house during Covid, his distance from sharing activities with you, his lack of interest in talking together, and his much more outgoing personality with others including your friends and family.
Clearly, there are people in your life besides your husband - family members and personal friends, perhaps also some neighbours, with whom you can converse, go for a walk or connect with them online.
Despite being empty-nesters, if there are adult children and grandchildren within virtual reach, setting up a weekly or periodic contact can be a highlight of that day. So many seniors on their own depend on those contacts and information-sharing.
As a positive and helpful person, you have much to offer to others who are totally alone all the time, some with minimal resources, and many needing a boost of kindness... whether a phone call to just check on them, or connecting them with a social service agency.
The more you can give in empathy and aid to others in difficulty, the more you develop interests and emotional rewards for yourself.
I agree that your time in life doesn’t lend itself to an easy move on your own. But you still have the energy and desire to raise your own sense of satisfaction in your daily life.
As the weather improves, you don’t have to depend on your husband to get outside. Walk in Nature, perhaps with a neighbour to join you - vaccinated, masked and socially distanced, so that you’re still protecting your health.
FEEDBACK Regarding readers’ comments on mother-daughter estrangement (February 25):
Reader – “I’m reaching out to the first letter-writer’s comments that although her mother now has a great relationship with her grandchildren, this woman doesn’t believe mother and daughter will ever be close.
“I, too, never felt loved by my mother. She wasn’t mean to me, I just experienced her as cold and distant. That changed when my father died.
“I was 61 at the time, and my mother was 85. For the next 12 years, until she died at 97, we developed an amazing relationship.
“We talked. We cried. We talked about where things went wrong. We forgave each other. We both felt very loved by the other. Don’t give up hope!”
Ellie - It’s said that life is a journey. It’s certainly not a one-way street. This writer demonstrates that it’s possible for each of us to try another relationship route.
Tip of the day:
When a partner’s self-interested only, make positive changes for yourself.