RETIRED HUSBAND SYNDROME
QUESTION: My sister and her husband retired three months ago. She is adjusting well, but her husband
follows her around like a shadow so she has to give him projects to do. She’s even thinking about
going back to work! They’ve always had a decent marriage and frankly I’m worried because my husband
and I are planning to retire next year. —A Hard Adjustment
Talking with friends in Japan, I heard wives using the expression Nuria Chiba for their husbands. When translated, it means: Wet Sticky Leaf. It seems the men there devote so much of their time to their jobs that the women eventually develop lives of their own. So a newly retired man with nothing to do besides stick around the house is seen as one of those wet leaves that’s so difficult to sweep away. I thought this was a problem over there but now I’ve learned it’s a problem over here as well.
Retired Husband Syndrome refers to men with few non-work related interests who suddenly find themselves out of work. Even if they had something they enjoyed doing on weekends, that still leaves them with their weekdays and it’s not as though they can quickly find a hobby they love. You don’t pick a passion. A passion picks you. Longer lifespans accentuate this dilemma as the new 65 is surprisingly similar to the old 45 Women tend not to have this problem; years of multitasking makes free time a luxury at any time. Their problems come with Empty Nest Syndrome when the allconsuming mother role ceases to be all consuming.
That said, it’s obvious that couples who spend time planning how they’re going to spend their money later in life should put at least as much effort into planning how they’re going to spend their time. It’s a lot like waking up every morning and saying: ‘No School Today!’
As irritated as your sister might be with her husband’s “clinginess,” it’s a good sign that he is searching for something to do with his new found freedom.
Too many men once they are released from the “daily grind” head for their recliners where they sit and stare at TV all day. This version of retirement can be isolating and deadly, causing one to age alarmingly fast.
So why did they retire? Was it their idea? Buy-outs and downsizing often force older workers into early retirement.
Are there health issues? These circumstances have much to do with how fast one adjusts. My grandfather, who was “pushed” into retirement, spent the first six months baking bread. He found the kneading of the dough therapeutic as he pounded out his frustration. Of course, my grandmother hated the messy kitchen, but eventually he took to restoring old sailboats, a past time that better suited both of them.
In the late 1930’s, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald, struggling to reclaim his fame, said: “There are no second acts in American Life.” 80 years later, we tend to have three or four. It’s not about staying busy; anybody can do that.
Hanging out at a mall can easily kill a few hours. No, it’s about finding self-worth. Some people find it by volunteering at churches, libraries, schools, veterans organizations and food pantries. And there’s no shame in landing a part time minimum wage job either. I knew a multi-millionaire who was moving chairs at the YMCA and loved it. Check out AARP’s website for companies that give preference to older applicants. And, finally, cherish your husbands through any bumpy transition because nothing is forever. Even retirement.