Q: What has been the biggest surprise in my first year of retirement in a foreign country?
A: How hard it has been spending all day every day with my beloved husband!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and I love spending time with him BUT, all day every day? Seriously?
I am sure he feels the same way about me...
Maybe if we had retired in our home of many years, in our chosen city with our friends and family around us, it could have been an easier transition. But NO, we really wanted to mix it up - so we changed our working status, our living status and even our country status. We sold up, packed up and moved to a foreign country - just the two of us - without knowing anyone else on the island. What a way to put pressure on ourselves and our marriage!
What were we thinking? We just followed our hearts without realising how challenging it might be to be in each other's faces 24/7. It was like eating the same food, day after day with no other flavours to compliment.
No longer working
The biggest ‘shout out’ for us initially though was NO MORE WORK!
I understand those that may have a career they love, doing the work they love and that slowing down and eventually stopping their chosen careers could be extremely hard.
I also understand those that may be defined by their job and how they may struggle with their identify when they no longer wear the badge of their created status.
But we both had government service jobs and although we gave 100% in doing our given tasks, we felt no love for what we did - leaving was a very freeing experience for us. It was as though we had completed a major part of our lives and it was time to move onto the next stage. We just didn’t really know what the next stage was and how to step fully into it.
Really… who is that person laying next to me?
For the first six months of our new life we lost sight of who we were and subsequently, how to relate to each other.
I believe retirement comes down to a mindset and if one retires for the reason of ‘no longer having to do anything’ then they may find that ‘not doing anything’ creates a void that can be a bit scary.
For the retiree who believes they 'now have the time to do what they want', may also feel a bit overwhelmed in trying to ascertain what it is that they really want to do.
Q: So, when a person is not sure who they really are anymore, how does that person then relate to their partner?
A: From a place of the heart instead of a place of the mind.
For those struggling to find their way, it can seem like two lost souls either clinging to or pushing each other away in their quest to find themselves. My experience is unique to me as others will find theirs is to them.
I felt it was important for us to understand that we were both trying to find our way. Some days we felt a bit lost, some a bit overwhelmed and some days we just happily took the day for the joy of being alive, free and with no agenda.
Some form of structure is great to give depth to each day - it could be a day of exercise and outdoor activities, or spending quality time connecting with friends, or relaxing and enjoying quiet time alone. It could involve learning to play an instrument or expressing self in writing a blog or a dinner under the stars over a shared bottle of wine.
The key is communication - even if words aren’t for everyone - a show of affection or an offering of compassion can lift a person who doesn’t know how to express their feelings. Anger has a way of showing up without relevance and is usually related to something entirely different to what it is directed at.
For us - understanding, support and forgiveness has cleared the way for true growth, both as individuals and as partners. Life is so much more fun now. We have made some amazing expat friends from around the globe and discovered new possibilities in life that we never dreamed of. We love hanging out together and are not only husband and wife, but also best friends.
I love my husband more now than ever. We have really opened up to our true selves and instead of judging and critisizing, we have found a deeper understanding and clarity through love and gratitude.
Our next chapter is travel! We are now registered ‘house sitters’ which allows us to travel the world, staying in other people’s homes while they travel. We look after their their beloved pets, mind their homes and possessions and give them peace of mind. We feel honoured to have their trust. What an amazing way to see the world, meet new people and learn more about ourselves as individuals and as a couple.
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