DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about the letter you printed from "Excited in Maryland" on Aug. 16, whose wife makes snide comments about his impending retirement. That milestone is the biggest, scariest life change people make - a time marker like no other.
With many people, our identity is tied to our careers. In my case, I enjoyed a long, successful career as a social worker, counselor, teacher and mother. I wasn't the primary breadwinner and was able to work less than full time. When I retired seven years ago, my day was my own, with little accountability to my husband. I had quiet when I wanted it, music of my own choosing, ate when and what I wanted - and complete privacy all day, every day.
My husband, one of the nicest men I've ever known, retired two years ago, and I still haven't come to terms with the fact that he's home all the time. He doesn't ask me to do anything differently, but he's here, which means my definition of privacy has changed. I realize how lucky I am to have him, our long marriage, our health, our kids and financial stability. I just need a predictable block of time I can depend on to have the house all to myself.
That letter writer's wife may be worried about the huge change that is coming. My husband has enough interests, hobbies and projects that he's always busy, but we are different people. He can get lost in his project while I'm "on alert" for any interruption, real or imagined.
A couple of my friends have decided to postpone retirement because they don't want to be home all day with their husbands. They are both mental-health therapists, but they can't talk with their husbands about it. If they can't, then who can? This seems to be the most major life challenge yet, but I can't find anyone who's willing to discuss it. Is there anyone out there to honestly help us negotiate this phase?
- Liz In Iowa
DEAR LIZ: Because of the complicated nature of their work, many therapists have therapists of their own. That is what I would have recommended, if either of the couples you mentioned in your letter had asked, to improve their level of communication.
As for the rest of us "regular" folks, a licensed family therapist would be qualified to help. I agree that retirement requires an adjustment on the part of both spouses. You should look for a counselor who is older and who can empathize with what you and your husband are experiencing.
DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law picks his nose. I had a birthday dinner for my wife with 15 people around the restaurant table, when her father inserted his forefinger into his nostril and started digging. Sometimes he digs for up to 10 minutes. My wife says, "Don't look." What would Abby do?
- John In Fort Worth, Texas
DEAR JOHN: Abby would use the first chance she got to speak to the man alone and tell him that picking his nose in public grosses people out. Then she'd suggest the next time he feels the urge, he should leave the table, head for a restroom and take care of it in private.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.