Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband is hardworking and also a caring and loving husband. Our relationship is absolutely wonderful. However, there is something I fear may soon destroy all this happiness. He is going to retire in a couple of years, several years before me. He is very much looking forward to fun activities like traveling, skiing, hiking, hobbies, and things of this nature. He deserves all that as he has been working long hours for many years.
However, I am afraid I will quickly become resentful of having to go to the office every day while he enjoys a never-ending vacation. I know I should not think this way, and I am sure a lot of women married to older husbands somehow find ways to accept this kind of arrangement, but what if I can't? My job is fairly boring but pays well, so I will have to stick with it, especially when he is no longer covered by insurance. I have considered changing my field of work to find something more enjoyable, but anything I would like will bring much less money and fewer benefits. How do I handle all this?
Carolyn says: I don't think there's any magic answer, or any answer really besides the two of you talking about it.
The answers you can come to from here aren't necessarily great; what is he supposed to do, stay home and do nothing so you're both bored?
But getting the feelings out there will give you both a chance to anticipate them in your planning. Maybe choose a job with an eye to health benefits and flexibility vs. size of the paycheck. Maybe he can take on more household responsibilities so that his retirement benefits you both. Maybe his free time will allow him to plan more elaborately and include you in many of his activities. Maybe talking about it now will make him mindful of your feelings when the time comes so that he doesn't unwittingly rub his freedom in your face.
Or, maybe just hearing yourself say them out loud will help you see that your feelings aren't worth acting on beyond getting them off your chest. He will have his time and you will have yours, health permitting for both, and the happiest way to handle that is to treat it as a foreseeable misalignment, vs. any kind of injustice.
My father retired several years before my mother. He took advantage of the time by indulging his love of cooking, and made my mom a lovely meal every night. Also, Dad drove her to the Metro station every morning and picked up every evening. She felt a little pampered.
Carolyn says: Lovely, thanks.
My dad was planning to retire, my mom was fretting about it, and then my dad suddenly died. Be grateful he is there and has a plan for his time that will make him happy. The alternatives are much worse.
Carolyn says: Needed to be said, thank you.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.