This blog is about the family of John and Pearl Harlan Hullinger who settled in Vivian, South Dakota. Family
names include Hullinger, Hollinger, Holiger, Harlan, Hart, Lockridge, Poe, Siddens, Kirk, Jennings, Chapin, Ford, Cornwall.
Clif Hullinger Photo in the Chicago Tribune
Planning, flexibility can lead to happily ever after
April 08, 2013
As couples near retirement age together they often joke about their hopes not to drive each other crazy.
But there is some truth behind the jest. After decades of being married and having separate careers and sometimes different schedules, the reality of being home together all the time may come with mixed feelings.
Many romanticize the idea of retirement and look forward to being able to rekindle their relationship and spend more time doing the things they enjoy as a couple. At the same time, there is concern that all that time together will result in the other becoming annoyed with every little quirk.
An AARP survey of married couples ages 55 to 74, however, showed the opposite. The study showed that, overall, dual retirees are happier, less stressed, and spend more time with their spouse.
For most, the survey found, retirement together was as they expected. Dual retirement, says the study, has a positive impact on the frequency of travel, eating out, exercising, volunteering, and engaging in hobbies.
Moving forward together Keeping busy, together and separately, has been a key to a successful relationship in retirement, say Jack and Nancy Graves. and Nancy was a teacher's aide. But, really, the couple has never stopped working — they are just working on other things.
Nancy volunteered for the Infant Welfare Society for many years and runs The Village Store at Smith Village in Chicago. Jack jokes that he is Nancy's gopher for the store and he also does projects and volunteer work around the retirement community like driving other residents to their appointments. They both are active in their church and are in the fitnesscenter regularly. Nancy says it helps that they have common interests as well, such as following local teams and watching their grandson who plays baseball in a nearby suburb.
They didn't know what to expect out of dual retirement, but the couple says they just jumped in.
"I was in the Army during World War II. I learned you better adapt or you are going to get lost in the shuffle," Jack says.
"I got so busy (at Smith Village) it really was never a problem," Nancy says.
Mark Bilkey, director of the Master of Arts program in Gerontological Counseling at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, calls retirement "repriorment." He says it can be a wonderful time for couples if they have a flexible plan as they move closer to the goal.
"Most people know what they are retiring from, however, many do not know what they are retiring to," he says.
Bilkey says a common pitfall in dual retirement is when old patterns of relating and communicating are not updated and improved.
"Retiring couples are perhaps not used to spending this amount of time together ... let alone in the same place," he says.
The Graves say having a two-bedroom apartment and "community" space in Smith Village gives them plenty of opportunity to be alone when they want to, spend time together or to mingle with others if they feel like company.
Jack Graves On The Left, Clif Hullinger On The Right
Married 63 years, the Graves say the only differences of opinion they can think of since retiring involves what they want to watch on TV. They solved that by having two TVs, Nancy says with a laugh.
Bilkey says as life changes, the way a couple relates, talks and cooperates must change as well.
"This is a time which calls for interdependence," he says. "I want you to do the things you are passionate about and desire and I will do the same. Then I also want our time to do the things we love or want to explore together."
According to AARP's "Retirement Planning Tips for Couples," one of the most helpful things couples can do to prepare for retirement is talk. Couples often assume their spouse has the same expectations in retirement. Topics such as where to live and how to manage money are important topics to address before retirement to avoid conflict down the road.
If communicating has been difficult for a couple in the past, Bilkey says to consider a couples counselor or life coach specializing in couples who can help smooth the road ahead.
Paving the way
Bilkey says at a recent American Society on Aging conference in Chicago Ken Dychtwald of Age Wave, a company that researches the "maturing maketplace," related five stages or thoughts in retirement:
1. Imagination — 5 to 15 years before retirement
2. Anticipation — 5 years before retirement
3. Liberation — The honeymoon after retirement up to 1 year
4. Reorientation — 1 to 15 years after retirement
5. Reconciliation — 15 years after retirement and beyond
Some may romanticize retirement thinking it will be all travel, hobbies and fun and, according to Dychtwald, that is often the liberation or honeymoon stage. But, budgets and everyday tasks like doctor's appointments round out the rest.
Bilkey says people remain pretty consistent in their lives and that carries into retirement as well.
Spouses shouldn't expect the other to be completely different in retirement than they have been throughout their marriage.
"Romanticizing retirement is good when there is a dash of adventure and both feet are on the ground," Bilkey says.
Since people are creatures of routine, he says to create a new routine in retirement that is enjoyable and feels comfortable.
For couples, reaching retirement together is a source for celebration all its own.
"Know and remember that you have gotten through everything in life so far — that's 100 percent success. It usually is a good indication of how you will manage what the future may bring," Bilkey says.