Home Couples & Family Psychology Developmental LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)

LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)

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So, Robert decided that he would quit school, stay with his job at a nearby military base, get an electrical contractor’s license, and take over some parenting jobs with the boys. Robert claims he never regretted that decision. “Now,” adds Fiona, “he is great with the kids even though they’re grown up. I just let him handle whatever they want. They know he tells it like it is. Sometimes, though, I wish he would give a spoon full of sugar with what he says. But he never does; so, when it’s necessary, I just smooth it over a little. I’m good at that.”

Robert’s decision to retire from the military created a crisis in his relationship with Fiona. This crisis was perhaps more complicated than is usually the case when one or both partners retire, for Robert was still a relatively young man. He still could find another job and, like many retired military personnel, start second career. Yet, Robert’s retirement could also be viewed as a time for reassessing the child-rearing plate and, potentially, other plates as well in the lives of Fiona and Robert. Fiona did not stand aside. She used Robert’s retirement as a time for her own reassessment. Apparently, Robert viewed the transition differently. Initially, he didn’t see his retirement as an opportunity to spend more time with his children and take some of the load off his wife; rather, he immediately began looking for another job (which no doubt was both. stressful and distracting for him) and prepare, through additional education, for a second career. Thus, quite different expectations regarding retirement led to new levels of stress in Fiona and Robert’s marriage.

What did they do about this? How did Fiona get Robert to stay home—to be more “under foot?” Actually, she didn’t seem to be very successful in her own efforts. The heated arguments she had with Robert didn’t seem to have much of an effect. Perhaps he spent even more time away from home (purportedly because he was both working and going to school) precisely because he wanted to avoid Fiona Is anger. Yet, a change did occur. But it seems to have come from Robert himself and his own personal development. Like many men at middle age (cf. Bergquist, Greenberg and Klaum, 1993; Bergquist, 2012), Robert came to two important realizations. First, he recognized that he was no longer a young man. Robert’s experiences at college seem to have forced this realization on him. This, in turn, encouraged him to reexamine priorities in his life. Second, he seemingly came to an appreciation of the role of parenting. He wanted to spend more time with his children and less time pursuing a career.

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