Retired and hating each other The Tonic

Unhappily ever after? Being stuck at home together is killing our marriage

We now spend more time together than ever before – something we’d looked forward to. But we’re growing to hate each other. We thought it would be fun but we get on each other’s nerves. What do we do?

After meeting at university in 1975, Kate and John’s relationship blossomed. Kate was a university lecturer in English Literature at a top British university, living a deeply academic life with intellectual friends, and John ran his own advertising and marketing agency, making a massive boom in the eighties and managing to hang on to most of it.

42 years down the line, they have both retired and have been looking forward to this for years, living life on their own terms, enjoying leisure and love and late mornings. But two years on, both of them are struggling to adjust to their new lives.


We have had a fruitful and happy marriage. We were best friends for a few years before we married, so it was easy to fall into a comfortable routine as a married couple. I think it helped that we had our own lives as well; he had his friends and I had mine.

When our children came along was the biggest test of our marriage. Obviously it is hard, but we managed it. We worked well as a team to be great parents to our girls and I honestly thought we were invincible and we couldn’t wait to retire and enjoy our freedom years.

John was able to retire a year before me due to his financial situation. And I was one of the lucky ones who was able to retire when I reached 60. We have a good pension, both of us, and some savings. We’ve been looking forward to our retirement for years.


…the first six months after I stopped work we had such fun. We went on city breaks, explored different places, did the house up a bit more… it was exhilarating, like having a whole new start to life again


At first, it was exciting. I felt like we were in the start of our relationship again. During the first year of John’s retirement, he did a lot of work around the house and made lots of plans for things to do together when I’d retired. He did really well, bless him. And the first six months after I stopped work we had such fun. We went on city breaks, explored different places, did the house up a bit more… it was exhilarating, like having a whole new start to life again. I couldn’t wait to fall in love with John all over again.

But by our first Christmas, cracks started to show. A tense season leading up to the big day, we ultimately argued really badly on Christmas Day, which culminated in him storming out and missing Christmas lunch for the first time ever. Of course there’s always a family drama of some sort around the Christmas period, and I honestly thought it may have just been a result of that. But by Easter, I was at my wits’ end.

What started off as minor niggles soon ballooned into deep irritations. At first, it was just little things. I realised that I’d never had to spend every minute of every day in the house with John – we’d both been working in our separate careers for the last 40 years.

I had thought there was going to be afternoons in bed, a renewed sex life, film days and hours spent cooking. What actually unraveled was John leaving his towel on the bathroom floor after every shower, John not unloading the dishwasher, John not really pulling his weight, John refusing to do nice things with me, John moaning about the most miniscule things, John hiding in his shed, John definitely not lying in bed all afternoon having sex and cream teas with me… he falls asleep. Actually, John driving me mad.


I realised that I’d never had to spend every minute of every day in the house with John


To start with, I thought I was just overreacting. It wasn’t until I met up with a few friends I worked with at the university that I realised I wasn’t being dramatic. I felt a bit disloyal talking it through but they made me feel a whole lot better about what I was feeling and made me realise my niggles were reasonable. I believe this justification of how I was feeling actually fuelled my anger. I came to feel that really, John is a nightmare.

His work friends are unbearable. My friends had always had something to say about them after social events, but I never really understood what they were saying. Now that I see them a lot more, I can fully appreciate just how god-awful these marketing people are. Shallow, cheap, materialistic and full of misogyny.

The worst part is who John becomes when he’s surrounded by them. Laughing at their remarks, joking around about the value of cars over women, and so on. I just cannot stand it. Whenever John suggests meeting up with them or attending an event, I can’t even be bothered to think of excuses any more. They’re just so flashy and trashy.


I feel like since retiring I have also retired from my friendships. I sometimes mention this to John… but he doesn’t get it


Of course, this makes me miss my work friends all the more. The mutual love for literature and teaching forms a real connection between us, and I feel like since retiring I have also retired from my friendships. I sometimes mention this to John, and talk to him about how I sometimes yearn to continue writing, but he doesn’t get it. He tells me how I should be lucky to be able to retire so early and I should just enjoy it.

I’m just not sure how much longer I can go on feeling down. How much longer do I have to put up with John irritating me? I don’t understand what went wrong. Two years ago, I was in the most loving relationship and couldn’t have been more satisfied with my life. Now, I just want something different. I want to enjoy my retirement on my terms. I want to feel free.

We retired now hate each other the Tonic


Growing up, it was drilled into me that you work hard so that you can play hard. It’s probably the Scottish blood. While I was university, I knew I wanted to work hard and retire early. I was lucky that I found someone to do that with.

Early on, I knew Kate and I would end up together. We were inseparable right from the start and I knew the first time I met her I would ask her to marry me. And we’ve had a really happy marriage – I count us as one of the successful ones.

Years ago, we worked out our retirement plan, worked out our finances and everything. As it happens, I was actually able to retire about 18 months before Katy.


I spent a while doing little odd jobs around the house, playing loud music and feeling like a teenager again


I spent a while doing little odd jobs around the house, making the garden all pretty and organising some holidays for after Kate’s retirement, playing loud music in the house and feeling like a teenager again. It was great. I was having a blast. I would often sit and think about the span of my career, and while it had been tough going, I would always end up with a smile on my face at how well we’d done for ourselves, me and my Katy. Great careers, wonderful children and a load of experiences.

We started counting down the days until Kate’s retirement in May 2017, and then it was time for our holidays. Mainly Europe, but we did do a week in Egypt. We spent time on the garden, we explored each other again, we took the time to remind each other why we loved each other.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t even think there was a problem. But once Katy started pointing out things I was doing ‘wrong’, I started to notice things about her too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate for women’s rights and all that, and I’ve been so proud of Katy over the years for the achievements in her career, but how many times can one woman talk about her independent career? It’s like she thinks I’ve forgotten what she did.


… she nags all the time about the house. I like to relax and just let things tick over but she’s like an RSM. She drives me crackers.


And she somehow makes me feel a bit ‘less than’ some of the time, like earning money and working hard is somehow tacky compared to her highbrow, clever life. Plus she nags all the time about the house. I like to relax and just let things tick over but she’s like an RSM. She drives me crackers.

I think spending all this time together has led to us stepping on each other’s toes. I can’t do anything right apparently. I’m also sick to death of her talking down to me like I’m one of her students. I’m her 63-year-old husband of 38 years, not one of her hippy stoner students.

The more I think about it, the more my blood boils. I can’t work out if she’s only just become bossy, or if she’s always been like it and I just didn’t notice. Another thing, I can’t even mention playing a game of golf with a few of the chaps from work without kicking up a storm.

Katy thinks my colleagues are flashy, and she makes it perfectly clear that she finds their humour tasteless. If their jokes weren’t such obvious ‘jokes’, maybe I could see where she’s coming from. But they’re a harmless bunch, they don’t mean it, and I’ve been friends with them for years.

Talking about friends though, I can’t say I’m a fan of Kate’s. I think they encourage nasty behaviour in Katy. I come home and they’re all sat around the kitchen island having wine and gossiping. What do 60-somethings have to gossip about anyway? But every time they leave, Kate seems to have more of a feisty feel to her, and she’s not content to do anything but moan.

I swear sometimes the carpet doesn’t need a Hoover; but she will do it in the morning, and the minute I sit down with my paper, the Hoover is back out again and she’s whipping it around my feet. Why? It gets on my nerves. I can’t help but think it’s supposed to be pointed. If that’s the case, why doesn’t she just tell me whatever it is she wants to say?


I swear sometimes the carpet doesn’t need a Hoover; she will do it in the morning, and the minute I sit down with my paper


Another thing that is really getting on my wick is her incessant moaning about how bored she is. She keeps talking about how she wants to continue writing. That’s fine Kate, you do that. But don’t keep going on and on about it. I’m annoyed now because I feel like I have worked my arse off all my life to set us up for a nice retirement and she just wants to carry on working.

Kate won’t even begin to hear of me having some time to myself. In my year of solo retirement, I’d often go for a little afternoon siesta. It just became routine to go for a lay down, read a book and have a nap for an hour. I can’t even go upstairs to read now without Kate questioning me. She shouts at me for “not wanting to spend time with her,” for “being selfish” and for making her feel “unwanted.” Can’t a man just bloody enjoy an hour to himself?

I feel a bit lost with the whole thing. The marriage is falling apart. This isn’t what I had in mind for my retirement; life was supposed to start again. Have we worked this hard and long for this to be the outcome? I want more out of life. I don’t know if I can go on with it.


  • Let go of the plans you made before retiring. It’s obviously not working – what you need is a new charter
  • Sit down together and go through it, calmly
  • Identify areas where you’re unhappy and look at ways to fix them, rather than just react to each other all the time
  • If housework is an issue, can you get some help like a cleaner, or draw up a list of habits you expect from each other? A rota so that it’s clear what you expect from each other
  • If you’re not enjoying each other’s friends – do you actually need to spend that much time with them?
  • Compromise is key – maybe pick out specific events where it’s important to you that the other comes with you, and let the rest go
  • Time apart is just as important as time together – highlight when you’d like time without each other and try and agree this without ego or anger
  • Make time for hobbies – both together and separately. You don’t have to be joined at the hip!
  • Don’t feel like a failure because it’s not working out the way you thought it would. This is new territory, just like marriage, just like parenting. You had no idea how it was going to feel until you tried it. Adapt, grow, and compromise. Find that teamwork again
  • Finally, revisit these actions every while to ensure you’re still both in the same spaces or whether things have changed

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  • ROFL! While it is quite natural for men and women to not be joined at the hip all the time as “they are wired differently,” I am not sure if this is widely accepted.

    I can relate well to John while empathizing with Kate on some issues. John does need to help with home chores and not leave messes while Kate needs to do what she needs to without needing John’s approval or joint participation. She also needs to use her time more effectively and independently without being nitpicky as it makes it seem that it is john’s job to fix everything she complains about. Just listening to the whining goes nowhere. Also her sense of importance seems to be tied to John’s approval. Why?


Carly Pepperell

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