Original Date of Publication: 4/5/11
My husband is 75 and I am 63. We’ve really had a great marriage and communicate well, until now.
My husband abruptly “decided” we should sell our home and move into an apartment in a “senior community” in the San Jose area. He just announced it one morning. I was shocked. He says we need to be closer to all of our kids (we have five between us) and that he’s tired of maintaining the house and yard.
This is all pretty strange for a couple of reasons. To begin with, we’ve never had a marriage where one of us makes decisions for both of us. (My first husband did that to me. That didn’t work!) I’ve tried to understand why he wants to call the shots on this and he gets angry and says he’s “just trying to take care of us in our old age.” Another thing has me confused – he hates big cities. It’s hard enough to get him to go visit the children. I can’t imagine him actually living down there. And even though he says he doesn’t want to do things like yard work, he is absolutely happiest when he is out in his greenhouse or messing with his many garden projects. When I ask him what he thinks it would be like just to have a little balcony and a few potted plants, he just shrugs his shoulders and won’t answer. Which kind of worries me too. He’s just so much more detached these days.
How do I make him understand that this plan doesn’t work?
Wants to Stay Put
How frustrating for you – to have been living a comfortable, satisfying life for years and now face the possibility that your husband wants to unilaterally change everything.
While you are asking me for ideas on how to “make him understand that this plan just doesn’t work” for you, what strikes me is how out of character your husband’s recent behavior is. Let’s address this first.
You say he’s trying to make huge decisions for both of you, something he’s never done before. He’s proposing you live in the city – something he hates. He says he’ll give up his favorite activity, gardening. He can’t seem to explain his decision making process. And, he is “much more detached” than he has ever been.
My first recommendation? Get him in for a complete physical. Sudden and distinctive personality and behavior changes can indicate a variety of underlying medical and emotional conditions. And please don’t immediately think the worst. In a 73 year old man, the explanation may be something quite simple and very treatable. But ignoring what you describe won’t do either of you any good.
If everything checks out well, tackle the proposed move. Point out all of the experience you’ve accumulated over the years making decisions “together.” This approach has always served you well. Ask your husband to explain this new, one-sided approach to decision making. He sounds worried about the coming years. What are his concerns? Is he feeling badly about not providing well enough? Sometimes, by simply expressing fears and worries, a better plan can emerge.
If he persists in wanting to move, carefully explore all of the pros and cons of his plan. Be very clear about your reservations. Then, toss in a big dose of reality; take an extended trip to the San Jose area so you can actually visit the communities he’s thinking about. Some of these facilities allow prospective residents to stay for a weekend. Do it! Then, find out what you home is worth and what you can expect to pay for your living expenses if you moved south. Finally, meet with your financial advisor to access the merits of such a move.
After you’ve done all of these things, see if your husband is still adamant about moving. Consider less drastic options such as hiring a gardening service and/or a handyman to do the chores that he’s sick of managing.
I wish you both productive conversations and sincerely hope you are able to navigate these rough waters