Is there a case for stepping out on your relationships?

Mondavi Center for the performing arts

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I have a confession.

My wife of 40 years and I are not compatible. I have long avoided any kind of personality test that purports to match people by personality because what has kept us going for all these years is the fantasy that we actually like each other. I don’t want to be confused by the facts.  Let me explain.

We don’t like the same things.

Over the course of our long shared life experience, we have discovered one thing that we enjoy doing together- visiting art museums. Everything else is like walking a minefield. She doesn’t like any activity that involves sitting in a crowd. This lets out concerts, sports events, political rallies and so on. Her idea of a perfect day is to read a book by the fire and listen to the rain. Me, I’m OK with that but I like to get out once in a while. Early on, I stopped trying to get her to go to events and I stopped going myself because I felt bad when I enjoyed myself alone.

That was then.  This is now.       Maybe

Well, I’m turning over a new leaf or at least giving it the old college try. Denying myself is not making our relationship better and what’s an outrageous retirement lifestyle all about if you just sit at home all the time? I’m giving myself permission these days to get out and enjoy some of the things I’ve been missing– like opera. I signed up for the season with the Sacramento Opera, only to have them cancel the season after the first presentation. Bummer, but at least I saw Handel‘s Orlando with a real counter tenor instead of a soprano. My fallback is the HD broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in my local movie house. These are a stupendous way to see and hear opera that are accessible virtually everywhere at a modest cost. The theater wasn’t even crowded last week to see Nixon in China.

Still it is hard to get myself out there.

Without the crowds, you might think I could get my wife to join me but alas, she hates any musical theater because is seems so silly to sing the lines. You see my problem? This week I have an opportunity to see a student production of Bluebeard’s Castle at UC Davis. It is live and in person and student musicians are usually very passionate. Still, I dither.

What are my excuses?

It is 45 minutes away. It would be a Friday night and I would miss all our togetherness. Right now, I think I will do it. Bluebeard’s Castle doesn’t come along every day but then I would be admitting that I would rather spend the evening with Bartok than with my wife.

On the other hand, maybe she wants a night off from me.

Metropolitan Opera in your local movie theatre

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Heather February 23, 2011, 6:56 am

    Go and have fun. =)

    It’s hard to miss someone when they’re constantly around after all, your said its something you wanted to do, and I doubt she’d hold it against you! (In fact, as you pointed out, maybe time to herself would be welcome as a change)

  • Ralph February 23, 2011, 7:17 am

    She really doesn’t. It is more my hang up than anything else.

  • Satisfyingretirement February 23, 2011, 7:21 am

    After 40 years there is probably a lot more in common than you are letting on. Other parts of your life together must make up for the incompatibility over public events.

    It is too bad she won’t attend what you like. But, if that is the reality you certainly should not deny yourself the enjoyment such things bring to you. That will only build resentment in you.

    Besides vising art museums is there something she likes that you avoid? Maybe if you took the first step she’d then give a play another try.

    Alone time is important in a marriage. Go and enjoy. You’ll come home a happier person.

    Bob (the amateur marriage counselor)
    Satisfyingretirement’s last Blog Post ..How am I Supposed to Pay For This

    • Ralph February 23, 2011, 7:29 am

      You are right. I do embroider reality a bit. It’s mostly my problem. It is just plain hard for me to indulge myself.

  • February 23, 2011, 8:09 am

    Since it’s UC Davis and not UC Bezerkley, I say go for it. It’s a beginning.

    We’ll know you have arrived when you announce a planned trip to Costa Rica, Belize, or some similar locale via tramp steamer, not to save money, but because it’s outrageous.‘s last Blog Post ..The top 5 commercials that drive me nuts!

    • Ralph February 23, 2011, 8:55 am

      And I thought that Bluebeard’s Castle was pretty outrageous. How about sailing to Somalia?

  • Hansi February 23, 2011, 8:17 am

    Hey Ralph…I too have been married for 40+ years, and to the same woman 🙂 I know what you’re going through. I got a good buddie who is also retired. He and I do a lot of stuff together: Sierra fishing trips, movies, meditation group. All stuff the wife is not interested in. In turn, I encourage her to do get involved in things that interest her: Friends, a grandmothers circle etc. We find common ground in the middle, and things work out. Hope you find it too.
    Hansi’s last Blog Post ..Twin Problems

    • Ralph February 23, 2011, 8:54 am

      That’s pretty much my story too.

  • Bill Murney February 23, 2011, 9:53 am

    Pretty much like the rest of the boys, I am a 43 yearer and we both do our own thing, although I will admit I do most of it.

    I started having a weeks holiday away every year with the lads, 33 years ago, diving, sailing, walking and it’s still on the agenda. Now that’s been increased to 2 weeks, so it’s even better.

    I have no problem whatsoever if my good lady wanted to do the same but she is happy going to dancing classes and on walking trips with me and looking after the grandchildren when required.

    There must be some compatability with us all or we would be divorced.

    Still Married, Ashton-under-Lyne, UK
    Bill Murney’s last Blog Post ..Niche Ideas Research – Part 2

    • Ralph February 23, 2011, 10:01 am

      Apparently there is more to a long marriage than doing everything together. I’m encouraged.

  • Judy Kraus February 23, 2011, 12:59 pm

    With 5 failed marriages behind me, I see the problem as expanding the obligations of marriage beyond the vow of fidelity and obligations concerning children. Other than these obligations, I see the relationship as one of friends who share living space. Invitations can be extended with no obligation to accept or diminished friendship upon rejection.

    • Ralph February 23, 2011, 2:54 pm

      I think the big hurdle is being friends and truly wanting the partner to be happy. Still working on that one.

      • Judy Kraus February 23, 2011, 3:53 pm

        Each partner should be responsible for their own happiness. That is why you should attend alone if your invitation is rejected.

        If your wife wants to make you happy by going with you, that is great. You can return the favor at some time.

        Your making a sacrifice by giving up something you want benefits neither partner.

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