Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2015 at 9:06 pm.
Retiring is a huge step in a person’s life. It is a goal many people work for and look forward to their whole adult lives, but the transition can be very stressful. This is especially true for someone that is used to getting their feeling of purpose and their social contact primarily through their job. Work is a place where we spend the majority of our time. No matter how ready we feel, we can’t leave it without some feelings of sadness mixed with the happiness and relief from responsibility.
Even if you have raised a family and have a spouse at home, the home situation that existed when you were working will no doubt be different during retirement. Most retiring people have grown children that they may or may not see very often. Spouses are used to having a lot of time apart. Even though you may have wanted more time with your spouse, too much time together can bring unexpected strain into your relationship.
You are probably correct in thinking that you will miss the male social contact you had on your job and some of those friendships are likely to fall away. Those friendships were an easy part of your day-to-day life and often work was the biggest thing you had in common with those friends. Keeping friendships with the guys that are still working takes effort and intention on your part and those friendships are less likely to last unless you also have other things in common. Be prepared that you may need to do most of the initiating in the beginning. Post- work friendships can be a big help in easing the emotional aspect of the transition.
There is also the issue of what to do with your time. This is a big one. Many hard-working people had to let other interests drop as their work lives became more and more demanding. To move forward successfully you will need to re-engage with past hobbies and interests or find new ones.
People also have trouble shifting their mindset from getting a regular paycheck and saving for retirement to actually being retired and feeling OK about spending money they have worked so hard to save. A good financial planner can be a trusted resource to help you manage your financial situation in retirement.
A few tips for the newly retired: It is important not to let yourself get too socially isolated. Be careful not to place all of your social needs onto your spouse. Physical activity, time out of the house, and joining one or two groups—perhaps even volunteering for an organization you believe in—all of these activities will help you in the transition. Without the built-in structure of working for an organization, you will need to develop skills in creating your own structure. A blend of scheduled activities and unscheduled free time is usually better than having only free time on your hands. Some people even opt to continue working part-time to ease the transition. Give yourself a year or two to become comfortable with your new status as a retired person. It’s not going to happen overnight, but retirement can be a wonderful time of freedom and self-discovery. I hope you enjoy the journey.
Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 at 7:37 pm.
Dr. Beth, I just turned 66 and finally decided to retire from my job. I have worked all my adult life and I’m really worried about retiring. I have been in manufacturing and held a variety of positions over the years, finally getting into management. While my job was stressful, I made good money and also really liked the challenges. I have met all my guy friends through work. Most of them are a little younger than me so they will still be working after I leave. I’m afraid I’m not going to know who I am since work has been almost my whole identity for several decades and I am worried that I am going to be bored and lonely. Any tips of managing this change?
Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2015 at 7:24 pm.
It sounds like your daughter has moved from use to abuse to addiction over the past 10 or 15 years. Alcoholism and addiction are powerful beasts. They take over a person’s life and eventually can destroy a person’s health and even eclipse a lot of their original good character and personality.
It becomes hard to tell whether the person you are relating to is still really the daughter you raised or some other personality that has taken over. They almost seem possessed by something that is “not them”. In fact they are in the sense that they are controlled by the addiction. This is the progression of the disease at work. Over time, addiction alienates the person from his or her true self and strains virtually every relationship the person has with family and friends.
Helping your child (even your adult child) when they are in trouble is natural to most parents, but when your adult child’s life is one ongoing crisis and the help you provide never seems to help for long or make a real difference in their pattern of living, it is time to re-evaluate.
The term codependency has been popularized in our culture over the past several decades and many people aren’t quite sure what it means or how to tell when they are being an enabler of their child’s addiction. Enabling and codependency are behaviors intended to help an alcoholic or addict but often backfire because enabling rescues the alcoholic from the consequences of their problematic behaviors and choices.
When a person is strongly entrenched in an addiction, such assistance can become more problematic than helpful, preventing your daughter from “hitting bottom”—that is, from experiencing enough negative consequences that she has a chance of waking up from the nightmare of addiction and seeking the help she needs to move into recovery.
Cutting the cord is a hard thing to do, but in truth your efforts have no real impact on alcoholism or addiction that has become that severe. Any rescue is temporary and ultimately ineffective until the person hits their own bottom and decides (or is forced by the courts) to seek help.
I strongly urge parents, spouses and other friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts to utilize the community resource of Al-Anon to assist them in learning tools for getting out of destructive patterns with alcoholic loved ones. It is a support group that is free to anyone who loves someone with alcohol or addiction problems. The program does not tell you whether or not to cut the cord, but helps you and other family members regain balance and perspective in their decision-making regarding their addicted family member.
Educating yourself about alcoholism can be key in coming to an understanding about what is and is not within your power to do or influence in attempting to help your daughter. Individual and group counseling for you as parents with a counselor knowledgeable about addiction and codependency can also be helpful. It is frightening and painful to realize that your addicted child may or may not find recovery. Sometimes an individual’s “bottom” ends up being their death. This is a tragic loss of life’s potential for the individual who dies and a tremendous loss for their surviving loved ones.
What is important to realize is that as long as a person is alive, they have the chance to find recovery, but this is not something anyone else can do for them. Not even their parents. I hope your daughter finds the help she needs. Regardless of her choices, your own life can be better by embracing your own healing and recovery as parents who love a family member with an addiction.
Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 at 4:29 am.
Dr. Beth, We have a 33 year old daughter who has been using alcohol and drugs since her middle teens. Her experimentation with drugs and alcohol turned into regular use and started causing her legal and financial problems. And for the last five years, it seems like she has moved into full-blown alcoholism and probably uses other drugs as well. She went from being a smart, kind, motivated young woman to a bitter, angry, volatile person. She blames everyone but herself for her problems. We have bailed her out of I don’t know how many legal, financial and housing problems connected with her drug and alcohol use. We are tired of feeling used and about ready to cut the financial cord, but I’m worried about what will happen to her if we stop coming to her rescue.
Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2015 at 4:03 am.
Dr. Beth, I have a great partner relationship with my husband. We have been married for 10 years and he is a great guy. We share household responsibilities and parenting. We enjoy the same activities. We have the same values. My question is: what about being in love? We were in love when we married and that feeling seemed to last for several years. Now, I still love him but I seldom feel “in love”. Is this how marriage is supposed to be?
Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2015 at 4:15 am.
I’m sure you know well that you are not alone in having this issue with a parent. It sounds like your relationship with your father is basically a good one. The only good way to handle this is with direct communication. Keep in mind that you can be direct without being harsh or rude. The best assertive communication leaves both parties feelings valued.
There are two good options for approaching the topic. One way is to approach it before the next family visit. You could craft an email that let’s your father know that you value him and that you have appreciated a lot of his guidance over the years, but that you have really come to develop those skills for yourself.
You can let him know that you would like to focus on topics other than your life decisions. It is fine to discuss those from time to time, but you don’t want that to be the main focus of your relationship with him. You could mention a number of other subjects you would enjoy discussing with him.
Finally, I think it is important to let him know that you feel uncomfortable with his continual advice and that it is putting a strain on your otherwise good relationship. Let him know that you want to have a comfortable adult-adult relationship with him going forward and that if you want his thoughts on a decision in your life, you will certainly be sure to ask him for his input.
The other option is to deliver the same message in person, but do this in a one-on-one interaction, not in front of the family or during a holiday gathering. I think you have a good chance of improving your relationship with your father now and in the future. You just need to take the first step.
Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 at 4:04 am.
Dr. Beth, I love my Dad, but he drives me crazy. He is always trying to tell me how to live my life and make my decisions. I am 23 years old and have just graduated from college. I have been doing fine living life on my own for the past 4 years. I still visit my family frequently. We have family dinners now and then and celebrate birthdays and holidays together. But whenever we get together the talk with my Dad always turns to life decisions and he wants to give me advice. How do I handle this?
Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 at 1:54 am.
It definitely sounds like your son wants to have a conversation with you. There will probably be several parts to the conversation. So, to address one of your questions: is your son gay? The answer to this is probably yes—and no. You have to understand what it means to be gay and also understand the term “bisexual”. While not universally true, most people who consider themselves gay feel that they are only attracted to people of the same sex, not people of the opposite sex.
In identifying himself to you as “bisexual” in his email, he is saying that he has feelings (sexual and/or emotional) for people of the same sex, but that he is also genuinely interested and attracted to women as well. A person who is bisexual does not have to date more than one person at a time, but is open to the possibility of loving someone of either gender.
Your son has dated heterosexually in the past and may or may not have also had feelings for male friends or experimented with sexually with other boys. Most boys who do so do not tell their parents. Of course, it is much more acceptable to admit one’s heterosexual feelings than to admit same-sex attraction so it is really hard to know if the feelings he has for men are newer feelings or feelings he has had for some time.
Often, a bisexual man or woman does not feel the need or desire to come out until they find themselves forming a significant relationship with someone of the same sex that he (or she) is really excited about. People come out in all kinds of ways these days. While Facebook might seem like an odd place to announce one’s sexual orientation or introduce friends to a new dating partner, it is actually quite common now.
Given your son’s email to you and his postings, it should be fairly easy to start the conversation. I would suggest bringing the subject up in a return email, phone call, or personal visit (if one is happening fairly soon). He may initiate the conversation himself, but if he doesn’t you might ask him to tell you about his new friend–or about his new sexual identity realization.
Either way, I think you will you will find that he is willing to talk to you about this new development in his life, especially if you show genuine interest and are non-judgmental. It may be a bit awkward at first, but feel free to ask questions. It may be an unusual conversation to have with your son and a bit of a difficult one, but it is a conversation well worth having.
Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2015 at 2:33 am.
Dr. Beth, I have a son who is a sophomore in college. He dated several girls in high school, only one girl seriously that he dated for about a year. In college, he has some really good guy friends and other girls as friends too. Last week, he wrote me an email and said he has figured out that he is bisexual. Then he posted a picture on Facebook of him and a guy friend with their arms around each other and updated his relationship status to “in a relationship”. All of his recent posts are about time he and his new friend are spending together doing fun things. Does this mean he is gay? I want to discuss this with him but how do I start the conversation?!?
Posted on Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 at 1:05 am.
Moving across the country to be with someone you love in order to be together and deepen the relationship is a very enticing idea. It sounds like the two of you have had and continue to have lots of communication and a fair amount of face-to-face time, though a lot of it sounds more dreamlike than real. Long distance relationships can be a viable basis for further commitment, but it is important to keep in mind that the honeymoon quality of this type of relationship can mask as much as it reveals.
In other words, you know the man you are dating in the context of a long distance relationship, but that doesn’t tell you how it would actually be to live together on a day-to-day basis. It is a big deal to leave behind school, a job, family, friends and your familiar surroundings to join your boyfriend in this new adventure. He will have the security of having an established home, friendship circle, job, and a comfort with his surroundings. You will be initially dependent on him to provide that sense of safety and security for you as you transition into a totally new life situation.
I think it is appropriate to get very clear on what it means to each of you to undertake a move of this magnitude and how each of you is thinking about the relationship and the future. If you are footloose and fancy-free, have few ties to Colorado and are ready for a change, it may not matter to you whether the relationship is moving toward long-term commitment. But most adult women and men have dreams and expectations about what it means to move across the country to be with the person they love. The vision of a secure future with your partner is what makes it worth the effort and risk of moving.
I sense from your question that the level of commitment you and your partner have is important to you and probably has a shaping influence on your willingness to move across the country. If this is so, I would not consider moving until it is crystal clear that you and your partner are on the same page with respect to commitment and the future. You don’t necessarily need to have a marriage license to feel comfortable making the move, but if he is repeatedly shying away from the subject, I would be wary. You probably aren’t on the same page.
First, get very clear on what level of commitment you would need to take the plunge, uproot yourself and move to be with your boyfriend. Let him know where you stand and what you need then put the ball entirely in his court. If you have to cajole or persuade or threaten him into a commitment, how real can that commitment really be? It’s hard to give up control (or the illusion of control), but you need to let go and see what he does or doesn’t do. Does he step up and meet your needs?
Pay attention to his behavior, not just his words, and listen to your own intuition. Don’t let wishful fantasies cloud your vision. This is the time to put romance aside and take a clear-minded look at his attitude and behavior. If you don’t get a strong, clear message from him that he is also moving toward long-term commitment, take your time and don’t leap unless you are truly prepared and feel that the risk you are taking is worth what you are leaving behind.