Should Retirement Include Living Apart from Spouse?

by Kay Lynn

Senior couple on cycle ride

All week ABC news has been running stories on various angles of baby boomer retirement.   An estimated 10,000 baby boomers retire every day now that the frontrunners have turned 65.  One segment that really intrigued me was about couples living apart after retirement.

Boomer women are more likely than previous generations to pursue their own path in retirement even if their spouse is on a different one.

Why Separate Retirements?

Two couples were featured and both of them only live apart sometimes.   One woman realized post-retirement that their dream retirement home in Maine wasn’t so dreamy in the winter.  The other couple are apart when the wife leaves for volunteer trips that can last several weeks.

The fact is that two people who love each other and have shared decades together may want different things out of retirement.  Should one sacrifice for the other? No, but I think there is another solution.

My Thoughts

I don’t understand why the husband in the first story doesn’t join his wife in Cambridge during the winter.  They could both live in two separate communities throughout the year.  However, it seems like it works for them.  I wouldn’t even consider the second couple as living apart.  She is taking trips that he doesn’t want to go on.

My husband and I didn’t even talk about where to live or what to do in retirement when we courted.  Only as we approached our mid-life years, did the discussion start happening.   We agree on where to live and want to be together.

However, I often take non-business trips without him.  My sisters and mom go on girls trips and and once was gone for two weeks.  I could see me going on off volunteer trips for weeks and him staying home.  He’s just more of a homebody than me.

The Ideal Solution

For me, marriage means being together but it also means giving your spouse the freedom to pursue their own hobbies, dreams and goals (even if it means blogging about invoice discounting).  I know we appreciate each other even more after these trips apart.

I love sharing my experiences with Mr. Boomer as well.  So, it’s fine to spend time apart but just not too long!  What do you think about spending time apart in retirement?

Photo: Some rights reserved by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget


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OneCentsibleGuy July 22, 2011 at 8:41 am

This is an interesting topic that I have never considered before. I think that, as with all decisions while being married, it requires enough discussion to be sure that both individuals are receiving what they need in the overall outcome. As for me, I think both time together and away is necessary in order to keep a healthy relationship, before retirement and after. Taking weeks at a time for a personal trip is a great way to do this.

Squirrelers July 22, 2011 at 9:05 am

Interesting. I’ve heard of people doing this, and never spent much time trying to figure it out.

Personally, I’d need a paradigm shift in terms of my thinking, to truly accept the idea of people living apart in retirement. I totally understand and get the idea of taking some trips apart from a spouse. Even pre-retirement, a wife taking a “girls trip” or husband taking a “guy’s trip” to Vegas or somepalce is not uncommon. Actually, I think such trip are good to take on a regular basis, and keep things healthy and give perspective.

However, living apart during marriage seems like less than marriage in my way of thinking. Of course, I’m not at the stage of retirement so maybe I’ll see it much differently down the road. Our perspectives can and do change with life experience!

Maggie@SquarePennies July 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

We are retired & live together! We spend almost all of our time together, but we do enjoy little trips away from the other (never for more than a week at a time). It keeps the relationship fresh. As you say, Kay Lynn, it give perspective & it’s fun to share what we did. I take a yearly girls’ trip with my college friends & we love it! Of course it’s just coincidence that we started these trips when our husbands retired! lol

I wouldn’t want to live separately from my husband long term. I guess it works for some people, but it just seems like they don’t want to bother with a divorce.

Amanda L. Grossman July 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Wow–I had never heard of this!

I think you have a very healthy view about it. Personally, I could see myself taking a solo trip or two, but I could not see myself living apart from my husband for more than a few months.

Then again…we are newlyweds! Perhaps I should check back in in twenty years:).

krantcents July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm

My wife and I are not moving in retirement! Our children live in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I cannot imagine living apart, however I need to do something productive in those years otherwise I am not much fun. I am thinking about taking classes at the university and volunteering (starting next year). I still enjoy doing things together after (43 years married).

101 Centavos July 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I’ve already spent too much time apart from my honey with business travels over the years. I don’t think I’d willingly do much more of that during retirement.

Marie at FamilyMoneyValues July 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

We are also retired and live together.

In the past we have always done all of our traveling as a couple (well, except for my business trips), but now I am starting to travel on my own. He doesn’t like to go and I love to – he is happy staying home, I am happy going away – why should either of us be unhappy.

In fact, we worried about too much togetherness after years of being apart all day. In retirement, that really hasn’t changed. He loves to work outside, I like to hang out inside – so really we see each other in the evenings and mornings. Works for us.

Solo trips apart, live together!

mbhunter July 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

I needed to read this today. Thanks!
I’m not retirement age but this comes on my radar once in a while: I don’t want to look at my wife in 20 (30) years and ask, “Who are you?”
Right now my wife and daughter are across the country on a trip. I’m not much into traveling in general. I’ll travel to go see people I know, but just traveling because I haven’t see that state? Not really.
Basically, the foundation of the marriage has to be there for whatever to work. Otherwise, traveling to separate destinations, living apart, etc., is just a cover-up.

Bret @ Hope to Prosper July 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

I’m 20 years away from retirement, but I’m already starting to think about it.

I guess different things work for different people and I’m glad to see these women are pursuing their ideal retirement, even it if differs from their husband’s dream. But, living apart for long periods (months not weeks) doesn’t seem like an arrangement that would enhance a relationship. We take most of our trips together, but some apart and I think that’s healty.

Mom's Plans July 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

I saw this segment too. I thought it was strange; it seems like retirement is a time to spend time together and do things together, now live states away from one another. I agree with you.

Beth August 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm

For health reasons, at age 57 I moved to a small condo. My husband and I had been married 36 years and he didn’t want to sell the house we had down-sized to — the place, unfortunately, made me sick. That was three years ago. I just retired and we are working on updates to the small home that will hopefully make it livable for me. We know as we get older we will want to be in the same residence to take care of each other. These past three years have been GREAT! Our relationship is much better now than it has been in years. I believe that is due to the fact that we are both happy — I in my quiet, orderly, clean condo and he in his chaotic, messy, not-so-clean house. We are completely different personality types so I suppose the old adage opposites attract is true. Our 39 years together have not been easy, but I think the easy thing to do would have been to divorce when things were not so great — many of our friends did. Perhaps we should have too but we didn’t, and as we head into our twilight years together (living apart) we are happier than ever. Our untraditional situation is not for everyone but it works very well for us right now. The one constant in our lives has been change, and we anticipate there will be more changes in the future for us and our relationship.

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