But I Want What I Want!: Healthy Couples Choose “Adulting”

Daisy was known for her negativity. She’d receive a surprise check in the mail and complain that it wasn’t enough to help their “tiny income.” Her sister offered a guest room over the holidays and all Daisy could talk about was how cold, small and inconvenient it was. Daisy asked her friends’ advice about everything from healthcare to home-improvement projects, but in the end she’d always ignore their advice and do what she wanted.

Cliff, her husband, was known for his kindness and generous spirit. Cliff explained that they lived on two pensions and multiple retirement accounts with plenty of disposable income to eat out, remodel several homes and travel the country. The tiny room in Daisy’s sister’s home was actually a guest suite complete with shower, tub, a sitting room and chocolates on the pillow every night. And unfortunately his wife’s friends were not talking to her much because after she ignored their advice, she’d go back and complain about the outcomes.

Over the years Cliff had given in to Daisy’s whims with the hopes that she’d find contentment. She choose the vacations, restaurants, holiday locations and friend groups. On top of that she loved to move around the country fixing up homes and, although he missed their family and friends, he moved right along with her.

By the time they came to see me for couple’s counseling Daisy and Cliff were in the later stages of their lives. Cliff was exhausted trying to follow Daisy’s dizzying lead and was concerned by her lack of awareness of their present circumstances. His wife wanted to move into yet another fixer-upper in a new town that had a depressed economy, limited public transportation, minimal social activities, and was far away from everyone they knew. Daisy on the other hand felt Cliff was “losing his adventurous spirit” and “acting like an old man.”

Sometimes couples who’ve been together for decades get in dysfunctional patterns. The reality is both Daisy and Cliff needed to address financial realities (Daisy had spent much of their retirement in the past 20 years), health issues, mobility concerns, and quality of life (daily negativity, dwindling friends and multiple relocations). Cliff needed to start setting boundaries and sticking to them, no matter how much anger Daisy expressed. And Daisy, quite frankly, needed to begin “adulting” (as the kids say, it’s never too late!) with a stark reality check of her age and life circumstances. Additionally we created some communication ground rules. No negative comments, no opinions about circumstances without facts, and no unilateral decisions.

Although the changes are challenging, Cliff and Daisy can create a realistic and fulfilling life to enjoy for years to come. A dose of reality, hard work and partnership always brings hope!