1/16/2023 | By Amy Dickinson

A newly retired husband complains that his wife wants him out of the house for hours at a time. Is this an issue of adjusting to retirement or controlling behavior?

Dear Amy: 

I wonder if my expectations are too high, or if my wife is controlling me?

I do not feel welcome in my own house. Every week my wife asks me for my schedule (I am retired) for the coming week to make sure that I am out of the house for the better portion of several days.

Fortunately, I have elderly and disabled family members to care for, volunteer work and friends so I can usually find a reason to be gone, but some days I just leave the house to make her happy.

For those days or parts of days when I am home, my wife wants me to agree to the specific time I will be leaving and returning.

My wife does not work, have family nearby, or volunteer.

In her defense she does not drink, take drugs, or spend money excessively, and I am quite sure my being gone is not so she can arrange a tryst with another man (although we have not been physically intimate for over 12 years).

Perhaps 50 times I have suggested that we should see a marriage therapist for this and other reasons, but she refuses.

My impression is that this is my wife needing to exercise control, but perhaps this is normal in marriage or in adjusting to retirement, and I am too sensitive.

How do I get her to join me in marriage counseling when she refuses to go? I do not want to live the rest of my life like this.

– Controlled Husband

Dear Controlled: 

I agree with you that this is an extreme example of control.

It’s your house, too. You have the right to spend time there, whenever you want.

Adjusting to retirement can be a very tough transition for couples, especially if one partner has spent their career taking care of house and home while the other leaves for work. When that balance changes, it can throw both of you off.

adjusting to retirement or controlling behavior?

You don’t report asking your wife why, exactly, she wants you out of the house so much. She might respond that she is used to her privacy during the day, and she wants to bleach her mustache or dance to oldies in her bathrobe without you being there.

Or she might say that when you’re home you make little nests in every room and that she feels like she is always picking up after you.

I think it’s a good thing for couples to sit down and more or less map out their schedules for the week. But you should not leave the house most days just to make your wife happy. Your wife cannot make you leave your own home if you don’t want to, and you cannot make her join you in marriage counseling if she refuses to go.

You should seek therapy on your own. Think of it this way – it will be another hour or so every week where you will be elsewhere.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from adjusting to retirement to grandparenting to dating. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

Click here to read more Ask Amy columns curated for a baby boomer audience.

Amy Dickinson