5/27/2024 | By Amy Dickinson

After a long, successful marriage, can a couple become incompatible in retirement. This 66-year-old wife worries that it’s happening to her marriage, despite her “mostly amazing husband.” See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says.

Dear Amy:

I am a very active 66-year-old woman. I hate being idle.

My mostly amazing husband doesn’t mind idle time.

This would be OK, except he resents my constant coming and going. After retiring from a stressful corporate job, I have two part-time jobs; one that takes about eight hours during the week and the other four hours on the weekend. I also enjoy fitness, riding horses, playing with our grandson, and socializing during the day.

I let my husband know years ago that I would hardly be home when I retired. Rarely do I go out with friends in the evening as we are both happy at home cooking and enjoying TV.

My husband doesn’t understand my daytime activities and doesn’t share my interests. We’ve fought about this and he gets very upset.

I could never be happy at home every day, but that is what makes him happy.

I love him and don’t want to cause him hurt, but after 24 years together I’m wondering if we are incompatible in retirement.

Couple on couch looking away because they suspect they're incompatible in retirement.

He won’t go to couples counseling and I’m not sure what, if anything, I should do.

Your thoughts?

– Keeping Busy

Dear Keeping Busy:

You seem to define “idleness” as a pejorative, and I wonder if you send your husband some signals (unconscious and overt) that you don’t approve of the way he is spending his time.

During your busy corporate career, I’m assuming you spent more time away from home than you do now – but your husband may have assumed your choices would change appreciably once you left that job.

I recently read a study profiling several couples newly in retirement, and in each case one partner seemed quite frustrated that the other wasn’t busy enough; these couples seemed to be struggling to adjust to the changed balance in their lives. Rebalancing takes time and effort.

You and your husband might compromise by choosing an activity out of the house that you could enjoy together. You should research some new pursuits that might be of common interest to see if you could build up a fresh dynamic.

Also – knowing your weekly schedule in advance might help him to be less triggered by your coming and going.

Otherwise, since you seem unwilling to change your lifelong habits for him, your husband needs to understand that ultimately he is responsible for his own happiness.

He might reject couples counseling, but individual counseling could help him a lot.

Social connections are vital to health and contentment in the latter years, and he would benefit from connecting with other men at a similar stage in life.

News from “Ask Amy”: On May 24, Amy Dickinson shared with readers that she’s discontinuing her advice column. You can read her announcements and her reasons at

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 incompatibility in retirement, to updated dating guidance for seniors returning to the scene, and a man who lied about being a veteran. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

Amy Dickinson