By Mary Lynn Bruny

The pandemic has expedited retirement plans for many older people. Much is written about the perfect types of homes for older folks, but not much about how couples that are retiring survive this adjustment. How can they suddenly be within air breathing distance of each other for the majority of their waking and sleeping hours and maintain a happy (or at least decent) relationship?

For those of us nearing retirement age (myself included) that have children grown and gone (if there were any), quarantining at home together gave us a little preview of what lies ahead. Could retirement together be sunshine and roses like the Cialis commercials show of older couples together – who mainly seem to be doing things like biking by beautiful vineyards and playfully tossing autumn leaves in each other’s (remaining) hair?

One would think not. Unless you are a saint or completely clueless, all individuals find some habits of their partners irksome.

When lovebirds are first together and look at their new amore with rose-colored glasses, these habits are conveniently overlooked in a fog of romantic bliss powered by surging levels of dopamine. Such a lovely non-reality to live in while one can.

Then any exasperating habits can simply get lost in the overwhelming shuffle of work, home maintenance and child rearing. Who can focus on the myriad of toast crumbs their partner drops on the kitchen floor every single gosh darn morning when the kids have measles or the damn dog has thrown up on the bed duvet yet again? (Always the dang duvet; now you have to take it all apart to wash.)

But at some point – namely retirement – all these distractions are gone. Hormones have faded and rose-colored glasses have been replaced with readers. Time – that most precious commodity in younger years – is aplenty daily (though not so much in actual remaining years). Suddenly the toast crumbs (or whatever maddening habit fries your bottom) are noticeable.

The good news is – if lucky – older couples that have been together for years have some things going for them to alleviate these small aggravations. Namely, they know how to communicate perfectly and quickly work things out, immediately changing any habits that annoy their partner.

Ha! Only kidding! We’re still just the same silly humans – but now with cruddier skin!

But what we are – again, if we’re lucky – is mellower. Things that used to really bother us a lot may only somewhat annoy us now and then. We have a more mature life perspective. We simply don’t care that much about little stuff and cannot be bothered to kvetch. We just don’t have the bandwidth (though most of us do have increased body widths). We just want to enjoy the day. Who needs to make a fuss? Just push the crumbs under the baseboard with your slippers and make a nice cup of tea.

Additionally, some of us older people forget things now and again. (I fall into this camp.) This works in our favor. I have found a little forgetfulness goes a long way towards a happy relationship. You can’t bitterly hold on to the past if you don’t remember it that well. But if one’s memory is still sharp as a tack, selective memory (AKA denial) is another solid approach to employ.

Life is short and getting shorter for older people. Luckily we can retire and choose to live with our partners in harmony. And those floor crumbs? Sooner or later your dog will get off your bed and find them. Problem solved.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn writes about local real estate and home-related topics. Contact her at [email protected]. To read previous The Lighter Side articles, go to