“What’s it like???”
This is a frequent question from my single women friends wondering how a fiercely single, independent woman for 35 years, transitions to being in a committed, sharing relationship.
After 11 months of making hundreds of life-altering decisions together, I’m here to tell you the good, the bad and the funny of it.
I’ll give you a few highlights of the “good,” knowing that many people like the juicy and vulnerable aspects of the “bad-news” and funny experiences of reinventing your life with another person.
We knew by our third date that we would have a hopefully-long and happy future together. After all, when you’re both on Medicare, you really don’t want to miss any opportunities, if you know what I mean! A month after our first date, Jerry said: “Want to go to St. Croix? ” For those of you who aren’t sure – it’s a U.S. territory in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Jerry had spent 3 years researching the island as a possible place to retire, recalling his wistful days as a sailor on the Windjammer cruises in the Bahamas and his vacation in Tahiti and Moorea. At the same time, I’d been subscribing to International Living Magazine, considering retiring outside of the USA. I was very familiar with island life, having spent decades vacationing in the British Virgin Islands, Netherland Antilles, Aruba, Barbados and Bora Bora and more.
Then he said: “if we like it, want to buy a house there?”
I was all in.
So many “good things” happened in the first couple months, that it felt like decisions were being made for us. Our likes and dislikes were so simpatico; things fell into place effortlessly.
In late July, we found a great house online to rent and possibly purchase in St. Croix, (STX). So we hopped on a plane 4 days later – COVID tested and prepared to buy it – if we liked it. Of course, the realtor in STX was rightfully skeptical. Here are two people in San Diego, who are either very impulsive, crazy and/or eccentric, or all three… or maybe drug dealers since we said we were prepared to buy immediately.
While the vacation rental was wonderful, it was not what we wanted. Within a couple days we found the perfect place for us, hired a local lawyer, opened bank accounts, post office box and signed papers to buy the house of our dreams.
The stars were aligned.
Upon returning to San Diego, Jerry’s neighbors committed to buying his house, at the full asking price, closing in October and the lease on my rented condo in La Jolla was ending September 30. We embarked on selling everything (in his house of 20+ years and my condo) in 1 month and then drive cross country.
Lest you think we were totally nuts, we each consulted our own financial planners and lawyers. We knew that combining all of our assets and being equal partners, financially and legally was essential. (My financial planner said: “As independent as you are, I know you wouldn’t want it any other way!”)
I’d been in control of my own money and all financial and investment decisions for decades and did not want to risk that or lose control at this stage of life – nor did Jerry, so we each maintained our independent accounts. We had both worked too damned hard to achieve the financial freedom we had. Yet, while we had an underlying trust and confidence in the other, it’s best to have the legal and financial structures in place to support that.
During this process, we found that we were really good at making REALLY BIG decisions together.
Not only buying this house, but totally remodeling and renovating it – island-style – and investing in this new life and lifestyle after moving here. We were so good together that people here have thought we’d been together for YEARS! HA!
What We Have Is A Failure To Communicate
Ok – enough of the “magical” good stuff.
One of the first (now) funny communication breakdowns was on our return flight from STX to San Diego.
After spending 14 days, 24/7 together, making life-changing decisions, I was a bit overwhelmed. Plus, airport procedures were even weirder due to the pandemic. Normally, I was accustomed to traveling solo on planes every month for years, nationally and internationally. So when Jerry told me I‘d have to take my shoes off and put my bag on the conveyor, I totally lost it! “What the F%@* ! I know what I’m doing in the airport, I don’t need you to tell me what to do!”
That led to a period of silence that lasted hours.
I have since learned that Jerry is probably the last person who would try to tell me what to do and that he frequently “thinks out loud,” or thinks he’s being helpful. Although – I have to admit, sometimes I forget all of that. Habitual reactions can be hard to break!
And Sometimes It’s the Small Stuff…
Like I said, we’re really good at BIG decisions. But buying butter and toilet paper is another story.
Upon arriving on island, Jerry and I agreed that we could have a grace period of 2 weeks to complain about the potholes and the price of food. Keep in mind, Jerry is a gourmet cook and likes to, annoyingly, in my mind, “study” every aisle of every grocery. After about 4 weeks on island, we’re grocery shopping and Jerry is spending an inordinate amount of time studying the butter shelves. After at least 5 minutes! I said: “Make a F$#@$^& decision!”
His calm, unwavering response was: “I know… but we agreed that we wouldn’t complain about prices after 2 weeks … I was just trying to find butter under $10.00 a pound.” (Stateside average price is under $3.00)
Strong and Sturdy or Soft and Comfy?
On another note, I’m pretty sure most people don’t belabor what kind or where to buy toilet paper. With high prices and no major retailers here for bulk purchases, we rely on Home Depot and 2 K-Marts to make sure our TP is affordable and “septic safe.”
One day, as Jerry was annoyingly “analyzing” the TP section at Home Depot, we found ourselves with the ultimate dilemma of: do we want strong and sturdy or soft and comfy?
Spontaneously, mid-aisle at Home Depot, we’re in mild hysteria, laughing outrageously, making this decision.
Unlike our BIG decisions to buy our house or to commit ourselves, our lives and finances to each other, we couldn’t decide on soft and comfy or strong and sturdy TP!
BTW -. we decided on soft and comfy.
Transitioning To Inter-Dependence
When I think about the challenges of transitioning from independence to inter-dependence, I’m discerning which decisions impact more than just me now. Learning how and when to incorporate Jerry into my life and to be “inter-dependent” has presented its own set of challenges.
I find myself asking for his input on a plethora of things that I would have effortlessly handled on my own before: responses to emails addressed to both of us; filling out forms and applications that impact both of us; inviting friends over and planning menus or activities now have me pausing and requesting input.
As we navigate our relationship, so are we navigating our need for inter-dependent v independent decision making.
I can count on Jerry to offer a valuable and different perspective and support … when needed or requested. Note: he is rapidly and skillfully learning the wily ways of an independent woman and when (and when not) to offer advice!
For me, the best part of inter-dependence is that it’s comforting to know that I no longer have to decide, or do, everything by myself. I now have a partner who fully and selflessly shares himself with me and is modeling the way for me to do the same.
Marty Stanley is a national speaker, author and consultant on personal and organizational change and reinvention. If you or your organization are looking for a post-COVID reinvention or rejuvenation, contact Marty for a complimentary conversation about possibilities. 816.695.5453 firstname.lastname@example.org www.alteringoutcomes.com
Ranch dressing: $3.88 at a stateside Walmart; $7.49 in St. Croix
A typical road in STX: