Sage Advice: Stressed Senior Needs Self-Care

By Amy Dickinson | January 28th, 2020

It's hard to say "no" when you've been saying "yes" your whole life...


Stressed senior woman staring at service club papers and getting stressed Image

Dear Amy: My husband and I (both retired seniors) belong to a service club. He joined well before I did.

After a few years of membership, I realized I would have been happier to just stay on the sidelines, but I hung in there because it was important to my husband for us to do things together.

I served in various capacities in our club and spent years in executive positions. I have now been doing this for 10 years. The last few meetings I attended were (to me) especially unpleasant and stressful.

I told my husband I am thinking of resigning as a member. He was initially understanding, but then he got upset and threatened to also resign if I did — his reasoning being: “We don’t do enough things together.”

In reality we never do much of anything separately, and it is sometimes stifling.

Before we retired, he was a member of this service club by himself. We are also members of one other club, which we both enjoy and would not think of leaving. We also travel together.

At this point in my old age, I just want to reduce stress and unpleasantness as much as I can. My health is not the best, I have serious family obligations, and want to look after myself.

Am I really being selfish? Where do I draw the line?

– Stressed Out

Dear Stressed: This reminds me of the old joke: A couple is asked how often they have sex. The husband says, “Almost never — like once a week!,” while the wife says, “All the time — like once a week!” You two have different perceptions of “togetherness.”

Your husband seems to be adept at getting his needs met. You? Not so much.

“Self-care” has become a buzzy phrase. It can be challenging to understand what it really means to take care of yourself.

Many women who have given so much to spouses and children face the challenge of how to cope (and how others will cope) when they decide to stop giving it all away.

Your reserves are depleted, and you want (and need) to save something for yourself.

No, you are not being selfish. You should draw the line wherever you want to, and your husband, bless him, will have to adjust. You are not responsible for his feelings, or his behavior.

Carving out a few afternoons on your own at the library, the gym, or sitting by yourself quietly will revive you, be good for your health, and will likely be good for your relationship.


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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. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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