I have what most people would consider a perfect relationship. Going on 30 years together, through thick and thin, with great and supportive friends and family – at least it appears so! We entered retirement and the fabric is falling apart. I've now realized that the bulk of effort, energy, love, finances, and the day-to-day "little things" all fell on my shoulders. Every day for 30 years.
Now, I want to retire – really retire. I made the finances happen, I took care of the details and the heavy lifting, including the moving. Now I'm more unhappy than I've ever been. Because here we are, at the last and best times of our lives, and I am ... totally isolated and alone. My immediate family has passed on. My friends favor my partner due to his health issues, which eventually will be terminal. The poor thing. Well, who gave up 28 years to accommodate finding and seeing the best doctors in the world? Who jeopardized career aspirations over the years to be there during emergency medical issues? Who made sure everyone else was taken care of before dealing with her own breast cancer?
The sadness is paralyzing. This is no way to spend the last, best years of a life lived working hard every day since I was 14. What was the point of the last 60 years?
– Looking back
These are big questions that call for a therapist/professional. If you don't have this kind of person in your life, you can start with a primary care doctor. Ask about opportunities for help. Find out if there are any local support groups out there for caregivers.
You ask: "What was the point of the last 60 years?" But I'm not sure that's an answerable question. You've experienced thousands of little moments over the past six decades; some were about love, some were about obligation. It's tempting to get macro about the meaning of life, but micro can be much more productive. Sometimes it helps to think about what you need to have just one good day.
Also know that retirement always sounds wonderful, but in real life, it can be ... confusing. Many recently retired people say they feel a bit lost – that the transition is difficult. They often ask, "I worked so hard ...for this?" It might take time to figure out what a good retirement looks like to you. It also might take some effort (sorry) to find new friends who are in a similar place.
Really, though, it'll be more helpful to think about what you desire, as opposed to what's already happened. If you know what you want from life – and from your partner – it's easier to ask for it. As you think about all of this, include your spouse in the conversation, if you can. It's OK to tell the people in your life that you have goals and needs. Don't forget you can ask them for support.
Readers? Any words on caregiving? Retirement? Help?