Suddenly living in close quarters 24/7 can be a shock to the system!

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Couples go bushwalking
Hobbies like bushwalking can bring couples together. PIC: Destination Port Stephens

For all too many new grey nomads, it can be quite a shock to discover how difficult it is to suddenly find themselves living 24/7 in extremely close quarters with a spouse or partner.

And this is true whether couples have been together for the proverbial five minutes or for five decades. Much has been written about the challenge that sudden retirement brings to many relationships. Couples who have been together, ‘but apart’ because of work and family commitments can find it to be a ‘re-adjustment’ to be under each other’s feet again.

The phenomenon is, of course, dramatically magnified when they are living together in a giant tin box and are far, far away from the support network of family and friends.

The authors of the book ‘Making Marriage Work’, psychologists Rob Pascale and Louis Primavera, say retirement and having their children leave the nest are the two events that force couples to come face to face with their relationship.

“At that point, two people have to deal with the reality of who they are, and who they are together,” they said. “There may be an emerging and uncomfortable sense from each partner that they don’t really know the person they’re married to, and maybe don’t have as much in common with each other as they once thought.”

The authors say that, while it is healthy for partners to pursue their own interests, joint pursuits are also crucial as sharing good experiences inevitably brings people closer.

While taking the Big Lap is perhaps the ultimate in shared experiences, Mr Pascale and Mr Primavera say couples should still makes lists separately of what they might like to do and, if they find any ideas that overlap, they should try them together.

“You should try to come up with activities that are new, some of the best are those that neither partner has tried before,” they said. “What makes a new activity so beneficial is that it’s owned by the couple and not one partner … it’s uniquely specific to their relationship.”

The psychologists say when couples are involved in something new, they have to work their way through it together, and that can make them feel more bonded.

“Whatever you decide to do together, you have to approach it with the right attitude,” they said. “If you’re resentful, dismissive, bored, when participating in your partner’s activities, you’ve defeated the purpose.”

• Have you and your partner discovered a new activity together on the road? Email us here to share your thoughts.

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