Q: After decades of looking forward to retirement, I find that the promised carefree lifestyle isn't quite what I expected. I worked hard to attain this goal, and now I'm struggling with discontentment. What do you suggest I do?
Jim: Restlessness and discontent are often spawned by false hopes and unrealistic expectations. We've been conditioned by advertisers and marketers to picture retirement as an endless existence of leisure and luxury. The problem is that most of us never make it to this "paradise" -- and even those who do sometimes find it leaves a sour taste in their mouth. Perhaps your dissatisfaction stems from your experience not matching up with the hype.
If retirement isn't delivering what you really want out of life, I'd encourage you to shake up the status quo. Start by taking an honest inventory of who you are and what you desire. It's quite possible that you're a person who, more than anything else, wants the opportunity to keep giving of yourself. In fact, Focus on the Family has been blessed by the invaluable contributions of retirees who volunteer their skills and experience to help us in our outreach.
If you feel something like this might provide the fulfillment you've been lacking, I can assure you that there is no shortage of organizations needing your help. You might start with your church or local school district -- they always need mentors or teaching assistants. And many nature preserves, museums and fine art centers are searching for docents.
That said, it's also possible you may be struggling with depression that sometimes accompanies a major change in life. If you think this may be your situation, I'd invite you to call our Focus counseling staff. They would be privileged to help you work through this transition, so you can embrace this new season to the fullest.
Q: I know I'm supposed to love and honor my wife, but there are times when she's incredibly rude and unkind to me, our kids and even family and friends. How can I "honor" her when she's behaving badly?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: There are many ways a husband can honor his wife. Admittedly, that's a lot easier when we're happy and the relationship is peachy. But unkind and selfish behavior is something we've all been guilty of, and it's how we respond to our spouse when we're on the receiving end that's the key. Here's an approach I've found helpful.
-- Separate the person from the behavior. As someone created in God's image, your wife is of value and worthy of honor regardless of her behavior.
-- Recognize that your perception of your wife is affected by her behavior. It's easy to "switch lenses" when you're frequently hurt or frustrated by her. Consequently, you may be tempted to see everything through a lens that accentuates the negative and eliminates the positive. Psychologists call this "confirmation bias." The remedy is to flip the lens and begin actively looking for the positives.
-- Consider how you might be distorting the problem. Is it possible that you have a hot button, a pet peeve, an old wound or an issue in your past that makes a particular behavior loom large in your mind?
-- Finally, confront the negative behavior, not the person, using healthy conflict-resolution tools. It's critical to do this in the spirit of honesty and humility versus anger and pride. This, ultimately, is how you will honor her.
For help on navigating conflict in a respectful, appropriate and effective way, check out my book, "Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage" (Howard Books, 2013), or call our Focus staff of counselors.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
Focus on the Family counselors are available Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). Focus on the Family's website is at www.focusonthefamily.com.