Live and Learn
I met Dori Mintzer in Boston in 2014, when I went over to the USA. I had read the book that she and Roberta Taylor had written. The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle is a guide for couples as they navigate retirement together and after reading it, I wanted to meet its author.
I love the impact Dori has made in both the retirement and relationship spaces and I include her principles in the work I do in life-planning meetings with my clients. Underpinning so much of what defines Dori’s contribution is the importance of couples having courageous conversations with each other. In fact, her book’s subtitle is exactly that: “Ten must-have conversations for transitioning to the second half of life”.
In the work that I do, a life-planning meeting is often one of the first times couples tackle some of the serious issues they’ve been too afraid to talk about. A life-planning session can often be the very first time that they have a “must-have” talk.
Those crucial conversations – sometimes decades in the waiting – require courage. And they are hardly ever easy. But what I’ve seen over the years is that those conversations, which sometimes even involve confrontation, generally result in connection.
One plus one equals three
I’ve been thinking about what happens behind the scenes of this invisible equation. How does a conversation end up equalling closeness and connection? I think it’s because somewhere, somehow, something profound happens. Between the discomfort and the connection, there is learning.
Learning is the multiplier effect, the fabulous formula that takes a couple from talking to feeling a sense of togetherness. Learning has everything to do with coming across something – or even someone – we didn’t know before.
Have you ever discovered something about your partner at a dinner party, something that you didn’t know before? Someone else asked your wife a question and her answer teaches you something new? When we see something through new eyes, even if it’s a situation or scenario that isn’t of our choosing, we open ourselves to learning. And learning can happen without us even realising it.
Have you ever been retrenched from a job, worked through the humiliation, the having to make ends meet, the needing to change tack mid-career because your situation demanded that of you – and then then ended up thinking that it was the best thing that ever happened to you? Or had a health scare that forced you and your partner to rethink your lifestyle, so much so that you live a better life now than the one you lived before and wouldn’t have it any other way? We have to be open to change, to learning how to do different things – or at the very least, to doing the same thing differently – because not only is that how we survive. It’s how we live.
My challenge to you is simple: don’t be closed to conversation. Discomfort sounds, well, uncomfortable. That’s because it is. But there’s a lot of truth in the adage: “No pain, no gain.” What if you chose to welcome such a conversation? What if it’s just one courageous conversation that stands between you and something magical?
Dori and her husband visited South Africa for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they came to dinner at my home. We didn’t just share dinner though. We shared wine; we shared stories. Dori was travelling with her husband, David – now in his eighties. Together, they opened themselves to exploring Africa. They talk, they travel – and they laugh and learn together. Their learning is their living. Let’s aim for the same.
Thank you to Kathy Lithgow for sharing her journey of learning with us in this newsletter. We love to share stories from our clients.
In our next newsletter, we will chat about grief and ways to help each other through a difficult time when we lose people we love. You are welcome to send us ideas for future newsletters.