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Help! There’s Someone in My Sandbox!!!

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Help! There’s Someone in My Sandbox!!!

My husband just retired.

He’s a great guy. I love him dearly. He just doesn’t belong in my sandbox.

There’s an old saying, “I married you for better or worse, not for lunch.” Now I know the truth in those words.

In Japan, it’s estimated that 60% of the older female population suffer from RHS – Retired Husband Syndrome. ABC News described the symptoms as “irritability, ulcers, rashes, and the recurring urge to toss one’s husband out of the window.”

Not me! My man loves to “help.”

My house is retirement-proof. I built him a brand new home office, complete with the latest tech. We shifted his volunteer work to part-time staff. We threw a huge party for hundreds of guests and everyone celebrated his new life.

I labeled every kitchen shelf, draw, and pantry with large, printed labels so he would know exactly where things belonged.

Here’s the result.

It’s been estimated that every day another 10,000 baby boomers retire. That’s a lot of crowded sandboxes and messy kitchen drawers.

It hit me on our first trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We went there to buy two things. Who doesn’t love to wander through the aisles ending up with a cartful of desperately needed “stuff”?

Our cart had the two things on our list. Nothing more. Nothing less. We even breezed past the gadgets section.

I knew I was in trouble.

The cashier glanced at me and rolled her eyes sympathetically.

I spent weeks cleaning out every musty corner of my sandbox – tossing valuables like expired coupons and menus from restaurants that deliver. I made sure there was only healthy food – no junk to tempt us.

Until I found his hidden box of chocolate nonpareils. And his collection of pasta. Sure, he was very proud of his “new snacks” like apples and oranges while he buried his favorite ice cream beneath bags of vegetables in the freezer.

He started recording Law & Order and Family Guy marathons, kicking my shows off the DVR. Not to mention sports programs from football to competitions like the Wife-Carrying World Championships, Cheese Chasing, and Bog Snorkeling.

Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper didn’t have a chance.

I went to my peers for advice.

One complained that her retired husband re-arranged the entire house until she couldn’t find anything. Another said he listened in on all her phone calls, commenting on everything that was said. Yet another moaned that he counted every penny, every coupon, and every trip to the hairdresser.

Retired Husband Syndrome?

Maryanne Vandervelde wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the secret to a successful retirement is acting like two children in a sandbox. He plays with dump trucks and she builds sandcastles.

Parallel play – when two toddlers “play” next to each other but don’t try to influence one another’s behavior. There’s a line in the sand . . . no fake news or big red nuclear buttons allowed.

Suddenly my sandbox got bigger. Now I don’t take him to Bed, Bath and Beyond. With the grandkids, he goes to dance while I go to basketball. I cook healthy meals and he takes me out for fattening dinners.

Most importantly, when he watches football, I curl up under a soft blanket and watch This Is Us on another (bigger) TV. We bemoan the White House and go to 4 pm movies with senior discounts. Who cares if he feeds the dogs from the dinner table as long as he’s good for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s?

Sharing the sandbox. It can work.


Dr. Jeri Fink, author, photographer, traveler, and family therapist, challenges the creaky myths of aging. She believes that now is a creative, exciting time to grow and explore new ideas, people, and places. Visit Dr. Jeri at,,   or to enter her world of discovery, fun, and insights. Her fiction project, Broken, is a series of seven thrillers that defy tradition. She is presently working on Book Web Minis – a series of fun, fast and positive mini books (50-70 pages long) where readers partner with the experts. Check it out at

She tells us: “I challenge the art of writing by merging fact, fictional elements, interactivity, and photography into nonfiction mini books. I draw from my training in social work, experience in individual and family therapy, professional research, and passion for exploring positive psychology. My 32 published books, hundreds of articles and blogs, speaking engagements, and active online presence all reflect who I am today.”

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