Bottom Line
Marriage in the Long Run
Adjusting to life off the road

When a person retires from a job, he/she may suddenly have a lot more time to pursue other interests. For those who retire from the trucking profession (or semi-retire) not only do they have to adjust to being at home during the day, but they need to become used to spending time with their loved ones every night. They are no longer maintaining a relationship over the phone.

For the trucker's spouse who is used to being alone much of the time, the transition is even more difficult. One day she is making all the decisions, spending her time alone and taking care of the household chores. The next day there's someone who wants to share in her activities. Maybe he likes to make plans for the two of them, or maybe he wants her to continue her responsibilities while he enjoys his retirement. Either way, it's a big adjustment, and one that many wives of professional drivers dread. After all, we've been alone for many years. It won't be easy to allow him to be a part of our lives, especially since we've finally gotten used to things the way they are.

If you are young and you haven't looked ahead to the retirement years, you may not be concerned about what might happen in the decades ahead. For many, those years aren't that far away. We need to think of ways that will allow our spouses to become a bigger part of our lives. Perhaps you have already eased into a time when you no longer have to work for a living, and you can concentrate on enjoying yourself and your family. Regardless of your age, you may face the retirement years sooner than you had planned if health concerns are an issue.

Carolyn has been married to a professional driver for more 20 years. In 1990, her husband Larry was forced to retire because of medical reasons. So not only was he unable to financially provide for his family as he had in the past, he couldn't enjoy his newfound free time because of his health situation. Carolyn suddenly found herself with a husband who needed attention. This only added to her responsibilities as she was also the mother of four children (ages one to 14) who also depended on her.

Larry's health was deteriorating, as he struggled with melanoma (cancer) and heart troubles. "It really tore me between family and husband," Carolyn says. "It was life threatening." He made the decision to forgo the aggressive treatments his doctors advised, because he didn't want to put the burden on his family. At one point, he was told he only had three months to live. "He's a miracle," Carolyn insists, as he has outlived that prediction by many years.

Carolyn made the best of her situation, however. She worked full time, knowing that her husband would be home for their children. "He was there for them, fixing bikes, in sports, in school . encouraging them, trying to help them with their school work. He enjoyed it very much," his wife claims. "It was nice. After he pulled himself together, he could start building a relationship with the family." During the years that many men are working long hours and spending a lot of time away from home, Larry was enjoying his family and taking some of the responsibilities off his wife's shoulders.

Their children had to adapt to having Dad around the house and to rely less on Mom. Carolyn insists that the rapport she had established with their children in their younger years carried them through the transitional period and allowed them to build an even stronger foundation with their father. They understood the time their mother needed to spend with their dad because of his medical problems.

It wasn't easy for Larry to find his place in the family either. He had to develop his role as a stay-at-home father. Carolyn admitted that a driver's wife must learn to reassure her spouse that he is needed as a father and a husband. She even felt that maybe it was harder on him than on the rest of the family. After all, they were used to being a family, and he had to determine his place after being away all those years.

Larry still has limited physical stamina and must travel to a nearby medical center for therapy. But he enjoys reading and spending his time with his family. His relationship with his wife and children is strong, and Carolyn credits his big heart and their faith in God, which has carried them through many years of difficulties.

If you have a retired truckdriver at home, please let us know how you learned to enjoy your time together. In the next issue we'll look at how some drivers have adjusted to their recent retirement from trucking.