If you have been in a long-term relationship, you both might think you already know each other’s positions on most issues. After all, you have been through a lot together, and there have been many instances where your intuition about your partner’s thoughts on an issue was spot on. It’s a comfort to know that you don’t have to check in with each other about everything, isn’t it?    

We suggest that there are times, however, when checking in is critical, even if you feel sure you know the answer. One of those times is when you are thinking about moving from the family home and downsizing. This decision will affect the rest of your lives, and it is important you each honestly talk about what your visions are, no matter how much you think you already know about each other.

By way of making this point, let’s look again at the case of Barbara and Johnny, the fictional couple we met in our earlier blog. They came to Property Focus in Sydney (PFIS) because they were considering selling their small rural retreat and moving into a smaller home, most likely to a retirement village.  They had a lot of research yet to do, but were sure that they knew what their vision was for their next home. Or at least they seemed to be sure. When they came to PFIS it was Johnny who did most of the talking about what this new home would offer them; Barbara simply smiled and nodded.

Johnny talked about how they both loved sailing. He said their vision was to find a retirement community near a marina and with others their age who also loved to sail. Johnny was animated as he talked about this dream home and the leisurely part-time sailing life, making it all sound quite idyllic.

As Johnny spoke, Barbara gazed out at the view from our offices. Every once in a while we would ask her about Johnny’s vision, and she would say something like “it will be lovely.” Although we could not be sure, we felt as if there was something important being left unsaid. As the meeting continued, we asked Barbara where she would like to sail to. Up the east coast of Australia? Down to Tasmania? Then there are all those wonderful Pacific destinations to explore. We assured Barbara, that from our experience, those who cruise together develop strong friendships. Many social activities revolve around talk about the last or the next cruise.

It wasn’t long before Barbara began to talk about the doubts she had about this vision of a future focused on sailing. She did not want to disappoint Johnny, of course, but, though she used to love sailing, it really wasn’t all that comfortable for her any more. She couldn’t explain it, but the truth was she wasn’t all that keen on a life revolving around sail boats. She wanted to travel and spend time with her grandchildren. And she wanted opportunities for socialization on dry land, talking about something other than sailing. She had even been daydreaming about selling the sailboat and using the money as a traveling fund.

After 30+ years of marriage, Johnny thought Barbara’s silence meant she agreed with him, and Barbara was hesitant to talk about what she really wanted and disappoint her mate. This is an all too familiar situation.

You might think that Barbara was simply okay with compromise. We all compromise when we are in a relationship, and if you have been in a long term relationship like Barbara and Johnny, you probably compromise regularly in small ways. To be a true compromise, however, the decision must come from informed positions. Each should know what the other person feels and wants. You then discuss any differences and come to a joint decision. Sometimes this will be middle-ground compromise; other times the decision will favor one more that the other. When Barbara decided to explain how she really felt, Johnny finally had the opportunity to make the decision from an informed point of view.

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We recommend spending time in honest discussion with your partner as you lay the groundwork for a possible move. Whether downsizing or upsizing, take your time with these steps, and try not to make assumptions until you hear each other out. It also helps to write down the important points you learn along the way. Let’s look briefly at the most important steps:

How do you feel about your current home? Begin with talking about what you like and don’t like about your current home. For instance, Barbara and Johnny did so love the open spaces around their small acreage, but at the same time that open space was becoming physically harder to maintain.  The house had a lot of memories which were hard to part with; but on the flip side they felt like they rattled around the empty rooms, and the stairs up to the bedrooms were getting more and more difficult to navigate.

What do you need now, and how will that change in the future? The next step might be to look at how your current home and lifestyle will fit into your future.  For instance, it is likely the stairs will continue to be an issue for Barbara and Johnny, so they talked about whether they would be willing to eventually have to abandon the upstairs of the house and move a bedroom downstairs or if downsizing into a single-story home felt more comfortable. A look ahead will include a plan to embrace the changes you see coming and a plan to set up a home that can accommodate them.

Talk about dreams. Of course there is room to talk about dreams. Give each other permission to express what your “pie in the sky” new home would look like. Your dreams may turn out to be different than you thought. But talking with each other honestly is a gift to each other, allowing whatever decision you end up making to be a true reflection of your lifetime together.

Look at your options.  Only after you have evaluated your current home, taken out your crystal ball as best you could and looked at what the future might hold, and discussed both of your dreams, you can then realistically evaluate your housing options. At this point you should have a list of the things you both agree on and places where you have decided to compromise. At PFIS we have a vast array of information about senior housing options for you to peruse and discuss. And, if you like, we will help you narrow things down.

If you are a baby boomer or older, and are looking at the decision to move from your family home, you want to be as sure as possible about your decision.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to examine what you want, and, if you are in a relationship, not to assume that you already know what your partner truly wants. Taking the time to honestly talk about what you want and need will make your discussions and your final decision much stronger, and more likely to be successful for you both in the long run.