By Doug Mayberry

January 6, 2020 5 min read

Q: My husband passed away six years ago, and moving on has been a process. We were married for 37 years, and being on my own is strange, even now.

I never realized how much of my identity was formed by our relationship. We grew around each other with our own interests and talents. Beyond just missing my spouse, I've found myself having to change a lot more about my life than I ever could've guessed.

If anyone had asked me to describe myself, I would've said that I'm organized and responsible. But now I'm realizing how much of a team effort those qualities were!

He used to be in charge of our finances and related documents, and now I'm swamped with the responsibility. Even though I have the same accountant, I don't know how to deal with the most basic record keeping.

What should I do?

A: Most marriages involve some amount of codependency. We learn to allocate responsibilities and rely on our partners.

While reliance helps make a stable bond, on a very literal level it makes us dependent. By abdicating tasks, our own skills can begin to atrophy.

Many people find themselves in your same boat after any ended relationship.

Be willing to be uncomfortable! Going beyond your own boundaries will help you feel less hopeless, and you'll come to understand yourself a little better.

Even if you're used to depending on your spouse, self-sufficiency is an empowering exercise. Resist the urge to find someone else to depend on.

Life is unpredictable, and maintaining basic skills can help you get through rough times.

On a practical level, look at your husband's old system, and try to use it. No need to start from square zero.

Start going through your most recent documents, and file them away. You'll figure out what works and what information you need to record. Then work your way back.

Ask friends and family members what works for them. You're not completely on your own!

It's never too late to learn and grow. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter


Q: Last year, my wife and I decided on a retirement community to which we would move. We looked around for a long time to find the perfect place.

We put down a substantial deposit, realizing there would be a wait.

It's been 11 months now, and we still don't have a spot. We're sick and tired of putting our lives on hold.

Additionally, we heard that another couple was bumped up the list and has already moved in!

How can we get the deposit back?

A: Look carefully at the contract you signed with the deposit. In many cases, you won't be able to get a full refund.

Large retirement communities often handle a lot of money and have experienced lawyers crafting their contracts to favor themselves heavily.

In the future, be very careful about the contracts you sign. Did you go over this one with a lawyer before signing it?

Before making a huge commitment, it never hurts to consider the worst possible scenario and make a plan.

If the community has prioritized other new clients, it may have violated the terms of your contract. However, it's possible that the other couple asked for a different housing option in terms of size or price point.

What is your end goal? Your plan should depend on what you want — whether you want to move in as planned or whether you'd prefer to get a refund.

Your best option is to talk to a lawyer. Your contract may not have much wiggle room, and the legal fees will eat into your money.

Keep your expectations in check. Many negotiations end with both parties somewhat dissatisfied. — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: soyfigarella at Pixabay

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