Are you terrified of your husband’s retirement? Do you worry that he is going to cling to you day in and day out not knowing what to do with himself? Do you think he may become sullen or full of angst with all this new-found time and freedom?
Retirement will be difficult for men and their spouses who have not quite prepared for the transition. In general, men have defined themselves by their career with other roles, such as a father or husband, secondary. On the other hand, women have maintained a myriad of roles, regardless of their work outside the home, and are commonly more social than men. So, it’s not a surprise that retirement can make men feel lost, lonely, more dependent on their spouse. This, in turn, can lead to a new kind of drama.
9 Tips for Couple’s Retirement
Remember, retirement is not for sissies. Retirement offers a whole new way of life, but, it does take planning, courage, and determination to create a fulfilling retirement and marriage.
- Dream your wildest dreams and plan in advance. For years, you have heard about the importance of establishing a retirement financial plan. Couples who spend a good amount of time planning how they want to spend their retirement generally report that this has contributed more to their happiness than their financial plan did. Acknowledging your dreams is an important aspect of this aspect of planning. Even if some of those dreams are too expensive or difficult to pursue, they still produce an opportunity for creative planning.
- Identify what you enjoy doing together. Some couples think they have too much togetherness now that they are retired. Sharing meaningful activities that you both enjoy reduces that tension and increases your pleasure in spending time together. Think about any new activities you wish to try on your own or with others.
- Create individual space in your home for each partner and allow time to pursue personal interests. We all need space and time to be alone or to pursue our own particular interests. Having even a small area that the other person respects as their partner’s special place as well as guilt-free time to read or do whatever they wish
- Have conversations where each feels comfortable identifying their unique interests and concerns about this new life stage. Couple who do not share their thoughts for this new ltfe stage often have difficulty understanding the others’ actions or attitudesDo not say “never” or “you always.” If or when an argument comes up, the accused partner hears only the accusation of blame or guilt and not the underlying reasons why the partner is upset. It is far more effective to tell your partner why a particular action is a problem rather than making an accusation.
Take the time to listen to what your spouse is really saying. Too often, especially when there is tension, we tend to think we heard what the other said. Alternatively, we don’t listen at all. Stable relationships take a lot of empathy, and that is achieved when we feel the other’s pain, concerns, or desires. If you have gotten this far in your marriage, you most likely value each other’s perspectives. Don’t forget this once your spouse is retired.
Find reasons to be kind to one another. Kindness is contagious. It’s harder to remain angry when another person is nice to you, and kindness helps deepen the bond as couples grow in their love and appreciation for one another. Let compliments and “thank you”s flow from your lips often.
Retirement does not have to mean you are ready for gray divorce. It does mean a significant transition. With transitions comes stress and changes. There are ways to make this as smooth as possible so that you both get your well-deserved enjoyment out of this phase in your life and marriage. The stakes are high. While nearly 80 million boomers are retiring at a rate of some 10,000 per day, according to the Social Security Administration and other sources — the divorce rate of older Americans is also rising. Among people ages 65 and older, divorces have roughly tripled since 1990. At least some of that discontent is caused by problems that surface in retirement.
But even if divorce is not on the menu, couples need to prepare — beyond finances and health care — for a life stage that brings so many changes. Most of us don’t blithely stumble into marriage or childbirth, perhaps because those transitions carry so many obvious red flags. Retirement, on the other hand, seems like 100% ease, a hard-earned gift of time.
Cultivate separate hobbies and friendships “Couples should focus on building their individual social lives to avoid becoming too dependent on each other or spending too much time together,” advised sociologist Rob Pascale, co-author (with Louis H. Primavera and Rip Roach) of The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire. “In addition to maintaining and strengthening existing friendships, retirees can consider joining clubs and organizations so they have opportunities for developing new independent relationships.”
Spend time with others as a couple “People report the happiest feelings when they socialize with their partner and other adults, not just with the partner,” said Coontz. “And a whole lot of studies show that having friends beyond your family or spouse as you age is an extremely important contribution to people’s mental and physical well-being. It’s a protective factor on the same order as keeping physically fit and not smoking.” Couples can kill two birds with one stone by: a) agreeing that each partner will pursue new activities and friendships and b) negotiating an equal division of domestic chores, even if the woman had done the lion’s share while both partners worked.
Partners who both work should retire at the same time, if possible “Researchers have found that when spouses retire together, the marriage is seldom affected by their joint decision; good marriages will stay good and bad marriages bad. But problems can occur when only half of a two-income couple retires,” said Pascale.By retiring together, partners avoid such issues as changes in the dynamics of the relationship —only one person “bringing home the bacon,” for example, can cause problems — or interference with the retired partner’s ability to participate in certain types of activities or social events. Retiring together also provides each partner with some emotional support as they try to adjust to their new living arrangements, Pascale noted.
Allow yourselves time to adjust “Be patient with each other,” said Goodman. It takes time and experimentation to find a groove. Maybe one partner will decide to take a part-time job or a significant volunteering commitment that feels like a job, while the other is happy with less structure.It is sobering to recognize that retirement represents our last years of life, our time to finally do whatever we wish — health and resources permitting. That freedom is a tremendous gift; one that, with good communication and understanding, couples can make the most of together.