Retirement is a huge subject of concern for 10,000 Baby Boomers who turn 65 every day and have hit or are about to transition to this next stage of life. As a couple, there are some basic relationship guidelines that can help you both prepare for this stage and make the move less stressful. It may even make retirement fun. I know lots of couples who have made the transition (maybe not super smoothly), and have grown closer as a couple as they learned to thrive in this new stage of life.
Good Things about Retirement:
1) More time together to pursue common interests (travel, family, sports, hobbies)
2) A new chapter in life
Just like a New Year beginning in January, a new season of life can be exciting and a little scary. There are all the hopes and dreams of what we’ve heard retirement could or should be.
3) Increase focused on self-care
Not having to go the office every day or make those trips every month to another state can give you more time to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. This can include spending more time at the gym or with a personal trainer, sleeping a full 8 hours every night, and spending more time preparing healthy meals.
4) Retirement can also mean spending more time with close friends.
However, this can also lead to pressure being put on the wife if she’s more socially connected and feels she has to make all the plans for their mutual activities. This can lead to resentment if not discussed openly.
Issues in Retirement:
1) Unmet expectations (Click link for more on Expectations from Mike & Susan)
At any stage in life unmet expectations can de-rail your relationship. Even after 35+ years of marriage, Mike and I still can’t read each other’s minds. So discussing expectations is absolutely essential especially when making major life changes like retiring.
Few couples like discussing money, but it’s essential that both people in the marriage know where they stand regarding the amount of income that can be expected during retirement. In previous generations, there were more one-income families, and the contributions to 401Ks and other retirement options may never have been discussed leaving the non-working spouse in the dark. This is a hard way to transition into retirement, not knowing if you’ll be able to maintain your current lifestyle or have opportunities to travel or pursue other bucket list items. This really circles back around to Issue #1, unmet expectations. With Boomers there are many more two-income families, which increases the opportunities to save and invest for retirement, but also can open up the mindset of “My Retirement” and “Your Retirement.” Make sure you begin working with a financial planner early and if you’ve never had one, get one now. There are often ways to take advantage of deferred compensation, the sale of your family-owned business, or other benefits that could make the transition to retirement much smoother.
3) Household management and chores
Historically the stay-at-home wife has been in charge of running the home making sure that essentials were maintained (children, food, cleaning, and minor repairs) but this dynamic has changed for Boomers. With dual-income families, these chores may be shared pre-retirement making the transition less traumatic. However, retiring spouses who have been in management on the job may want to manage the household when they retire. This can fill a need for being “in charge” like they were on the job, but can also create resentment and misunderstanding if the other partner is currently filling the majority of that role. Talk about it! Decide who’s going to do what and how the shared responsibilities of the home will be divided.
Yes, Gray Divorce (people over 50 years old) is on the rise and with more dual-income families retiring there are many women who would rather go it alone, live with less, and not have to deal with a bad marriage. A half-century ago, only 2.8% of Americans over 50 were divorced. Today, that figure is more than 15% with approximately 1 in every 4 divorces occurring among couples over 50. There are a number of reasons why Gray Divorce is on the rise. Perhaps chief among them is the simple fact that Americans are living longer and healthier than ever before. Some people believe that with retirement there will be a renewed attention and passion for one another. When retirement happens and nothing changes many are opting for divorce because they don’t want to live another 25 years with little or no happiness or love in their marriage.
“You’re never to old to set another goal or
dream another dream.” C.S. Lewis
Solutions for a Smoother Retirement:
1) Manage expectations – Talk about the big subjects and what you’d like to experience during Retirement
a) Activities (together and apart)
b) Running the Household (who is in charge of what)
2) Pursue your own interests
You shouldn’t spend all your time together. This isn’t good for any relationship. By pursuing other friendships and activities, you develop more as an individual. As you develop and find fun and joy in other relationships, then you can bring that fun and joy back home to your spouse. This creates a synergy that keeps a relationship moving forward instead of becoming stale.
3) Establish your own “space” in your home
If you have the luxury of each having your own room for hobbies and pursuits this can really make the hours at home together more enjoyable. Think Man Cave or She Shed. When each of you have your own place where you can relax by yourself or work on things that make you happy and fulfilled can be a game changer in getting along as a couple after retirement.
4) There will be bumps
Realize that there will be bumps in the retirement road. Just like when you first went away to school, got married, or had kids, this is a major change in your lives. Don’t expect everything to just change and be perfect. As with marriage you still need to work at it.
5) Upgrade your marriage
Use this next step in life stage to upgrade your marriage! If you haven’t been happy for some time, seek professional help. Years of relationship neglect isn’t going to be fixed by a few self-help books and some half-hearted intention. Get help! Ask friends if they know of a great counselor, call your place of worship for a list of referrals, or look at Find A Christian Counselor.com or PhyschologyToday.com Or better yet, contact Mike Dawson for a referral. firstname.lastname@example.org or Flower Mound Counseling
Retirement, in whatever shape or form that looks like for you, should be a great transition or next step in a life well-lived. Make sure to make plans on not only the financial front but also the relationship front as well.