I have advocated the need for planning to ensure a successful and contented retirement in a number of previous posts. This is particularly important where your relationship with your partner is concerned.
Rather than enjoying the newly found freedom offered by retirement, many couples find themselves bickering, discovering that they have less in common than they had assumed. I have no doubt that a number of you are responding with skepticism. You have known each other for many years and there is nothing, you think, you do not know about each other. Wrong! I will explain why.
Whilst you are both gainfully employed and busy raising a family, differences and inconsequential incompatibilities can easily be masked and ignored. However, once you retire and the children have flown the nest it is just the two of you. Once again you have to learn to live together. The reality is that you will be spending a lot more time in each other’s company. It is a shock to come face to face with differences you have worked around in the past, but which becomes difficult to avoid when you spend 24 hours a day together.
Even in strong relationships, spending time together day in and day out in close proximity may be challenging. One of many reasons why difficulties arise is the difference in expectations as to how you will live together as a couple as well as an individual. An expectation might be that the household chores are shared more equally, allowing both of you to have more leisure time. However, being out of sync with each other may eventually lead to resentment.
In an earlier post I discussed the psychological need for social connection and also suggested that women are very good at maintaining strong social relationships. Men on the other hand often have fewer close relationships and may become overly dependent on their wives to keep them socially active. In fact, some retired men expect to be the main focus of their wife’s attention once they retire.
Not only is this a an unhealthy situation for both parties, but women who have had independence and with their own personal time during their careers, will come to resend such stifling expectations. Men who have had positions of management and supervision may turn their need for control and directing to their home and spouses. Women who have successfully run their own lives and the home on behalf of the family for many years will understandably react negatively to such interference.
I repeat, planning for retirement is critical and discussing your expectations of each other after retirement will go a long way in avoiding problems from arising during the early stages of retirement. It is obvious, but worth mentioning that having frank and open discussions preferably before or early on in retirement will allow both of you to establish the rules of engagement.
It is vital to have shared interests and activities and equally important for both parties to have time to pursue their own hobbies and friendships. It is critical to the psychological wellbeing that both individuals in the relationship maintains their own identity. Pursuing separate activities gives a couple something to talk about and share. Remember, retirement does not mean you have to become joined at the hip!
Where possible, it is also healthy to create a personal space at home such as a study or another room. It allows both parties the opportunity to pursue their interests independently, avoiding a sense of their private space being intruded upon or invaded. Remember, you are not alone and it is not a reflection on your relationship. The challenges of adjusting to retirement are universal and shared by everyone.
However, it is important that couples resolve small irritations before they become the source of major conflict. Planning and talking is the only way to a happy and fulfilling retirement.