Retirement and marriage - Two peas in a pod or not....

By Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant. This article first appeared on the Over 60 website [Link:].

You’ve been counting down the days (or years!) until retirement and you and your other half can’t wait for the impending freedom to do what you’ve always dreamed of together. Traveling, pottering around the home, long lunches and lazy walks on the beach. But what happens when retirement bliss is not what pans out - the feeling of living out of each other’s pockets becomes overwhelming and you’d rather be back at work than spending time with your significant other?

I remember reading a satirical piece in which a lady recounted that the happiest part of her week was waving her husband away down the driveway when he went out on his own! Humorous yes, but is that really how we want to be living these golden years?

Image: Marriage and relationship dynamics can be challenged in retirement

Wouldn’t it be much better if we could talk with our partner and agree the things we do together and separately in order to create a retirement that truly brings us joy?

It might be an awkward conversation to have, particularly as we don’t want to hurt the one we love, but it is an important one if we truly want to live a retirement that is fulfilling, meaningful to you and has a positive impact on the people around you.

Here are five tips for having the conversation you need to have with your partner to get the balance right between independence and togetherness in life after work.

1. Communicate honestly

It’s something we’re all guilty of, we ‘nag’ our partner at times when what we really mean is ‘I’m scared or anxious right now and I need some more support from you’. If you’re worried that your social circles are shrinking or that you’re not ticking off your bucket list, try to let your partner know that is the real issue at hand and what you need from them. You partner forgetting to take out the bin or spending all their time in the shed is not really the issue, is it?

2. Seek to understand the other perspective

Don’t assume that you know exactly what’s going on for your partner and the struggles they may be experiencing in adapting to life in retirement. Listen to what they are saying and how they describe their feelings and/or experiences. For example, you may think that they only want to spend time at home but they may not actually know where to start in reaching out and connecting to new people and groups.

3. Avoid using words like ‘always’ and ‘never’.

Regardless of whether we are approaching retirement or not, nothing gets our back up more than someone saying ‘you never want to do what I want to do’ or ‘you always say no to new invites’. Seldom is anything an absolute and it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation if the other person is coming from a position of defence. Try to talk about the specifics instead, e.g. ‘it was disappointing when you said ‘no’ to going out to lunch as it could have been a nice chance to get to know more people in the area’.

4. Play the ball not the person

Rather than telling your significant other that they are annoying or drive you crazy, focus on the behaviours that you find challenging. More likely it is the fact that they insist on accompanying you shopping that can frustrate you, rather than who they are. Remember, this is the person you fell madly and deeply in love with – they possess some pretty awesome traits they might just be a little hidden at the moment! It’s a lot easier to change a behaviour than one’s personality and your partner is likely to be more receptive to change with this less personal focus.

5. Focus on how to move forward

Use this conversation as an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and agree how you’d like to move forward. Take some time to discuss and agree:

  • your plans and goals for life in retirement and what you need from each other to achieve them
  • the activities that it is important you do together and independently
  • how you’ll let each other know if this sense of overwhelm starts to creep in again to nip it in the bud effectively

The road to retirement can be a little bumpy, so rest assured if you are feeling a little lost and overwhelmed, you’re not alone. BUT, there are things you can do to smooth the way and create a retirement that you are excited to grasp with both hands!

Want to know how? Why not join me for my Bite Sized Retirement Transition Video Series! These six videos are practical, action-focused, and most importantly short & sweet. They are all only 3 minutes long because whilst planning is important, I know that you’ve got life to get on with!

Sign up using the link below and the first video will be on its way to your inbox!