It’s interesting that for many people, the first years together after one or both spouses has retired, are very similar to the first few years at the beginning of the marriage. Both periods are likely to be a time of change, stress and adjustment as your schedules, interests and expectations re-align themselves to new routines post-retirement.
Many couples are just not prepared for the reality of being around each other so much. Previously, up to 80% of your days might be spent apart, pursuing separate careers and interests. Now, 80% of your time might be spent together instead. In addition to having to adjust to your new schedules, the spouse who has retired will also be facing a crisis in identity. If either of you derived a large part of your self-esteem and enjoyment in life from being able to do your jobs well, then you will also be dealing with a sense of loss and in some cases grief for the career and working life which you are leaving behind.
In the face of stresses like these, it is not surprising that sometimes marriages falter and fail. However, if you and your spouse are aware of the possibility of this occurring, and are willing to take some steps to address your issues, then retirement can indeed lead to a new golden era of happiness in your marriage.
Forge a Shared Vision
Communicate and be open with each other about what you hope retirement can mean for you. Before you retire talk about when and what you hope to do. Are you planning to retire early or late? Do you want to travel the world? Renovate the family home? Move to a smaller apartment? Start a new business? Volunteer and give back to your community? You might be surprised to find that you have very different visions of what life after retirement will look like, but if you don’t have a shared vision, you will both start walking in different directions once you retire. So invest in the time to share your hopes and dreams with each other and find a shared future that both of you can be excited about.
Talk about your expectations of each other. Does your wife expect you to play a more active role in managing the household? Does your husband expect you to change your schedule to spend more time with him each day? Sometimes the details of how your schedules mesh together are the source of a lot of conflict. So write up your daily schedules and compare them. Discuss what’s important for each of you and how you will accommodate each other.
Build a Financial Plan Together
Nothing causes stress in a marriage like differing financial expectations. Get on the same page in terms of your financial goals. Now that you no longer enjoy 2 or even 1 income stream, do you need to cut back on some of your spending? How will you do this together? Are there some dreams you want to fulfil but don’t have the budget for? Is there a way to achieve them in another way?
Create Separate Spaces in Your Home
Previously, each of you would have had “personal space” at your work places. Now however, both of you need to share the same space in your home. Constantly bumping into each other at home can make you feel that you are either intruding on each other, or being intruded upon. It helps if you can each have a separate space at home. Maybe you have different rooms which you use as your study or hobby spaces or you choose to take the attic and your spouse the ground floor study. Either way, having a place that is purely yours will help to reduce the tension that can come from having to spend a lot of time together within the same home.
Keep Pursuing Your Interests
Retirement shouldn’t change who you are for either of you. Just because your spouse has retired, doesn’t mean that you should replace all your interests with theirs and give up time which you spent with your friends in a hobby which is unique to you. Both you and your spouse should continue to pursue your interests. Doing so improves how you feel about yourself and gives you something fresh and new to share with each other.
Talk about retirement before it happens. Agree on a shared vision.
Prepare to go through a period of adjustment, tension and anxiety as you re-align expectations and schedules.
Discuss your finances and how you want to manage them post-retirement.
Continue to do the activities and interests which you have always loved.