Challenges for Couples in Retirement

After several years of dedication to your work and it’s time to retire, it is natural to feel happy, self-assured, relieved, anxious and sometimes even sad. While most people look forward to the increased time with their spouses back home, little do they realise that retirement can be stressful to marriages if not dealt with properly. Let’s look at the challenges that retirement brings for couples and how best to manage them for a happy marriage and retirement!

How Does Retirement Impact Couples?

While most wish to deny and others to ignore, retirement tends to strain most marriages. Ironically, the primary reason for this strain is that spouses now have much more time with each other than they ever had. While this seems wonderful, it is often something most people never envisage. Most couples also struggle with their relationship when the retirement phase (initially) does not live up to their expectation.

Here are a few reasons how retirement impacts couples:

• One or both partners find it difficult to the changed lifestyle and status
• Diffcult in adjusting to this new situation
• When one or both spouses have certain expectations from each other (for example, expecting your retired spouse to be available or free all the time)
• The spouse who has always been at home may find their retired partner’s presence at home all-day stressful
• Financial or children-related stress between partners can create friction between them
• When the retired partner’s self-esteem is affected due to loss of position of power in their workplace

Since retirement is new to most senior couples, many don’t realise how this new phase in their lives impacts their marriage or strains it. Many couples who recognise the initial threads of strain in their marriage try to avoid addressing these problems. Both these reasons can add fuel to the fire and strain your marriage.

Overcoming Challenges for a Happy Retirement

Regardless of the challenges you and your partner face post-retirement, you can overcome them to enjoy a relaxing, fulfilling retirement phase. Here are simple yet effective ways to settle into your new phase and find new joy in your marriage:

1) Take it Slow, Be Patient

Retirement is an anticipated phase in every working person’s life. But, regardless of how much you plan for your retirement, the months before and after it can be an emotional rollercoaster for most people. While we look forward to the positives, the new change in routine can stress you and your relationships. Remember that while it is new for you, it is new for your family and spouse, who are getting used to finding you at home more. So, try and be a bit compassionate and understanding with them.

2) Observe Changes in Behaviours or Habits

The retirement phase brings out different behaviours and coping strategies in most people. While some become more upset easily, others may become more tearful or irritated. If you get more upset or annoyed with others, especially your spouse, it’s time to take notice. Eating more, drinking alcohol excessively, increasing smoking or indulging excessively in habits like online gaming or shopping are signs you may be stressed and find these activities as coping strategies.

If you observe unhealthy changes in your behaviour or lifestyle post-retirement, some healthy habits to inculcate include journaling, yoga, meditation, working out in the gym, spending time outdoors or learning a new sport. Seeking help from a therapist is also a great idea to help you in this new transition.

Involving your partner in these activities is a great way to spend more time with them and create a new couple’s routine that helps you understand each other better and reconnect like before.

3) Avoid Making Major Decisions

Retirement can be emotionally and psychologically challenging for most people, inadvertently affecting their spouses. Increased arguing in the months after one or both partners retire is common. But, this does not mean your marriage cannot survive. To avoid spiralling small arguments into major fights, it may be a good idea to avoid making major decisions about your life, home or finances immediately after retirement. Discussing all options and decisions with your spouse is also recommended to create a healthy home environment and marriage.

4) Don’t Expect Your Partner to Keep you Entertained

You have retired, and it is natural to feel a bit lost initially. Many people experience boredom due to a lack of routine or activity to keep them busy. However, this does not mean your spouse is meant to entertain you. Respect your spouse’s space and understand their likes, dislikes and routine to understand what they enjoy doing most. Finding common ground and activities you both enjoy doing is a good way to merge your schedules while rekindling the magic in your marriage.

5) Rediscover Yourself

Retirement puts you amid a phase with plenty of time on your hands. However, as with most of us who work, we have forgotten to find and enjoy free time in our lives, often sidelining hobbies or activities we are passionate about. However, retirement allows you to rediscover yourself, your interests and hobbies that are not just exciting but also keep you busy throughout the day.

Finding activities you enjoy can help you find a ‘new’ you, which is a boon to you and your spouse. When we find a new routine and activities that keep us busy, we tend to feel invigorated, which is good for your marriage.

6) Be Supportive of Each Other

Couples who have been married or have spent a significant amount of time together presume they know each other well. Though this may be true, it takes away the mystery and the excitement of the marriage. With more time with each other post retirement, it is important to be open and curious about each other. While you should spend more quality time with your spouse, giving each other breathing space is equally important. Whether your partner is still working or has found other social activities post-retirement, supporting them in their endeavours is essential for a healthy marriage among seniors.

On a Concluding Note…

Retirement is the ‘golden phase’ of an individual’s life as you are blessed with time, money, relationships, family and friends. It is also a great opportunity to rekindle the spark in your romance and marriage with your spouse. While your marriage may seem difficult or more challenging than it has ever been, this is just a passing phase in the initial few weeks or months after retirement. Enjoy your new-found quality time with your partner with patience, understanding and support!

Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide

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