If you read Dixie’s last post, you’ve been remembering why you chose your partner. That’s a good place to start. If you want your marriage to survive retirement, you’ve got to reconnect with your spouse.
Retirement is a wonderful time, a time to be celebrated, but it’s also a time that takes some getting used to – much like that first year of marriage when we learn to make the enormous leap from “me” to “we.”
But for some reason, we expect a period of adjustment to marriage but not to retirement. Maybe it’s because most of us have spent a lot of years in a pretty consistent routine – raising kids, going to work, and handling the myriad number of chores and obligations required to do both those things. We think the relationship we’ve forged over the years will just go on in this new and free format, only we’ll be on vacation all the time!
For better or for worse, but not for lunch!
Unfortunately, experts know that the changes accompanying retirement can wreak havoc on a marriage. The statistics involving divorce at this period are pretty grim: since 1981, there has been a 16% increase in the divorce rate among couples married 30 or more years.
There might be a bit too much togetherness during those first few retirement months. And when both spouses have worked at jobs where they were in charge, there may be a difficulty in giving up that authority!
“Thank you dear for finishing my sentence. That’s exactly what I would have said.” – Wife of a retired husband
Sometimes couples have simply stopped working without really making a plan for their retirement – not a financial plan, but a life plan! They may feel overwhelmed and baffled about what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives! But it doesn’t have to come to that.
The good news is that couples who make it through this passage (just like all those other passages encountered in any long-term relationship) come out the other side stronger and happier. Most couples eventually find that this time is one of the sweetest times in life.
How do we make it sweet?
- Start by making a conscious commitment to the relationship. Tell yourself that your spouse comes first. Before your grown kids. Before your grandchildren. Before your friends. Before anyone. When a major decision comes up, ask yourself, “Is this good for the relationship?”
- Give yourselves space. You don’t have to be joined at the hip. In fact, it’s important to have some interests of your own. Find some new hobbies or spend more time on the ones you already have. You’ll be more interesting to your partner when you have something special to share about your day. My husband just started a part-time job at the golf course. He comes home full of stories about new people and new activities.
- Create a ritual for yourselves as a couple. Have coffee together and read the paper each morning, share a cocktail before dinner, or take a walk each evening after dinner. This is a time each day when you know you’ll be concentrating on each other and talking. My favorite time of day is early morning coffee with the newspaper!
More ways to reconnect!
- Express appreciation for your partner. Tell him why he’s great and tell other people in front of him! Everybody likes to feel appreciated.
- Don’t ignore your sexual relationship. Work on being intimate. Make a date for sex or give each other a massage or just make sure to have a couple of decent hugs each day. Physical contact is important. It makes you feel loved.
”Explore one another. You might like what you find.” Unknown
- Spend time with mutual friends. Reaching out to other people enriches your life, not just by giving you an excuse to get out of the house to do something, but by providing perspective on your own relationship.
Establish a new routine. And remember to laugh.
- Create a new routine for chores. I can remember my grandmother and grandfather arguing over which direction the handle of the tea kettle should point! Instead of fighting over the correct way to wash the dishes or make the bed, divide the responsibilities for chores in an equitable manner and then let your partner alone. And say thanks! My husband does the vacuuming. And I don’t. I think that’s fabulous.
- Establish separate territories in your house. When I was doing research for this blog, I thought this was a weird idea. Especially since we live in a tiny house. Then I realized that Bob spends lots of time in his man cave on the lanai (that’s a porch in Florida), and I spend a lot of time in my office corner of the bedroom. We wander in to see each other from time to time, but we both have our own space. It works.
- Keep a sense of humor. Laughter greases the creaky wheels of life, and flexibility is the key to happiness!
The good news here is that couples tend to get happier the longer they’re retired. If you expect a period of adjustment, you’ll find that you can work together to create a wonderful retirement life.