Grey Divorce

For those of you in a relationship I’d be surprised if you did not realize that when it comes to happiness in life,  how well you get along with your partner will have the biggest impact. Your partner is the person you’re going to be spending the most time with and if the relationship sours, it will take the joy out of retirement.
Divorce in the retiree community is becoming much more common, which can lead to emotional and financial catastrophe. It’s terrible to see this happen after all the sacrifices made during your working years end in a relationship break up when you finally have time to enjoy life.  When you retire and slow down you may notice changes in your relationship. The pressure is gone but so too may the “why” the shared focus on work, children, and family. As you spend more time with your partner, you may feel a little lost because while you were building your careers and raising a family the two of you may have grown apart. You may have thoughts of  “Do I want to spend the rest of my life unhappy with someone who I don’t like and who doesn’t like me?” We are not marriage counsellors but the truth is if you can’t get on the same page, divorce might be the best answer. If you thought working in a bad work environment was rough, living in an unfulfilling relationship for the next 20+ years will be worse.

During your working life you may not have been the best “you” to your spouse or your family. Tired and stressed from work you may not have been the best partner. Their might be some repair work needed at home. Hopefully your partner understands the stress you were under at work and the unintended effect it had on your behaviour at home as you tried to find ways to cope. (Make sure your partner reads Victory Lap Retirement as well.)

Here are some thoughts on avoiding Grey Divorce:

  • Plan your retirement together, having a second opinion can only improve your plan. Remember the transition to retirement can be hard on each of you,  your partner may struggle and you may struggle as a couple as you find the “new normal”. Having a shared plan will help smooth the bumps along the way and may even create a sense of excitement of what is to come.
  • If your partner does not work outside the home or works part-time, understand that they will need time to adjust to the change of routine and the time you will be spending together. Your partner has created an identity and their own independent life. Don’t expect your partner to suddenly change routine simply because you have retired. Plan for the change, everyone will need their space,  their private time, their hobbies, their friends, allow them to be the individual you love. You need the same things, plan time with friends, meeting new people, having new experiences, if you are both happy as individuals you will be far happier as a couple.
  • Be sensitive to each others feelings, for many couples one partner sacrificed their needs for the career of the other. If this was your situation, you now have a chance to make up for that and share the opportunities that lie ahead. Throw a special party in appreciation for all the years of selfless support that was given. Your partner will love you for that, you might want to get them a nice watch as well!
  • Communicate, be open and share your thoughts and concerns, be clear about what is important to you. You need to respect what the other partner wants and needs.

Transition may be hard and you may experience retirement shock. If you are having trouble adjusting get professional help for you and your partner.

Should You Retire At The Same Time?

Just because you are retiring doesn’t automatically mean that your partner wants/needs to retire along with you. We each have different levels of satisfaction from work one partner may be ready for a rest or for a new opportunity after their first career while the other is perfectly happy continuing on. There are so many ways to be successful in your Victory Lap provided you plan, communicate, and get on the same page.

Be careful not to “guilt” your partner into retiring because you feel lonely. That will cause regret and lead to troubles down the road.

We have many couples attend our retirement seminars and I always smile when I see someone give their significant other the “elbow” when we reach this topic. It makes me feel good knowing they understand the importance of it, so chances are that they will be alright as a couple.

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6 thoughts on “Grey Divorce

  1. Sharon Smith-Swan Reply

    Mike this is so well written and highlights the most important aspects. In my experience of delivering hundreds of seminars and thousands of one in one conversations people can only absorb a maximum of 3 main ideas. You did that in this article i1. Inventory your relationship, 2. Communicate with empathy & sensitivity and #3. Follow through with action .

    • Mike Drak Post authorReply

      Thanks Sharon. I guess you can say I speak from experience and divorce is not the way to go. It might take a lot of work but it’s well work the effort.

  2. Brian Braff Reply

    This is really good, Mike. Nicole and I are in the middle of these discussions now. They take time, patience, sensitivity to the other’s needs, fears, concerns and dreams, and, most of all, the willingness to listen. Your comments are very timely.

    • Mike Drak Post authorReply

      Thanks for the kind comments Brian and we need to get together soon! Yes it takes time but it’s time well spent if you want to have an awesome retirement. Just remember 1 + 1 =3!

  3. Sue Castanier Reply

    Check out Retrouvaille. It’s a weekend workshop on how to improve communication in a marriage. We often have couples planning retirement and they realize they need to fine tune things before they spend the next 20 years together. A lot of bad habits can be picked up over the years. This article is brilliant and spot on. Thanks Mike.

    • Mike Drak Post authorReply

      Thanks Sue! Nice to see that some couples are aware of the risks and are willing to invest the time to get it right because 20 years is a long time to be unhappy.

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