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’ll spend 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 all of the sacrifices you made during your working years culminate 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 that 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?” I am not a marriage counsellor, 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. There 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 behavior 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 to find a “new normal.” Having a shared plan will help smooth the bumps along the way and may even create a sense of excitement for what is to come.
If your partner does not work outside of 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 their routine simply because you have retired. Plan for the change, everyone will need their space, private time, hobbies and friends. Allow them to be the individual you love. You need the same things—planning time with friends, meeting new people and having new experiences. If you are both happy as individuals you’ll be far happier as a couple.
Be sensitive to each other’s 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 were given. Your partner will love you for that.
Communicate, be open and share your thoughts and concerns and be clear about what is important to you. It is important to respect your partner’s wants and needs.
The 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 trouble down the road.