Retirement-Proof your Marriage
written by Mike Ballew February 27, 2019

A recent study found that nearly 40 percent of married couples cannot agree on the type of lifestyle they will live in retirement. They can’t even agree on where they will live.

Isn’t it interesting how we avoid discussing important topics in life? Consider how most of us conduct ourselves while dating. Conversations focus on such riveting topics as favorite colors, movies, and ice cream flavors. Since you'll likely end up marrying someone you date, wouldn’t it make more sense to discuss important things that really matter?

Like how many children you want, or whether you even want children. Or how much time you would like to spend together, or your political views, or your thoughts on divvying up household chores. We avoid such topics because we’re concerned we may scare off potential mates. Then we get married and hope any differences that surface will resolve themselves. Retirement is kind of the same way. Couples who are not yet retired avoid the topic and hope everything works out.

Retirement Transition

Throughout our working years, we dream of retirement as some kind of utopia. The truth is, the transition into retirement can be very challenging for married couples. Two people who have spent much of their lives apart are now suddenly thrust together – all day, every day. It can result in emotional turmoil. Even well-prepared couples go through an adjustment period.

Our chosen career fields give us a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Work motivates us to get out of bed in the morning. Without that source of structure and motivation, some retirees begin to feel lost or depressed. In the first two years of retirement, roughly one-third of retirees report minor-to-moderate bouts of depression.

Retirement-Proof your Marriage

Effective communication is the key to navigating the labyrinth of change in retirement. It helps you manage expectations for both yourself and your spouse . Sit down and discuss what you plan to do in retirement. Hopefully you will find common ground. Or, you may discover that you have major differences. Perhaps one of you is looking forward to nonstop travel and adventure while the other wants to stay close to home and relax.

Discuss how much time you plan to spend together and don’t get upset if your spouse doesn’t want to spend all of their time with you. It doesn’t mean he or she don’t love you, it's healthy for couples to spend some time apart.

You and your spouse will likely enjoy many adventures together in retirement that include travel and exploring new places. You can also visit old favorites, spend time with your grandchildren, dine out, go to the theater, attend church, volunteer and learn new things together. Time apart can be used to pursue your own individual interests and maintain separate friendships.

It’s a good idea to stake out territories in your home. Surely you have heard of a man cave or a lady lair. It helps to have a place where you can retreat and focus on your own interests.

Thing to Avoid

Some supervisors and managers have a hard time when they retire. They need someone to boss around and their spouse is the only one around. A homemaker who has managed to maintain a lovely home all these years might suddenly begin getting advice on where to shop and how to clean and when to do laundry. This is obviously unhealthy and if you find yourself in a similar situation you need to nip it in the bud.

Another trap to avoid is sarcasm and criticism. Naturally this is important at every stage of your relationship, but due to the increased togetherness that retirement brings it becomes particularly true. Don’t start rolling your eyes or saying things like ‘that again?’ That type of behavior can be very destructive to a relationship. Treat your spouse with respect and find ways to communicate what’s on your mind without hurting their feelings.

For example, suppose shortly after retirement your other half starts singing songs during everyday situations – mostly theme songs from old television programs. You comment that things were better back in the day and they break out with their rendition of Those were the Days. You could roll your eyes and grumble or you could sit down and explain that although you love them and you enjoy their company, you wish they would not interject television program theme songs into your conversations. Be kind and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

Final Word

Retirement is a time of joy and adventure to celebrate the fact that you will never have to work again. Like every phase in your journey, life is what you make it. Work together to make your relationship the best that it can be.

Photo credit: Pixabay Eggstack News will never post an article influenced by an outside company or advertiser. Our mission is to help you overcome uncertainty about retirement planning and inspire confidence in your financial future.
Eggstack founder, Financial Planning Association member, engineer, and software developer.