How prepared are you (or were you) for retirement? Unless it was forced on you by your employer or health reasons (which unfortunately happens too often), you’ve probably spent a few years planning and organizing for those hopefully more relaxed years of your life. You crunched numbers, talked to others, and dreamed what you might do with that free time.
How prepared was your relationship?
I don’t mean did you talk to your spouse about it. I mean, what conversations did you have around all the changes coming in your relationship?
Every major change in our lives involves a mix of smaller changes. Those changes impact our relationships. A change like retirement, similar to career changes or having children, often involves changes in your sense of self, your roles and responsibilities in
the home and in the community, and your hobbies to name a few.
Changes also come with joys and losses. Often retirees have some grief over the loss of working relationships and their identity as a worker. Many retirees also experience lose their sense of purpose. Retirement may bring us face to face with our own mortality.
Changes within us cause changes in our relationships, like ripples in pond. Unless we’ve worked through some of those scenarios ahead of time, and worked on maintaining a strong relationship throughout the years, those ripples can feel more like a tsunami.
What helps us prepare?
Draw new maps.
Relationship experts John and Julie Gottman talk about creating love maps of your partner. These help us build intimacy and stay attuned. Like any other map, love maps need updating from time to time. Add this to your planning for retirement checklist.
Focus on the dreams, but talk about potential losses.
You may have already thought about what you might be giving up as the retiree. Maybe an identity, some financial freedom, or structure. What might your spouse be giving up? I’ve heard a few common issues, and you probably have too. Some nonworking partners complain, a few months into the transition, about having someone underfoot all the time. I’ve heard working spouses complain about being stuck with less free time and growing resentful about the other’s freedom. Cliché though they may be, they reflect real struggles with the changing dynamics between the two of you. Talk through some possibilities ahead of time with an eye toward supporting one another in these changes.
Think about shifting roles.
Retirement can be a new opportunity to do life differently. Are there roles and responsibilities you might like to handle differently between the two of you? This might be a good time to explore your relationship expectations. What has changed over the years in your relationship? Where are your needs different, and how might they be met in this new phase?
Approach with compassion.
We need both compassion for our spouse and self-compassion. Neither of you will navigate this perfectly. Life will
throw a curveball or two. You may have fears of aging or physical disability. Remember that you are a team.
Our therapists are here to help you navigate life transitions and build strong relationships. We want to see you thrive in every stage. Connect with us here.