February 18, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT
Looking Forward To Retirement
How many people do you know who are counting down the months, weeks, or days until retirement? If you are anywhere close to middle-aged, you probably know at least one person talking about retirement, sleeping late, staying up late, watching television, reading great books, traveling... How many of those people do you hear talking about spending "quality time" or spending 24/7 with their spouse who has previously retired? Many people counting down to retirement think of having no alarm clock and no "written-in-stone" schedule, but they fail to consider one thing. Their spouse. Their spouse who retired earlier.
Most likely, for the bulk of these people's married lives, they were employed, had working relationships and friendships, and had other things going on during the day that kept them occupied. Add raising children to the mix of things, and for at least 18 years, give or take, there were children to come home to, cook dinner for, and shuttle to various activities and events. But now, it's you and your spouse. Wow! How different will that be?
Make retirement an adventure
As you retire, you need to realize that you will be spending the next decade or century with your spouse, 24/7, for the most part. Although the thought of having "quality time" with your spouse is appealing to most people, how much is enough (or too much)? In order to make your retirement as enjoyable as possible, while keeping the peace with your spouse, here are some things to consider in order to maintain a happy home.
- Keep trying new things - Don't reach your retirement date and then just stay home and sit on the couch all day, every day. Be adventurous and do new things. This can be something as simple as an unplanned outing or as big as a trip to another country.
- Plan for alone time - Both you and your spouse need some space. It's great to do things together, but everybody needs some "me" time as well – it is healthy. Don't try to spend 24/7 with your spouse, and don't have a fit when your spouse needs "me" time. Use it to your advantage as well.
- Share the chores - Doing things around the house can fall on the spouse that is home or is working from home. When you both are retired, divvy up chores in order to share the responsibility.
- Maintain what is normal - Don't suggest changing things that have been working fine. You may have been a boss at work, but you don't work anymore. Remember, it is an equal partnership at home.
- Laugh (often!) - Don't sweat the small stuff. The ability to laugh at or with your spouse, instead of being annoyed with your spouse, is a treasure. Lighten up! You're retired! Who cares if he always walks through the kitchen with his boots on or if she always has to put hand cream on before she leaves the house!
- Stay connected - Most likely, your kids, grandkids, other family members, friends, and neighbors will still have issues and will still be working through life's many roadblocks. As you get older, stress and turmoil over things you can't control can be bad for your health. Draw strength from each other and talk to each other when something is bothering you. Do not bottle up emotion.
It's true that retirement means many things, one of which is a different approach to your marriage. Both of you need to be ready and able to give and take. This means being aware of the impact transitioning into retirement can have on both of you. There are adjustments to be made, just as there are different choices to be made – together.
Prepare for what lies ahead
Here are some things that can happen after both spouses have retired and are now home alone, together.
- The spouse who retired most recently can become depressed due to the extremely new routine and lack of interaction with others.
- A spouse who was a boss can start giving orders to his spouse.
- Conflict about whether or not to stay where you live or move somewhere else may arise.
Being aware that changes are part of retirement can make all the difference, as can entering retirement armed with a little education and the right attitude. If you or your spouse are having a hard time adjusting now that both of you are retired, you may want to consider speaking with a counselor. At the Orange County Relationship Center, our staff of trained professionals are committed to helping you with real-life issues. Call us today at 949-220-3211 to schedule your appointment, or use our online tool to schedule at a time that is convenient for you.