Now, finally, its your turn to relax and you can't wait to retire. You've saved some money, qualified for your Social Security benefits, and paid down your debts. You're ready to live the life you've always dreamed about.
However, have you taken the time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse to discuss exactly what you want to do after you stop working? What are your plans ... both for yourself as an individual and for the two of you as a couple? Are the two of you in agreement about how you will be filling your days after you stop working at your jobs? If you haven't talked about these things, you may be headed for conflict until you work out these issues.
Reducing Conflict After Retirement
I have known a number of women who dreaded the day their husbands retired. This does not mean that they don't love their husbands. It is just that they have enjoyed having time each day to themselves, to use as they like. While their husbands may look forward to having more free time after retirement, some of them want to spend every available second with their wives. This means that the wives have to give up the free time they've grown accustomed to.
Examples of Retirement Issues that Can Arise
* When my father-in-law married a retired Unitarian minister late in life, he looked forward to traveling. He was thrilled that she was leaving her very time-consuming career and he expected that this gentle woman would want to travel all over the world with him. Unfortunately, she had looked forward to leaving the ministry so that she could write the religious books that had been on her mind for years. In addition, her former congregation still loved her, and frequently invited her back to be a guest minister. Although my in-laws did travel occasionally, my father-in-law had not expected to have such a busy wife in retirement, and it did cause some conflict between them.
* I have seen similar situations arise when one person wants to start a second career as a writer, artist, or shop owner while the other person wishes their spouse would play golf, go out to movies and dinner, and give them their undivided attention. The first spouse feels that they have obligations to the new career they always wanted to pursue, and their partner sometimes feels left out and a bit jealous. This can also be an issue when one person decides not to retire at all, but continues working, even when their spouse wants them to spend more time at home. I have a friend whose 70+ year old husband is a doctor. He claims he never plans to retire, while she would like him to quit his job, or at least cut back his hours.
* I have also noticed that there can be some irritation on the part of a person who wants their spouse to be around more, when that spouse continues to take on new responsibilities, such as volunteering at the local art museum or hospital, or caring for an ill parent or other relative.
* Sometimes one person can be overwhelmed by all the togetherness that retirement can bring. When I was a Realtor, our sweet, part-time receptionist was a woman in her 60's. This was her very first job in her entire life! She had gotten the job when her husband retired. She explained that she just felt she needed some time out of the house every day.
Working Out a Congenial Retirement
While conflicts cannot be completely avoided with couples, there are some steps you can take to minimize them:
* If possible, talk about your vision for retirement before the day comes. Each of you needs to tell your partner what your goals and dreams are for retirement and how you see your partner fitting into your vision. The two of you may have lived together for decades, so by this time you should be able to discuss how to make things work for both of you.
* Both of you need to be realistic. After you have done some traveling and finished a few projects around the house that you may have been postponing, you need to decide how you are going to fill up your days for the rest of your life. Without a job, you need to find your own ways to stay busy or you will become bored and expect your spouse to fill your days for you.
* Plan ahead. You could live another 20 or 30 years after retirement. What do you plan to do with that time? Do you have goals you would like to achieve? What are the things you would really enjoy doing? Do you want to take classes, learn to sail, play bridge, write a novel, take up painting or sculpture? These things won't happen unless you become proactive. Make a plan and set up a schedule to make these things happen. Be open to new things. Join a theater group, sing in a choir, experiment with something that seemed crazy during your working years.
* Be thoughtful of your spouse's needs and goals. Talk about what things you will do together and what things you will do separately. Each of you should feel free to enjoy your personal time to the fullest, without guilt. At the same time, agree not to interrupt your spouse's pursuit of their goals during their personal time. Treat each other as if you both have jobs. When you do this, you will both enjoy the time you have scheduled to spend with each other even more.
* Plan date nights, including certain afternoons and evenings that are just for the two of you. Plan for trips together. Just as when you were working, you both need to schedule time to spend together, as well as the time you spend separately.
* Finally, take responsibility for entertaining yourself, getting together with friends, taking classes, volunteering, or pursuing your own personal goals. You'll be happier when you are both busy and engaged in fun activities.
When couples take this approach, they are much more likely to have a rewarding retirement that they can both enjoy.
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