Many couples I know are retired and, as an observer of relationships, I am interested to see how they navigate through this new chapter of their lives. Some couples do it really well and others seem to hate each other. Many of the latter, believe it or not, end up in my office negotiating the terms of a divorce. In fact, last year I was motivated to do some research on the phenomenon of the grey divorce (“grey” as in grey hair), and I wrote a blog addressing the many issues that can bring about the end of a lengthy marriage.
Obviously, for most couples, there are better solutions to retirement conflicts than divorce. To begin with, I think it’s important to understand the scenario. If you recently retired as the CEO of a major organization, you’re likely accustomed to being the main decision maker. If you’re retiring from 35 years of selling life insurance, you might want to avoid having to make another major decision for the rest of your life. And, if you’re leaving a lengthy yet fulfilling career as a teacher, you might revel in silence. These are all important factors to consider. As is the timing of your retirement in relation to your personal situation. Are you the first or second to retire? If you’re the first, you have an opportunity to create a new environment. If you’re the second, you run the risk of intruding on the new environment your partner has already created. Also, think about this: there probably hasn’t been a gradual shift in your situation. One week, you’re working 40+ hours at your job, and the next week, zero, zip, nada. Lots of potential for drama and conflict that I’m sure you will want to avoid.
In a word, you’ll need balance.
Attaining balance is a goal that’s both healthy and doable. With that in mind, it might be time to institute a few new ground rules or, as I like to call it, an amendment to your partnership agreement.
- Try to arrange your time so that you’re spending some if it together and some of it apart.
- If feasible, have some separate space at home — maybe your office, or your reading room, or your craft room.
- And while you’re at it, make sure you have some separate interests, and some separate friends.
- Balance out your separate space, interest, and friends with at least one new thing to enjoy together.
- Choose something you’ve never had the time to do in the past., making sure you are equally enthusiastic about your choice.
- Set a goal to give each other your undivided attention during, at the very least, one meal each day.
Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to wait until retirement to seek balance in your relationship. These ground rules can apply to newlyweds, parents of school-aged children, and empty-nesters too.