If you are married or in a relationship when you retire, you will soon be spending a lot of time together. While employed, you each had separate activities during the day that kept you busy and engaged. You probably came together in the evenings to catch up and share what was new. The only extended period likely spent together was the weekend or maybe when you were on vacation. In retirement, get ready to be together all the time, 24/7 for the next 20 or more years.
The prospect of so much "quality time" can be promising, highly-anticipated and perhaps a bit scary. We all know that a good relationship can contribute to happiness, maybe even more so in retirement when you are together so much. A little attention to detail along with a bit of sensitivity can help a couple take advantage of the free time they worked so hard to achieve. Here are some tips to maintain your relationship with your spouse as you transition into retirement:
Keep it interesting. Sometimes it becomes easy to settle and just take things as they are. After all, we are getting older. But just because we are a bit gray around the temples does not mean we cannot try new things, experiment and be adventurous. It is easy to fall into a routine if we do not make an effort. A little unpredictability, such as a spur-of-the-moment trip, an unexpected afternoon adventure or flowers for no reason at all, can keep a couple more engaged in their life together. No one wants to be bored, so don't be afraid to stir things up.
Give each other some space. It goes without saying you share common interests. If you did not, you would probably not be a couple. In addition to doing things together, having separate interests can help keep a relationship fresh. Since not everything we do is of utmost interest to our spouse, a little alone time allows each person to explore individual pursuits. It is healthier to have a mix of together and alone time instead of spending every minute at each other's side. Rather than begrudge private time, try to be supportive and take advantage yourself.
Do your fair share. Sometimes one partner is at home either managing the household or working from the home. Often the burden of cleaning and maintaining the home front falls squarely on their shoulders. When the other partner retires, it is time to divvy up chores and responsibilities to share the burden. Just because one of you is good at vacuuming does not make it your lifelong responsibility. If you each do your part you can look forward to more free time to enjoy.
Tread lightly when it comes to making "suggestions" to improve what has been working fine for years. Just because you were a successful manager on the job does not necessarily make you an expert at running the home. If it has worked up to this point, it will likely continue to do so without your guidance.
Don't sweat the little things. Over the years, you have likely come to the realization that neither of you will ever be perfect. That's OK. Perfect can be boring. The ability to overlook little annoyances is important in a relationship, and even more so when you will be together 24/7. It helps to accept we are all creatures of habit. At age 65 and beyond, serious modifications to our behavior are not likely. How important is it that he leaves the lid off the toothpaste or that she forgets to hang up the wet dish towel? Little things can be annoying, but try to remember that in the overall scheme of things they are just little things.
Be compassionate. After years spent together, we know a lot about our spouse. We pick up on subtle hints unnoticed by others. We detect behavior that is out of the norm and expertly decipher the cause. With all of our skills of observation and the intimate perspective we have, no one is better equipped to be sensitive, accepting and patient. Having an understanding compatriot at one's side to navigate retirement adds to the quality of the experience.
Stick together. Just because you are retired does not mean you will be free of life's continuing challenges. The kids will have issues, neighbors can be less than wonderful, money problems can arise and health issues can cause turmoil. But if we maintain a united front, sticking together as we have learned to do over the years, we have a better chance to weather what the world has to throw our way. We can draw strength and support from one another. Together, we are better equipped to face and appreciate life in retirement.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.
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