How Retirement Affects Relationships ( & how to thrive
Professionals weigh-in with free advice on how to handle all that extra time you’ll be spending together during retirement.
Two days after retiring, Karen Nettler and her husband moved from Baltimore to Michigan to be closer to their daughter and her family.
“My husband didn’t want to move, but once the grandchildren were born, he changed his mind,” shares Nettler. Still, she acknowledges, being together full time has been an adjustment. Or, as the saying goes, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.”
What’s on your wish list for retirement? Tossing the alarm clock and sleeping in? Having more time for family, friends and hobbies? Taking a nap in the middle of the day?
Make a Relationship Plan
Whatever you have in mind, it’s not too soon to start planning ahead, especially since retirement doesn’t just affect you, but those around you as well.
“We’ve learned that it’s important for each of us to stay involved and connected with the things we’re interested in individually, so that we don’t become too dependent on each other,” tells Nettler.
“We work toward balancing the time we spend together and the time we spend apart,” Karen adds. “We’ll walk together, for example, but then I may go off to the movies alone. Finding separate space (like volunteering or exercising) is important.”
“Retirement can bring with it many different emotions,” notes Suzanne Wheeler, director and senior wealth advisor for the Overland Park, Kansas-based Mariner Wealth Advisors. “Often people fail at retirement — not financially, but emotionally.”
Wheeler observes that retirement is not only an adjustment for the new retiree, who may find him or herself struggling with feelings of self-worth, but an adjustment for spouses as well. “Communication about post-retirement identity, daily routines, and setting boundaries are keys to a successful retirement and continued marital bliss,” suggests Wheeler.
While you probably have a financial plan for your retirement, do you have a relationship plan? If not, you probably should, says Delaware-based Tom Goglia, a Certified Professional Retirement Coach.
“With today’s longer life expectancy, retirement is more likely to mean moving into a new phase of your life, perhaps even starting a new career, rather than simply not working anymore,” says Goglia. “What you’re going to do with that time and how it’s going to affect your relationships are important considerations.”
Ask Smart Questions
Goglia suggests some questions you could ask the significant others in your life before you set your retirement date:
- How do you envision this new stage of our life?
- How much time would you want to spend together?
- Will you feel neglected if I have activities that don’t include you?
- How will we handle our money?
- What is our purpose in life now that we’re not working (or perhaps starting a new career)?
Retirement can also affect your relationship with your offspring. Nettler says she was afraid she and her daughter would be overstepping their bounds with each other once they lived in the same town, but happily, that’s not the case. They enjoy their time together and are grateful to have each other nearby, but they are aware of the pitfalls that might arise should they start taking each other for granted or having expectations that the other can’t meet, such as being available 24/7 for babysitting, or being a replacement for friends left behind.
In and Out of Touch
Retirement can also affect your relationship with your friends. Pamela Worthington, a retired psychiatric nurse, says she feels a sense of loss regarding her former coworkers. “Our relationships at work were more organic,” she says. “There was always an opportunity for a quick conversation, even if only to say hi. Now I feel like I have to have a reason to call them.”
Worthington isn’t imagining that sense of loss, assures Goglia. “When you step away from your career, 50 percent of your relationships may go away,” he notes. “Your former life becomes distant and you may begin to feel irrelevant.”
While you may not see your friends at work anymore, you can maintain the relationships — or form new ones — by sharing other activities, such as playing golf or joining a book club. Nettler, for example, makes a point of regularly scheduling phone calls with friends back home and following them on social media, in addition to looking for new relationships through volunteering.
Even with a plan, retirement can be an adjustment, but it can also lead to a more relaxed life.
“Anytime you go through transition, there is stress,” says Goglia, who recommends a healthy diet, exercise, and a good night’s sleep to cope with that stress.
Nettler has taken that advice to heart.
“Retirement has relaxed me,” she says. “I don’t have a bad day anymore.”
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