Retirement and the relationship with your Spouse

Retirement is a major change that each one of us have to face towards the end of our working life and as we adjust our lives to handling our time without the daily pressures of work, we have the to face the additional pressure of adjusting our lives to spending 24 hours with our spouse.

From meeting one another in the morning and evening, talking about children and one’s work pressures, you are suddenly faced with a lot of time and not much to talk about relating to your work.

These two adjustments can result in substantial stress.

In continuation to part 1 of this article, I have made some observations to keep marital accord in the home between the two of you, from my own life and that of my friends:

  1. Build personal space at home — It is always good to earmark small areas in your home that “belong” to each of you. This could be a chair where you sit to read your newspaper or a table where you play cards with your friends or a writing desk, which you call your own. Within your home, you should have the ability to “retreat” to your space when you wish to have your own space.
  2. Keep some “alone” or “personal” time — It is very important to be alone sometimes so as to be able to give yourself space, allow you to introspect and think. You can also use this time to appreciate all that your spouse does for you. Couples should have separate computers and separate televisions in separate rooms. This will automatically enable you to some spend time alone. You need to strike a balance between togetherness and staying apart. Doing everything together and being together all the time may work for some couples but generally, some mutual breathing space always adds value to a relationship particularly post retirement.
  3. Respect your partner’s needs — If your partner likes to sleep late and you are an early riser, start to keep what you need in the morning in another room and tip toe out of your bedroom without disturbing your partner’s sleep. You will earn a lot of brownie points for this from your partner!
  4. Dress up every morning — It is particularly important for men to ensure that they dress up every morning like they used to when they were working rather than laze around almost upto lunch in their night clothes. Upsetting the routine at home because you have retired is a guaranteed cause for increasing stress with your spouse. Besides, this routine will also help you to think of doing something more meaningful during the day!
  5. Designate tasks that you will do — This is more relevant for the men who may not normally have done too much work at home. It would help them to get a routine like making morning tea or running the washing machine or taking the dog out for a walk or anything that both of you agree with one another. I have also found a lot of retired men take on outdoor responsibilities such as buying provisions and vegetables — something that they had never done earlier. Some actually look forward to this activity because it gives them a chance to get out and meet people.
  6. Start using separate toilets — Anything can become an irritant at home after a long marriage and toilet usage is as good a reason as any for stress at home. From a simple matter of not putting the towel out in the sun after your shower to not cleaning the washroom sink after your morning ablutions — everything can become an issue among a couple who are struggling to rediscover one another after three decades of marriage! If you have two toilets at home earmark one for yourself and the other for your partner.
  7. Pursue separate interests — if both of you have all the same set of interests, life could become very boring and you don’t want that. There will be nothing to talk about at home. If one person plays golf and the other plays bridge, encourage this. Conversation about your separate interests over a cup of tea or at the dining table will gradually evolve into more meaningful conversations that bind the two of you.
  8. Maintain a few separate friendships — While there will always be a strong bond between both of you and most of your socializing will be together, it is wise for both of you to have some friends who are separate for your own personal growth and to help in maintaining your identity. Men will face a bigger challenge because they have generally had short term work related relationships through their working lives. It is no surprise that a lot of men reach out and discover their school and college mates post retirement.
  9. Arguments — There are bound to be disagreements in your marriage as you adjust with one another for a much longer period of time every day. You also do not have the luxury of going away to your office or travelling on a business trip waiting for both of you to “cool” down. Having spent so much time together, you should be able to gauge the other person’s moods as well as understand the “hot” buttons that provoke your partner. Steer away from such discussions and if you are confronted with such a scenario, take the lead and walk away. It is better to agree to disagree rather than clash with one another and make both miserable for a few days!

Someone commented about how they have managed to keep sanity in their marriage post retirement:

“I have been happily married for 33 years. My secret? Two towels. My wife likes having two fresh towels for her shower in the morning. Every night the last thing I do before I go to bed is get two fresh towels and put them in the bathroom. That way she knows the last thing I’m thinking of before I go to sleep is her.”

But probably the best advice I can give women is to relax and enjoy having him at home. Be glad for him that he doesn’t have to get up every morning and head out to work anymore. He can reap the rewards of a life spent working and providing for his family. Make light of the annoyances and distractions, find amusement in them. Plan things that you can do together, or encourage him to create a hobby. Remember, he is not used to free time and he may appreciate your suggestions. Retirement can be a bumpy road at first, but after a year or so, a routine will develop.

You have had a strong marriage. You are both independent people. Compromise and accept in your marriage now more than ever because you do not want to live “unhappily ever after” for the rest of your lives.

Several retired couples learn to create, for the first time, a lifestyle that they both enjoy and that meets the emotional needs of both of them. They learn to eliminate personal habits that had made their relationship miserable for decades. After they learn to avoid hurting each other, and learn to meet each other’s emotional needs, they no longer dread being with one other day in and day out for the rest of their lives.

Look at the remaining years and make adjustments to live happily.


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here — Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here — My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

Twitter: @gargashutosh

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Storyteller | Business Coach | Author | Shopkeeper | Manager | Founder TBCY Digital; eQ Coaching; Guardian Pharmacy | |

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