I do dinner; I don’t do lunch!

by | Sep 8, 2015 | Blog, Mental Health, Self Help Activities, Self-Awareness

Retirement: time to relax, rest, pursue new hobbies, travel and potentially, argue! Argue? Perhaps, arguing during retirement seems far-fetched to you? However, married couples have different expectations as they face retirement which can lead to tension. Many things change; identities are shifted; work life is lost, and social life is reevaluated. It’s important for couples to have many conversations about expectations as they enter retirement and continue their conversations in this season.
I was waiting in line at the post office, and felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around suddenly and was face to face with a short gray haired gentleman. In a whispering voice, as if he didn’t want anyone to hear him, he said, “Excuse me miss, but are you a business woman?”I leaned in close to hear him and answered tentatively, “Yes, I am.”

Hesitantly he asked, “May I ask if you own your business?” Quickly, he added, “Oh, I’m not a pervert or trying to annoy you. I’m just curious.”

With a surprised tone, I replied, “Yes, I do own my own business.” As I answered him, I wondered why he was asking me these questions? However, I was curious and the line was moving slowly, so I didn’t feel rushed to shorten our conversation.

“I’m a retired computer specialist, and I really need to find a part time job or my wife will kill me! I’m really getting on her nerves!”

He was very serious and to be honest, I felt sorry for him. I responded kindly to him, “I can imagine how being home all day while your wife is also retired must be a major adjustment for you both. I heard a retired woman tell her husband, ‘I do dinner; I don’t do lunch!’”

He looked at me with relief and sighed, “I’m so glad you understand.”

Unfortunately, this man’s story is not unusual. Retirement can be a wonderful season in life for many couples. However, it can also be a very difficult season for many couples too. Throughout adulthood, we are urged and encouraged to save and financially prepare for our retirement. A lot of thought is given to 401Ks and IRA’s, however, how much have we prepared our marriage for this new season of life? If you are struggling in your marriage during this season of life, be encouraged; this is normal!

Expectations play a key role in happiness and satisfaction in retirement. There was an interesting article on Forbes about retirees and expectations: “Expectations about retirement are generally off,” says Rob Pascale, PhD, a retired pollster and author of The Retirement Maze.  “When we talked to people near retirement but still working, 75% believed that their quality of life in retirement would improve, but only 40% of retirees found that it actually did.” (ForbesRobert Laura)

When what we expect and what is reality don’t line up, we generally end up unhappy. Retirement is loaded with expectations, dreams, and desires. If these are not met or are unrealistic, disappointment, frustration and marital tension are bound to happen.

It is common for women to feel worried about their husband’s retirement. They often worry what they are going to do with their husband home all the time?! Will he be bored and depend on me for entertainment? Will he invade “my time” and keep me from my living life as I know it?  Will he be happy?

Retirement can often affect men in a different way. For decades, their job has given them a sense of purpose. They would get up in the morning and have a place to go, a role to fill, things to get done. Retirement brings this sense of purpose to a screeching halt! It is common for the husband to feel sad and to grieve his old working life.

It’s clear; retirement is a new stage of life that takes some getting used to. So how do you, as a couple, handle this new stage? How do you thrive in retirement?

  • Give yourself and your spouse time to adjust to this new stage of life. Allow each other the emotional space to navigate this new season of life.
  • Discuss frequently and openly how you each would like to spend your time, time as an individual and time as a couple.
  • Discuss household responsibilities. Remember when you first got married and there may have been tension as to who does what? Well, it’s that time again to rehash expectations now that both are home. 
  • Stay active physically and mentally. Join a gym. Take classes with other retirees. Join a book club. Get out there and do something physically and mentally stimulating!
  • Retirement is a lifestyle, not a quick vacation. You don’t need to travel and do everything you want in the first year. Discuss your retirement long term goals, social goals, financial goals, travel goals, and other hopes and dreams. 

Retirement is a new stage and each new stage takes time to get used to and navigate. Be patient with each other. Communicate often and openly. Love each other well in this exciting, yet challenging time of life.

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