Successful Marriage During Retirement

Written by Jane Brooks

Retirement can test even the most solid relationship. Learn how one couple made the adjustment and came out with a stronger marriage than ever before.

People spend their lives dreaming about retirement yet fail to consider the emotional impact of this major change. Because today's retirees are healthy, active and extremely motivated, many decide to ditch traditional retirement and opt instead for part-time work or even starting a new business. Others favor directing their energy toward outside interests and spending more time with loved ones.

To Avoid Relationship Problems in Retirement:
Be sure to discuss how you want to spend money before you retire.
Give each other enough time to pursue individual interests but share at least one activity.
Talk about your needs: How much time do you want to spend together? How much time do you need to yourself?
If you're don't have children together, you may want to make separate visits to your own children. Discuss this with your partner.

How couples fare during the transformation depends, in part, upon how well they have negotiated throughout their relationship and upon expectations.

One way to minimize problems is to communicate about goals and expectations before retirement. Maxine Rosenthal, a jeweler, recalls that on their first date, future husband Jay, then 22, stated his goal of acquiring enough wealth to retire early and have time to do what really mattered to him. So it came as no surprise when Jay, an executive compensation consultant with DuPont, retired at 49. Maxine retired several years later at 51.

The Rosenthals are typical of their peers, who view retirement as a new beginning. But even so, there were adjustments.

"I was worried that Jay wouldn't like retirement," recalls Maxine, "but within a couple of months, he had created his own busy life. The problems started when I retired. He always wanted to spend more time as a couple and thought it was finally going to happen, but I wanted more time to myself."

Hardly a sloth, Jay was involved with a local theater troupe, was biking a couple hundred miles a week, running a side business as a rock-and-roll deejay, and developing a web-design business. But he held on to a longstanding vision of spending more time with his wife, who had always been much more independent.

After Maxine retired, she enrolled in university health-policy courses and threw herself into her jewelry business.

In time, Jay had to accept that his fantasy wife wasn't going to materialize. He laughs about another fantasy he had to give up, "Sometimes she falls into bed and is asleep before I can say goodnight."

Having successfully agreed on how they spend their time together and apart, this is one couple that has managed also to successfully negotiate what some call the "new retirement."

As Jay says, "We're both doing what we love. Our marriage is even stronger now. Retirement has met all my expectations. What did I ever do before it?"

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