Divorce rates for couples over 50 are rising. The culprit? Marriage and retirement. Retirement represents one of the biggest life changes since graduating college or having children. This complete rearrangement of your daily routine, social status, and perceived purpose in life has the potential to put untold stress on your marriage. Here are some tips for navigating the waters of marriage and retirement in a way that preserves your strength as a couple and steers you clear from the turbulence of divorce.
1. Marriage and Retirement Planning
One of the biggest problems starts with pre-retirement planning. As we prepare for retirement, we often make lots of mental plans about what and how to do it. When these develop in our minds and don’t share them with our spouses, we are setting our marriage and retirement up for miscommunication, disappointment and conflict.
“People can have different mindsets and priorities when they retire, which don’t always coincide with their spouses’,” notes Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, in a recent Forbes article. “It’s important for spouses to communicate how much time they want to spend together and apart.” How to communicate with your spouse.
And if your spouse has a very different view of how much time you want to spend together? “The key is not to [take it personally]!” she continues. “Just because someone doesn’t want to have lunch with you every single day doesn’t mean that they don’t love you to pieces.”
So talk early and talk often about your expectations and desires for life after retirement.
2. Know how retirement may affect you
Men are often hit harder by retirement than women. This is because men are socially conditioned to identify their self-worth with their careers, whereas women tend to assume and identify with many roles throughout their lifetimes. Therefor, the ending of the career phase is usually a tougher psychological blow to men. The differences between spouses in easing into retirement can lead to problems in marriage. Husbands may become resentful of their wives’ smooth adjustment to retired life, while he finds himself no longer the breadwinner and dominant spouse in the marriage. Of course, healthy marriages are built on a sense of equal power where neither spouse is “dominant.” This is just one of the issues to discuss while preparing for marriage and retirement.
3. Nurture your mental health
Because of these big changes, retired people – especially men – are prone to depression in marriage and
retirement. Keep your spirits up by staying active and connected to friends, taking on a new hobby or volunteer pursuit, and cultivating new social circles. Be open to individual counseling for stress, anxiety or depression (it helps if you both see the same therapist/psychiatrist even if you go separately). Or, try an easy online “health club for the mind” such as myStrength.com.
4. Work on your marriage before you retire
Retirement is often a shock to marriage because it strips away other distractions that may have been hiding marital problems. “Jobs can mask the quality of your relationship since you spend 10-12 hours away from each other, but now you’re faced with each other full-time and you may find your interests aren’t as compatible as they once were,” says Robert Pascale, PhD, a retired pollster and author of The Retirement Maze.
How can you avoid this pitfall? Don’t wait until retirement to work on your marriage. Make your relationship a lifelong priority, even over your career. After all, your career will one day end, but you want your marriage to last a lifetime. In fact, you want your marriage to be a solid support during this time of transition, not a casualty of it. Also, instead of leading to divorce, retirement may give you the time to reconnect with each other and rekindle your marriage.
Power of Two’s simple, online activities are a perfect lifelong companion to your marriage and retirement. You can use it any time, at your own pace, and always come back to work on specific chapters when you need a boost. Visit PowerofTwo.com for more info and a free 3-day trial.