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Managing Expectations In Your Relationship In Retirement

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 8 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Retirement Seniors Relationships

For many married couples and for those who are living together in retirement, the increased leisure time and more time to spend together in general – going on more holidays, for example – means that relationships grow even stronger. However, life isn’t like that for everybody and both effort and adjustments need to be made.

As you get older, companionship and support becomes even more important, especially if a spouse becomes frail , gets ill or suffers with problems with their mobility when somebody to lean on can provide so much support and can be vital.

Health

There’s no getting away from the fact that as seniors in retirement, no matter how fit you are and how much you’ve looked after yourself, at some stage you’re likely to begin to encounter more health problems. This can have many major implications for your relationship. It can be particularly difficult when one spouse encounters major health issues whilst the other one remains fit and healthy as they’re the one who’s likely to have to bear the brunt of the added responsibility. This might include caregiving which can place great demands on elderly people. It’s important to try to be as sympathetic to the needs of your spouse who’s in need of help at this time and to try not to be worn down by the extra physical demands you’re likely to be faced with. If you’re faced with becoming physically and emotionally worn out as a result of this situation occurring, it’s important to seek help and advice. Firstly, you should turn to your family and friends for support, which is going to be vital, especially if it comes to adjusting to life if a spouse needs to go into a care home.

Grown up children (if they live reasonably close by) can help to relieve some of the burden and, if that’s not practical, you should contact social services for help. For the caregiver, in particular, it’s important to consider that the roles could just as likely have been reversed. Given that thought, it often helps to cope better emotionally. Nevertheless, it’s also necessary to have some free time away from your care giving too.

Maintain Your Own Identity

Before you reach retirement age, perhaps you and your spouse were both busy working and had children to bring up that you sometimes felt as though you were looking forward to retirement because you hardly had time to spend with each other. Therefore, the increase in the amount of time you would be able to spend together would strengthen the bond between you as a result. And, whilst there is no doubt that with the right financial planning, retirement can offer you more opportunity to spend more time together pursuing shared leisure activities and taking more holidays together, the reality can soon turn into something very different after the initial ‘honeymoon period’ of retirement has passed. Couples can often find the constant presence of being in each other’s company - or ‘under each other’s feet’, as some may refer to it – quite frustrating. And, unless something changes one or both spouses may become very resentful.

Therefore, it’s important that whilst you do take the opportunity to enjoy more fun activities together, you also allow for time and space for yourself. Make sure that in retirement, you keep in contact and make time for relationships with friends as individuals as well as keeping up with individual hobbies and pastimes. That way, the time you do spend together should be ‘quality time’.

Set Out Individual Responsibilities

One of the ways in which spouses can support each other is to draw up a plan of household responsibilities. These are not going to disappear because you have retired. The gardening, washing up, cleaning and general maintenance will all still have to be done. It may be the case that one of you took on more of these responsibilities than the other because of previous work commitments. However, in retirement and as seniors, you might need to draw up another plan so that domestic and household duties are distributed more fairly.

If you think back to when you were in your 20s, your relationship with your spouse is likely to have been very different than when you reached retirement age. Therefore, as you continue to evolve, your relationship will go through even more transformations as you get older. There may be issues surrounding sex (which is dealt with in another article contained on this website) and you’re likely to encounter many adjustments. These could be to do with your health and also your financial situation.

The key is to work together in order to overcome any obstacles you may encounter and to be loving and supportive to each other and understanding of each other’s needs. Relationship counsellors and marriage guidance should be your last resort but they are useful services to call upon if you’re not able to resolve your differences.

Retirement can be a pleasurable time for relationships and can deepen the bond between seniors. Think about things like travelling and exploring, grandparenting fun, increased leisure time and pursuing new interests and hobbies. Nevertheless, it still has to be worked at and you also need to be prepared to make adjustments where necessary.

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