With nearly half of all couples in the US bringing in dual incomes these days, it’s becoming increasingly common for one spouse to retire before the other—particularly when there is an age difference between partners.
From a financial point of view, retiring at different times makes a lot of sense. If you or your spouse continues working for a time after the other retires, you’ll have a chance to save up extra income and may be entitled to a greater social security amount. You may also be able to keep you or your spouse’s employer health insurance for both of you if one of you continues to work, which may spare you from having to pay for expensive individual premiums.
But while retiring at separate times may make financial sense, from an emotional point of view, it can cause some challenges. You and your spouse will have to adopt new roles and adjust to sometimes being in different realities. With one partner working and the other retired, you may develop different schedules and lifestyles. Both of you may have to take on new responsibilities and household duties, and you may quickly discover that your interests and priorities have become different from your partner’s.
For men, it’s not uncommon to experience depression and anxiousness if they retire before their wives as they attempt to adapt to life at home. Women, on the other hand, may feel limited in their spending and lifestyle options when their spouse becomes their household’s only breadwinner. Oftentimes, one partner may feel resentful of the other, as one rushes off to work and the other enjoys an extra hour or two of sleep.
So how can you keep your marriage happy, healthy, and strong when one partner retires while the other continues to work? Below, I’ve listed some strategies that may help you handle the emotions and conflicts that can challenge your relationship during this time.
Work together to create a shared vision of your dream retirement. Regardless of who is retiring first, you and your partner should discuss your ideas of an ideal retirement together. Talk about how you would like to spend your time, what new hobbies you’d like to explore, and what you hope to accomplish. You should also discuss what you want to avoid, and what habits you don’t want to succumb to.
You may learn your vision for retirement isn’t identical to your spouse’s. For instance, you may be interested in traveling and volunteering, while your partner may dream of relaxing at home. Work together to try and come up with a plan that satisfies both of your desires to avoid conflict in the future when the other spouse retires.
Set a bedtime. With new, drastically different schedules, couples often find that they see less of each other after one partner retires. By committing to always go to bed at the same time, you give you and your spouse a time to reconnect, share insight into your lives, and maintain intimacy. This can also help to avoid having your sleep disturbed when one partner goes to bed much later than the other.
Talk about new roles and expectations. When one partner retires, routines and duties may change dramatically. You may expect your partner to take care of the household chores now that he or she is retired, but your partner may not be used to this responsibility. Rather than letting resentment build, it’s important for couples to discuss their new roles and expectations for each other. For instance, your retired partner may want to take on more responsibilities at home, or take charge of planning weekend activities and socializing.
Stay active. If you are the spouse who has retired first, it’s a good idea to keep active rather than succumbing to the temptation of sleeping and watching TV all day. Having a lazy morning is wonderful every now and again, but you will be happier, healthier, and mentally sharper if you maintain an active lifestyle throughout retirement overall. Consider volunteering, taking a class, or adopting a new hobby. By keeping up activities that you enjoy, you’ll not only be a fuller person, you’ll have interests and experiences to share with your spouse when spend time together.
Even the strongest couples may struggle with the challenges of retiring at different times. If you and your partner are involved in or considering separate retirements, it’s a good idea to consult with a Houston marriage therapist. A marriage therapist may be able to serve as an impartial guide through the adjustment process, and pose solutions to problems and conflicts that arise.
You may also want to consider attending an Imago Couples Workshop in Houston or Galveston. This weekend-long workshop is the equivalent to six months of counseling from a qualified therapist, and is the best way to determine whether your marriage will benefit from Houston relationship counseling.