As with any significant change or transition, retirement can have a big impact on your relationship.

For some couples it will be an event that has been yearned for and dreamed about, while for others it may be their biggest test to date

Retirement can be a time of relaxation, an opportunity to travel or the chance to pursue interests and hobbies. It can bring with it the prospect of spending more time as a couple and the ability to do things together that may not have been possible previously. But spending more time together doesn’t necessarily come easily. The prospect of having lots of time together, possibly after years of struggling to fit it in, can be daunting. Re-learning how to share our thoughts and feelings with each other, as we may have done in the early days of our relationship, can bring with it its own unique pressures. Each of us changes and grows over our lifetime, and the thought of having to get to know each other again can be an exciting, but overwhelming one. Retirement brings with it the chance to review our relationship, something which will be welcomed by some couples, but anticipated more anxiously by others.

For those who have worked hard for many years, retirement can easily be something that we romanticise and count down the days towards. Solid planning and decisions that are made jointly are key for this next season of life. Not all couples will retire at the same time. A gap in age may mean that one partner retires before the other, or financial considerations may mean that one or both partners need to work longer than originally planned. Loss of routine can be difficult to adjust to, as can leaving behind a job role that may have brought with it a sense of purpose and belonging. A change in income and status can also bring challenges to contend with. For those couples where one partner has stayed at home or where one partner has retired before the other, the change in dynamic can be something to contend with and to overcome, together. Being aware of all these potential factors can mean we’re more prepared for them if they arise.

Each couple’s experience of retirement will be different. For some, it may be everything that they’d dreamed of, whereas others may find it difficult to adjust to the change in daily life. For some couples who’ve been looking forward to this time of life, retirement may not initially live up to their expectations. This can cause confusion and disappointment and make us question the future. Dreaming together is an important part of planning for retirement, as is being realistic with the goals and expectations that we set. Transitions take time and any new life stage has a settling-in period – a time of getting used to the new situation we find ourselves in. As we transition into this new season, showing each other love and being patient and kind with ourselves and each other is so valuable.

The ageing process is something that none of us can either stop nor control, and physical changes and health issues (some of which may be anticipated and some not) can have an impact on many aspects of a couple’s relationship. Sex may look different in this season of life too. For those where fitting sex in around work or family life has been a struggle, retirement brings with it the opportunity to invest more time in our intimacy as a couple. For others, sex may be the elephant in the room that can be hard to acknowledge and discuss. As awkward as conversations about sex can be, putting time aside and opening up the doors of communication can be incredibly helpful and fulfilling.

Here are some tips and ideas that may support you in your transition into retirement and beyond:

  1. Recognise that retirement is a big transition. Be patient with yourself and each other as you navigate this new season together.
  2. Spend time planning your future. Put time aside to dream together and realistically discuss what this next season of life could look like for you as a couple.
  3. Recognise what you enjoy doing together. Finding activities that bring you both pleasure will be important during this season. Why not also think about new activities to try together or with others?
  4. If possible, create space at home for each of you to be able to pursue your own interests. We all need time alone and having space to do the things that we love is important.
  5. Discuss what your roles and responsibilities will look like in this next phase of life. Remember that these may look different to how they were before.
  6. Be honest about how you’re feeling. Share honestly with your partner about how you’re finding this season that you’re in as a couple, and how you can support each other.
  7. Show kindness to each other. Know that this period of life can be a challenging one and take opportunities to be kind to one another.

Adjusting to retirement can be different from what we originally envisaged. It may be better or more challenging than anticipated. Retirement may or not may initially live up to what we had hoped for. But by being honest with each other, taking time to adjust and working together to redesign our life together, we can make the most of this time and thrive in this next season of life.

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