Marriage and Retirement – Do they mix?

Jul 5


Bruce Macdonald

Bruce Macdonald

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Have you thought what retirement will do to your marriage? If one is still working while the other is retired, how will that work? If both are retired, will you get on each others nerves?


Think about retirement in marriage – two people who are together and independent will change to two having one life together. Studies have shown that only a small proportion of marriages go sour in retirement.  Yet many will undergo stresses as one or both partners retire.

“The transition to retirement is particularly stressful,Marriage and Retirement – Do they mix? Articles especially when one spouse retires before the other. During this time, couples fight much more and are significantly less satisfied with their marriages. Once both spouses are settled into retirement from their careers, however, marital satisfaction rebounds and couples report the highest level of martial satisfaction with the least conflict, compared with their peers.” Cornell Wellness and Well-Being Study

Consider that when working there is a balance between independence and dependence.  In retirement this balance is shifted.  When working each has their own routine that doesn’t involve their partner.  In retirement, the two are together disrupting that pattern. How will you deal with this shift?

Retirement does have some pitfalls for couples. Yet it does offer opportunities.  Couples can find ways to make their togetherness exceptionally rewarding. You may even find a new and deeper intimacy!

Some keys to a successful retirement marriage are: honesty, empathy and anticipating the changes that will happen in the household routine. This means couples need to start planning well before each partner retires to minimize the conflicts that may arise.

What habits do each of you have that is going to be difficult to change?  How will you address large and small matters?  How will each accommodate their partner for the sake of the relationship?

In early planning partner’s can figure out critical issues. For example, where you will live, how you’re going to spend vacation or who is going to decide what you can or can’t afford?  All this will take tact, openness, sensitivity and, at times, negotiation.

The key is planning ahead of time so each knows the game plan and what to expect.  Otherwise, you’ll be putting undue stress on your relationship - one that can be avoided.

Some critical points that partner’s need to learn is to talk openly and frankly about sensitive issues. Now is not the time to be quiet and laid back! What will the emotional impact be if the husband retires while the wife continues to work? Or visa versa? What will be the changes in expectations when one retires? How will the household routine change?

How successful you traverse this transition depends on how well each communicates their needs and express their ideas, how well you listen to each other and how well you both manage the conflicts that will arise. It is going to be a time of flexibility and openness to growth.

When you individually plan for retirement you develop your vision of retirement, to identify your needs and wants. Bring your plans to the table. Then plan your retirement as a couple putting these individual issues out in the open.

You then can figure out how your separate plans will integrate into your marriage retirement plan. And yes, you should have a retirement plan for yourself AND as a couple!

Just realize, your marriage retirement plan requires recognizing your spouse’s point of view, feelings and needs.  After all it is a two-way street.

Retirement is the end of one phase of life and the commencement of a new adventure. It necessitates early planning – individually and as a couple.  Couples, who have built a strong relationship, have planned early and who see themselves as a team, have an excellent chance of making retirement the best years of their lives!