Retirement and your relationship
Retirement often comes as a shock to the system. There is a thorough lifestyle adjustment. Where you once had the routine of going to work, that's now been replaced by having all the time in the world. Everything changes.
One of the main casualties of that sea-change in the way you live your life is the relationship with your spouse or partner, warns the marriage guidance charity Relate.
The warning is underscored by official statistics. Although the years 2005 to 2015 saw a significant 28% decline in the number of all divorces in England and Wales, among the over-65s the trend was quite the opposite. The number of women divorcing their husbands increased by 38% and the number of men divorcing their wives went up by 23%, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Although the statistics reflect the increased size of the population aged 65 and over, it may be time to consider how retirement might affect the most important relationship in your life – and how you might safeguard it.
A story in the Express newspaper on the 10th of August suggested that, over time, spouses and partners tend to take their relationship for granted. They have settled into routines of a life together, and little realise that anything is likely to change.
Come retirement, however, and the pair are likely to be thrown together, with much more time in one another’s company once again – as it probably was in the early days of courtship.
After the passage of so many years of the same routines, spending more time with each other may be daunting and a step into the unknown. Added to which is the whole uncertainty of a chapter in life that is branded “retirement”.
The discomfort and disconnection may be exacerbated if one partner retires before the other – for one, the familiar routines of work continue, but the other is left to explore the new world of retirement on his or her own.
Retirement is likely to call for reconnecting with your partner. That means talking and communicating with one another about adapting to the new environment and opportunities that retirement will bring. Indeed, they are conversations that you might want to start well before either one of you actually retires.
In retirement, you are effectively redefining yourselves as a couple. In most cases, that involves striking a mutually acceptable balance between those activities you plan together and those you intend to pursue separately – a balance between independence and your new role as a couple.
One of the more difficult subjects you may need to discuss openly and honestly is the question of sex.
Sex is important to any individual’s wellbeing, suggests the charity Age UK. The need for a healthy sex life is no different from when you were young, although adjustments may need to be made because of the ageing process.
If your sex life has become just another in that series of routines you slipped into before retirement, now might be the time to re-establish your confidence in the bedroom.
When you skip those important – albeit challenging – conversations, there is a risk that one or other of you might be tempted to look elsewhere for the attention and physical comfort you crave.
A therapist interviewed by the Express newspaper recently commented on the number of affairs that seem to occur some 18 months or so into retirement when one or other feels that sex can only be found outside the long-term relationship. And that rarely ends well.
The data and information cited in this article are accurate at the time of writing.