Can Marriage Survive Retirement?

Retirement transition can be a challenge on a marriage as you begin spending even more time together and possibly working through individual changes. Suddenly you might be together almost 24/7. Often you have 2 people who have different ideas of what retirement is to them. Can a marriage survive this time of significant transition turmoil? I am no psychologist or counselor; I just know what has worked for us.

Understand how you each express love. (Love Languages) And if his/her way is different than your way, recognize the differences. Hubby and I have very different ways to express love and appreciation. He is about acts of service, while I am time spent. We have learned to “speak” each other’s language.

Appreciate what you fell in love with. I liked him the first time I met him.   OK, I tried to set him up with my best friend; they are both naturally athletic, and me … not at all. But that liking turned into love quickly and it was mutual. In retirement, I’ve looked at what we enjoyed doing together when we first met and tried to bring that, or something similar, back into our life.

Accept the quirks. Yes, we all have quirks. A number of years ago, it was pointed out to me to not allow the quirks to become irritations, but to continue to view them as endearing quirks. I’ve often said, “he’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me.”

Recognize and accept differences in retirement lifestyle.   Per Nancy Schlossberg (Revitalizing Retirement, 2012), my hubby’s approach to retirement is an “Easy Glider”. For him, retirement is a time to relax and take each day as it comes. The joy is having no agenda and no pressure and to make each day his own. He has no desire to set goals or have bucket lists. On the other hand, the planner and explorer in me makes me a “Searcher”. For me, it’s about looking for what’s next, finding my new niche (passion), and venturing into new paths (trying new things). I need to allow his retirement to be his and not mine. This is an ongoing challenge for me, and I am trying to not plan every new thing I want to explore with him as the companion.  I am also trying to be more spontaneous, less planned.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate.   Hubby does not read my blog, but he does review every draft post, so he understands what retirement transition means to me! But I need to remember that he can’t read my mind and I can’t read his either. I can share with him my fears, my challenges, and my desires. Although he does know me pretty well after all these years together, it’s important to remember that we still need to talk things out.

Transition to retirement has not been without some ups and downs in our marriage. Our retirement visions are different, but I continue to hope that they are complimentary. We choose to continue to love each other, being open in our communication, understanding what we like to share, and being appreciative of each other. I enjoy a full calendar of events that keep me as busy as I choose to be, while hubby focuses on enjoying being at home with his daily workouts and his screen time (he loves his movies, comics, and surfing the Internet). He rolls his eyes at my lists, and I tease him about his hoarding tendency. He agreed to downsize and keep a home base in Ohio, and I’m planning to snowbird this winter in Florida. I am truly grateful he is in my life and he remains my best friend.

If you’re married, how has retirement transition impacted your relationship?

Picture Credit: Pixabay

29 thoughts on “Can Marriage Survive Retirement?

  1. We struggled when my husband first retired. I think it was because I work remotely from home and he was always at home. He tends not to do things (other than grocery shopping) without me so it really felt as though I finished work and had to then become entertainment director for him when all I wanted to do was have some space and quiet. His issue was that he was adjusting to life without a defined purpose so the challenge was to find one – which he has in his volunteer work. I can now easily say that after just a few months he’s in the best head space he’s been in for many many years & the fittest he’s been for about 20 years. Sometimes I feel as though I have the man that I fell in love with 30 years ago back again.

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    1. Jo, that is so lovely to hear! So many folks do struggle in the beginning to find a new rhythm. We continue to work on ours as our daily life focus tends to be quite different…but we choose to stay together and work it out!

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  2. While I was preparing for my retirement, I came across horror story after horror story of marriages after retirement. I quickly had to quit reading/listening to these tales or I would never have retired!!
    You make excellent points in this post, Pat. Communication IS key. Recognizing and accepting differences in retirement transition is also essential. Both Richard and I transitioned into retirement very differently….and differently than either of us expected!

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    1. I’ve also heard and seen some of the horror stories. It hasn’t been all easy going for us, but we’re making it work. Mu hubby is more like you in shifting into retirement with ease…. I’m just a tad jealous of that!

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  3. I don’t think retirement has had a big impact on our relationship. We have very similar tastes and ideas about what we like and were looking forward to spending more time together. We both have our own interests that we pursue independently and some that we share, such as cooking. We haven’t been getting on each other’s nerves as far as I know. Ha ha. (Maybe I should ask my wife how she feels about that!)

    Retirement did not introduce any new problems for our relationship that I can identify, so that’s good.

    We are both mildly goal-oriented, so there’s no conflict there. I am more of a list maker, but I am not a fanatic about it and it doesn’t cause any issues.

    We continue to look forward to doing things together as we move deeper into retirement.

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    1. Bob, I chuckled at your aside to ask Jackie if you get on her nerves! It’s wonderful that you have found a good balance of he/she/we time. With all your different interests, this is amazing.

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  4. I’m not retired yet – but I don’t think we’ll have a transition issue. For the first ten years of our marriage, we worked at the same schools, the second ten years we both worked full-time outside the home, and now in this third phase I work from home and he works 12-hour shifts Friday-Monday. We’ve found a balance of togetherness and space in each phase. I hope our fourth is just one more experience. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

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  5. I was glad this topic was brought up in a Retirement Quest workshop I was able to attend shortly before retiring. Too much togetherness is definitely stressful for us. Fortunately I have my “she shed” and activities such that we actually only spend dinner together just like we did when we worked. Our need for separate space factored in when we selected a winter vacation rental. We are both “gliders” so thankfully expectations about retirement are similar.

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  6. I really enjoyed this post, Pat, and hope that it will help me as I approach retirement. If I can learn from you and all the other wonderful midlife bloggers in our community, maybe it will be a smoother transition for me. Your husband and mine appear to have much in common–the laid back schedule, screen time, and a tendency towards hoarding. 🙂 Someday we really must meet in person. In the meantime, thanks for the great advice. #MLSTL

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    1. Christie, It’s been a surprise to me how many folks appreciated this post. I was hesitant to post it. Perhaps because we don’t fit the ideal aligned-approach to retirement. But having done it, I’ve discovered more and more people like us! I am hoping to someday meet some of my blogging buddies… I’m going to have to start a list of where everyone lives for when I plan a cross country trip (it’s on my bucket list…will take some work for hubby to agree).

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  7. FABULOUS post, Pat!! My husband and I have talked in general about his eventual retirement (probably in 3-5 years) but not specifics. And quite frankly, this transition scares me a wee bit for the exact reasons you mention (he is definitely a “glider” whereas I have an endless list of tasks to complete and new skills to learn). I am learning to schedule “us” time and plan date nights so he feels loved … and he is learning to respect my need for privacy and not take it personally 🙂 I will pin to #msltl board for future reference!

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    1. Thanks Molly. This post was written for awhile and not posted because I worried about how it would be received. It’s been wonderful to hear it’s resonating with folks.

      I too plan date nights…more now than when we were working! And I’m learning to plan things with other folks so he has his “easy glider” puttering around the house time.

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  8. My husband has worked from home on and off through our marriage and I’ve had to make those transitions regularly. We are polar opposites, but we have enough love and flexibility (and independence) to be able to give each other room to do what we enjoy and also time together for those bits we both like. I think retirement will be easier for us because we’ve adjusted and readjusted so many times over the years. I’m glad it’s working out for you two x
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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    1. Leanne, I think it’s wonderful you’ve had some “dry runs” at this 24/7 together! I was chatting with a teacher today and she noted that she had dry-runs at retirement when she switched into summer mode living. Having those transitions before makes them easier doing them again, I think!

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  9. Interesting post, Pat. This is a topic that’s been percolating in my head for a while.

    My husband and I are both very strong Type A personalities and we’ve wrestled with our differences from day 1.

    I retired early several years ago while my husband chose to keep working full-time – and that has been a challenge in itself. The writing is already on the wall that when he does eventually choose to retire, the transition will likely be … interesting 😉 Going back to the core values that brought us together in the first place has been our saving grace throughout our marriage and I’m guessing it will in retirement as well.

    Your first point however is the one that really struck me – understand how you each express love. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but omg – YES!

    Many years ago early in our marriage, we were having a fight about something that was probably stupid and irrelevant even at the time. However, my husband made a comment that’s stuck with me ever since – “just because I do things differently from you, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong”. How true that is in every relationship!!

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    1. Joanne, I learned about the love languages years ago, and it’s been helpful. Even with friends! One girlfriend is all about gifts, which is so not me. So if I see something I think she might like (small thing), I need to buy it and give it to her!

      Anyway, yes, we are different. I tend to over think things, he takes things more as they come. I plan, he never does. Ever. I like time spent together; he’s more a loner! But we also know all of this about each other, and try to appreciate the differences.

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      1. Thank you for the added insight into ‘love language’. This is a detail I need to pay more attention to. Certainly while my mother was still alive I recognized that the most precious gift I could give her was my time.

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  10. Suddenly spending so much time together in new ways can present challenges. I really enjoy having some time just by myself, to do whatever I want and we find it important to follow our own interests as well as common ones. I must say, I love it when hubbie goes out for the day and I’ve got hours by myself. Shared. Christine

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    1. I chuckled at having hours by yourself only when hubby goes out. I’ve personally found that we can both be in the house doing stuff and not talk at all …for hours on end. It’s almost like being by myself. It’s always amazing to me how different folks can experience things differently.

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  11. Great post Pat. This is one of the areas we didn’t think about when we retired. We managed to adjust to being together 24/7, but it takes effort, understanding, communication, time and the realization that you are two people with a lot in common, yet also some different interests. Be patient!

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  12. It really is hard to predict how a couple will do in retirement. Incompatibilities will be magnified as more time is spent together but, as Marty points out in his comment, sometimes being too similar can present its own challenges. You’ve listed some great things to think about – and especially to talk about – prior to retirement. The last thing you and your spouse/partner want to experience is the realization that retirement – a time that should be full of joy, exploration, and relaxation – is the catalyst for discovering irreconcilable differences. Communicate!

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    1. Janis, yep. Communication is so important. And yes, compromise as well. Compromise so often sounds like you give things up. But for me, a lot of the compromise is learning for me…. he slows me down, makes me more “be” than “do”!

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  13. This was very though provoking to me because my wife and I probably have more in common with our personal habits than differences. That is a good thing on a daily basis, but also a challenge since one of those commonalities is the desire to be homebodies “loner-ish.” So the challenge for us — at least as I see it — is to stretch from that tendency and expand our circle a bit. She might disagree with that, though! But as you’re discovering also, I do think over time you figure out those aspects during retirement. Great post, Pat. – Marty

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    1. Retirement is such a big transition for many of us. And then doing it as a couple adds in even more uncertainty and adjustment! It’s wonderful you’re thinking about things ahead of it!

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