19. Working Through Your Retirement Relationship Challenges

“I don’t want to live my spouse’s retirement!”

I hear this all the time. Of all the deep seated lifestyle questions that are failed to be asked, this is number one with many couples. It is also the one question that can severely wound an otherwise healthy relationship.

Often, the retiring executive just assumes certain things about their retirement and fails to even consider what their spouse is thinking. And this is precisely why Retirement Coaches exist! A coach can ask the right questions — questions you may not even know you should ask — to draw out the issues that may not be apparent or are assumed.

Trying to do Retirement Planning alone is like trying to teach yourself how to fly a plane. All the necessary information is on the internet, but with this approach, you only get one shot at it. Good luck!

As the spouse or the assumed second party, you have just as much right to call some of the shots in this retirement. It’s your life too! If your spouse assumes that your silence is your tacit agreement with the direction they’re taking… can you blame them? This has to be a two-way conversation. Not a confrontation — a conversation.


Independence in Retirement

When you were at work and your spouse was at home, you both had plenty of time apart from each other. Now your independence is at risk because you’re both home all the time. So how do you regain your footing? Suggest things for your spouse to do both apart from you and with you. You are not trying to abandon them — you just want some space and some my time (and I’m sure they do too).

The whole idea is to establish a balance between independence and togetherness in this new stage of your relationship and lives.


Try New Things

Finally, don’t be afraid to try new things. If bird watching is something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it. Just be respectful. Remember that time in your relationship is the new currency. How you spend your time by yourself and jointly will determine the ROI of your joint retirement relationship. Don’t delay. The clock is ticking!


“I never imagined retiring without my spouse.”


Tragically, this is something else that I hear all the time. It is hard enough to adjust to a new “Retirement Lifestyle,” but to then have your life partner unexpectedly leave this earth really rocks your foundation. It is also a place where fear reemerges as grief, abandonment, and depression. You jointly worked your whole lives to prepare for this wonderful new life and then your partner is no longer there to enjoy the life you mutually planned.

At first, your family and friends smother you with love and support. You are in a state of shock. You know they are there, but it is all kind of a slow-motion dream. Is this really happening? Over time, your family stays close, but retreats back into living their lives. Your friends show up on the short term but, slowly, they begin to fade away. Why? Because you plight scares them and they don’t know what to say. Soon, those alienated feelings I spoke of earlier really take hold and can have a devastating effect on you.


But wait — there is an alternative! 


You can seek counseling from a therapeutic professional. You can begin to reconstruct your life sans a partnership and become a sole survivor practitioner. You did not plan nor want this to happen, but it has. So be good to yourself. Adjust your plan with a shift towards you reaching out to those family and friends that are scared. Reassure them that life does go on and you would prefer that it goes on with you and them together. Turn sadness into solidarity! 

Once that’s accomplished, reinforce your desire to turn sadness into solidarity by organizing social times to get with both family and friends. Engage them. Build a new relationship upon the foundation of the old. Dwell on the future, not the past, and find ways to show them how important staying connected is.

Next, get out there and form new relationships. Network your way into new social activities where you enlarge your circle of friends and acquaintances. Seek out trips specially organized for singles. Change up your routine and try new things, as that will also open up a whole new cast of characters to hang out with.

The more you engage and connect, the more you will find yourself in places that you never considered. It may even lead to falling in love again, if you stay open to it.