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Couples Game Plan in Retirement

Have you ever spent too much time with your partner? What happened? My guess is you two got on each others nerves and you wanted some alone time. If it persisted, you probably argued about every little thing that came up. 

Now ask yourself how long did it take for you two to get to that point?

Longest Time Together

For most of us, we almost never spend every hour of every day with our significant other. At most, the longest we've ever had to endure our loved one full time is during a two-week vacation. Other than that, we get "breaks" from our partners by going to the office and socializing with our colleagues. We get to come home from a hard-day's work and visit with our loves ones, have a nice dinner together, relax a little bit, and then head to bed. 

For most of us what makes our relationship work is those regular breaks from our partner, as well as the socializing that we get to do at the office. 

Thought Through Retirement?

Knowing that relationships survive because we've given ourselves breaks leads to the question: what happens when you retire? Once you've retired, without a game plan there are no more breaks from each other. No way to spend your time other than waking up, having coffee, reading the paper, and then figuring out what to do now because it's only 9 am! 

I know some of you will say that you would just golf. That's fair. But 1) that only lasts for part of the day, 2) you won't be doing that every day, and 3) once golf becomes your main activity in your day (as opposed to a release for you), then golfing becomes your job and you'll end up not liking it (I know - that's not you! I know many people, though, who have grown to hate golf once that's all they have to do). 

Money = #1 Source of Conflict

Even in our working years, money is the number one source of conflict, disagreements, fights, shame, and embarrassment for couples. Once you add in the retirement factor this compounds. Seemingly small decisions can set us off in ways we were unprepared for. Those lunches you used to buy every day become known to your partner, like acid dripping on the relationship. Those shopping trips you take are harder to hide from your spouse. Eventually, we can't take it anymore and we have the polar opposite of a civilized discussion; we have an everything-goes-fight. 

Humans Are Social Animals

Humans are indeed a species that rely on social interactions. People go crazy when left to ourselves. This is why solitary confinement is such an effective punishment or torture technique (if punishment or torture are your goals - which they can be for prisons and military operations). We need to talk with people, to be heard, to lend an ear to others, to help out. When we leave the workforce we find ourselves with far less of a social circle. I know we all say we're going to keep in touch, but how many friends do you have from old jobs still?

Social interaction is one of the major things we get from work that we lose in retirement. Social interactions help keep us from getting dementia and Alzheimer's. 

Women Are Better Than Men

Unfortunately for men, women tend to be better at maintaining relationships outside of work. As a result guys rely more on their wives for social interactions. This tends to lead to women getting frustrated that their man is around all the time. They can't get a break. I've heard women say they were disappointed because their husband decided to retire at the same time she did because she wouldn't get any time to herself. I've heard statements like, "I now have twice the husband and half the money." "He's always around." "He never leaves." These are common statements women tend to make once both partners are home at the same time.


What To Do

You need a plan. Be aware of what can happen when you are together all the time. For some that means having a trial run, or a mini retirement, to see how it goes. For other it means finding a job that you love so that you can work longer and be happy to do it. Some people may consider training in communicating so that it becomes easier to communicate need to each other. 

Not everyone will have this issue, and those that don't are the lucky ones. There isn't one strategy that will work for everyone so you'll have to spend some time to figure out what the two of you will be willing to do. The thing that matters is that you are prepared for this transition and are able to manage the potential problems that come along with it. 

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© 2018 Money Health Solutions, LLC



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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