When retirement comes at the same time for both members of a couple, the life changes can be overwhelming. There’s the excitement of having time to get to know your spouse all over again; the curiosity of what spending that time together will be like; and the anticipation of the projects, trips, and other “bucket list” items you’ll complete throughout the coming years together.
And let’s not forget the most basic question that nearly every couple has at one point or another: “Will we be able to spend that much time together without wanting to kill each other?”
Add to this the normal worries and fears that come with taking that step into retirement, times two, and you’ve got a pretty full emotional pot. To help you cope with this major change, here are a few tips for retiring with your spouse.
Expect and accept that the first few months are likely to be bumpy.
Transitions are rarely smooth or easy. Take the other major milestones you’ve been through together, like having your first child or sending your last one off to college. Undoubtedly, you found yourselves struggling with conflicts and issues you’d never had to deal with before.
That’s simply because life was suddenly very different from what you’d gotten used to. The same is true with retirement. Usually, the first several months are challenging, but if you communicate kindly and realize that this is a stage nearly everyone goes through, you can come out the other side just fine. In fact, with a little bit of work, you can create a marriage that feels rejuvenated and new, rather than tired.
Figure out “roommate issues.”
It’s a proven fact that “roommate issues” - who does what chores, how clean the house needs to be, who feeds the dog or cleans the litterbox - are one of the most frequent things that married people fight about.
When you were both working, chances are you’d figured out a routine that worked. Maybe your spouse cooked and you did the dishes. You left for work earlier than he did, so you walked the dog.
Now that your routines are in flux, these issues of chores and tidiness can become major sore spots. It’s important to talk about how you’re going to divvy up the tasks of daily life so that you don’t end up clashing over little, completely avoidable things.
At the same time, if you feel like one area should be all yours, express that - you don’t want to end up fighting over who makes the bed better, or who has better taste in curtains.
Have a plan in place so that you don’t end up spending all your time together.
Even men and women who are retiring before their spouse can benefit from having some sort of plan as to how they’ll spend their newly acquired time once they retire. Are you going to pick up a new hobby? Take a volunteer or part-time job?
Life free of structure can be fun for a short time, but the shine wears off quickly for the vast majority of people. After a couple of weeks or a month, you’ll likely find yourself missing that routine of getting up, getting to work, and filling your spouse in at the dinner table on what your day was like.
To prevent boredom or melancholy from setting in, pick something you’re passionate about and give yourself a schedule, even if it’s a loose one. That could be anything from gardening to playing tennis, from raising money for a cause to volunteering in a nonprofit’s office.
The important thing is to pursue your own interests so that you both still have something unique and separate you can bring to your marriage.
Retiring at the same time as your spouse can be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience. As long as you take the time to talk to each other and work out a plan, you can enter upon retirement as a couple with a minimum of stress.
Want to learn more about preparing for a happy, healthy retirement? Read our posts on the topic here.