First of all, congratulations! Your marriage has survived raising kids, getting along with in laws, illness, money worries – all the things that come at you in life. Retirement is supposed to be the time when you can finally relax and enjoy your golden years, right? Then why is it that so many retired couples find this time of life to be so exasperating and contentious?
Other than weekends and a vacation now and then you and your spouse probably haven’t spent a great deal of time together 24/7.
Here are 10 tips to help you make the most of your retirement.
- During the first few weeks there may be a honeymoon period. You get to sleep in, read the paper and watch some TV in your pj’s, maybe go out for a nice lunch. Then reality starts to set in because you both have expectations. What are they? Sit down and talk about it. Clear the air before any sniping starts.
- You need to set some boundaries early in the game. Let your spouse know that you do not wish to be followed every time you leave the room, that you will gladly turn over the cleaning responsibilities if he/she thinks there is a better way to do things, and that sometimes you enjoy shopping alone.
- Don’t begrudge your spouse time to do the things he/she wants to do. You are after all, two individuals who finally have the time to do some of the things that you want to do. Unless and until it becomes a real problem, leave it alone.
- It’s so easy to focus on the small stuff. He doesn’t fold the towels the way she does. She doesn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher the way he does. Maybe say something two or even three times. Then accept that this is one of those things that simply isn’t going to change and it’s not worth raising your blood pressure.
- Celebrate your achievements as often as you can. Did he get a great bowling score? Did she receive an award for her volunteer contributions at the hospital? It doesn’t have to be an expensive night out. Even if you just go out and treat yourselves to an ice cream or a dessert of some sort you will both enjoy – simply be thankful you have cause to celebrate!
- Do you need to have a heartfelt discussion about finances? Is it time to change the distribution of the way household bills are paid? Are the kids pestering you to help with the grandkids’ education expenses? Is that something you can or should do considering your own circumstances? It may be time to let the family know you are no longer in a position to help everybody. You must help yourselves first or someday you may be asking your kids to help you.
- Give each other some space. Be creative about where you will each do your “homework.” Can the office accommodate two desks? Can you put a desk in one of the bedrooms? Is it possible to put a room in the basement?
- If you’ve never before thought about a 2nd TV set now may be the perfect time. It might never have bothered you that she watches HGTV when you want to watch Hannity, but once you are both home all day every day you may find this is a potential battleground. A 2nd TV might be a great investment.
- Nobody likes talking about end-of-life issues, but have you discussed what each of you wants done at the end of your life? If this isn’t something you have discussed, then now is the time.
- Retirement can be a wonderful time where you grow together and grow as individuals. It just takes a little compromise, some patience, respect, a willingness to participate in the challenge, and some appreciation that your spouse has put up with you for all these years.
Sue Rice is a retired HR Director from the transit industry and a graduate of Kent State University. Today she volunteers with International Friends Connection at KSU, One of a Kind Pet Rescue, Stewart’s Caring Place and with a faith-based group that provides ESL classes for refugees in Akron, Ohio.