Retirement and relationship issues
Generally, couples find relationship issues arise at key transition stages in their lives. Whether getting married, having kids or retiring, these changes can bring about new challenges which can be disruptive to the relationship. Whilst many recognise that the arrival of children can be incredibly demanding, there is less appreciation of the challenges for a couple working through the redefinition of their relationship that retirement presents. Indeed, within society there is a great deal of focus on retirement planning from a financial perspective but virtually none for an emotional viewpoint.
Ideas around retirement in the 21st century are very different now than they may have been for previous generations. In a more fluid employment economy, the opportunities for a further career through desire or necessity are increasingly common. People may have very different views on what retirement means which could be all about new possibilities or struggling to come to terms with the loss of identity that stopping work may evoke.
As life expectancy has increased, the retirement stage of our lives may be as long as the working stage. For some this can bring into question whether or not they want to stay with their current partner for that long, or these questions can arise if the couples view of retirement are very different and become a new source of friction within the relationship. At this point individuals can withdraw into themselves and cut themselves off from external support. This increases the likelihood of feeling isolated and risks a decline into depression that some experience following the transition into retirement.
However, a therapist can help couples navigate these challenges and help support the couple in recognising how they have managed previous transitions and can rely on their relationship as a resource to help deal with the new challenges presented. Talking through the fears of what retiring may mean and working together to craft the retirement you both want while also recognising the challenges an increased likelihood of ill health may present may help to ease worries and enable couples to embrace retirement with a better shared understanding. Through sharing ideas and fears with support, couples can feel that they are emotionally prepared for what could be the greatest adventure so far.
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About Eugene Gallagher
Eugene Gallagher is a relationship therapist and works with individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship-based issues. Eugene has an MA in relationship therapy and is an accredited member of the BACP.