How Retirement Can Affect Your Marriage: Crisis or Opportunity?

by | Jun 2, 2020 | Coping with Change, Marriage

In 1900 the life expectancy after retirement was 1.2 years. According to Stats Canada the current life expectancy after age 65 is 20 years!! Couples retiring today have better health and more resources than in any other time in history. Depending on your situation, this can be seen as either an opportunity or a crisis.

The retirement years can bring numerous changes that can lead to stress in a marriage relationship, impacting a couple socially, emotionally, physically and financially.

Let’s discuss the sequential stages of retirement. The honeymoon stage is filled with excitement and new freedom, especially for the spouse who is leaving full-time employment. A homemaker on the other hand might have a short lived euphoria in this new stage of marriage. Having a partner under foot all day may create more work rather than less. Retirement can provide too much togetherness!

Disillusionment enters when one or the other has “too much time on their hands.” Pre-retirement work provided structure, social interaction, identity/status and purpose. Stereotypically, women elect to work so giving up work is usually a release of a chosen pleasure in favour of family (more time for enjoying a new grandchild, etc.). Men generally feel required to work so retirement is new found freedom. Retirement can create a vacuum that might be filled with travel and hobbies for a limited period of time. We all have friends who retire and then within a few months choose to return to the labour force because they are bored or find the lack of structure and purpose unsettling.

Couples who do have the smoothest transitions have a positive attitude, viewing retirement as a new beginning rather than the beginning of the end. They engage in purposeful activity and seek new avenues for engagement. They engage in “meaningful activities vs. meaningless filters.” – Sara Yogev

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  • Is your attitude toward retirement that of a new beginning or the beginning of the end?
  • What are the “honeymoon” activities you would each like to enjoy? Do your lists match?
  • Your work provided structure, social interaction, identity/status and purpose. Which of these do you anticipate missing the most?

Four Phases of Retirement by Riley Moynes
For Better or for Worse… But Not for Lunch by Sara Yogev