Retirement and Your Relationship

Though there has been little written about couples in transition to retirement, attention is repeatedly drawn to couples planning, anticipating, and communicating together around upcoming retirements in the pre-retirement years. That is, not waiting to address problems in your relationship instead of assuming, “we’ll deal with it later,” makes a difference. Negotiating mutually-satisfactory divisions of who does what around the house and who decides what about money is important. Trying to arrange things in ways that balance the dependence in your relationship with independence may be a key way in which couples can decrease relational strain and best cope with the psychological, social, and economic transitions they’ll experience as one or both move away from full-time occupational life.

Here are some things that we know, based on the small amount of research that does exist:

  • Major life transitions, like retirement, typically involve a mixture of changes – in each person’s sense of themselves, in their roles, and in their relationships [1].
  • Each of these changes, even those that are planned for and eagerly anticipated, involve unexpected losses and gains.
  • Retirement may mean personal freedom, and at the same time loss of an important part of one’s identity.
  • It may mean the shucking off of unwanted constraints, and also finding oneself in new and unsatisfying roles.
  • All of these changes may lead to more time for the couple to be together and at the same time involve stress for the retiree, the partner, and the relationship between them. 

The boxes below offer ideas about ways of easing the stresses that couples incur as one or both make transition to retirement.

Communicate about shared visions

  • Financial planning
  • Social engagements & leisure time (both independently and together)
  • Expected lifestyles—including any continued engagements with work, visions of travel, cutbacks in spending, etc.
  • Responsibility for household tasks
  • Decision making

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