You’ve probably read professional relationship advice about how to survive with your partner into retirement. That always comes with lots of practical instructions about working together and enjoying each other’s company.
It all sounds a bit twee to me, so this is my personal take on how to get along with a partner once the children have grown up and moved on.
As a former journalist, I remember working for a local newspaper and interviewing long-term couples celebrating their golden or diamond wedding anniversaries.
Almost without hesitation, couples then advised to never go to bed on an argument, which, as a newly-wed, I thought was very sweet.
However, as time went on, for me, at least, this advice was just not practical. Maybe I have a more volatile nature, but many a time I have gone to bed in a complete sulk and not spoken to my hubby for days if we had argued.
So now, as retirement looms for my significant other and I, along with our 46th wedding anniversary, I have taken a good long look at how we will work together to ensure we continue to get on.
We have always had different careers, and subsequently, different sets of colleagues and work friends. I still regularly meet up with those former colleagues, and also with those former young Mums I met at mother and baby club when our children were small.
But then we also have joint friends – sometimes neighbours, sometimes those friends whose spouse clicked with mine and vice versa. We have enjoyed dinners out and even holidays together over the years.
I look around at my friends, most of whom are now in their 50s and 60s, and the majority are long-married like ourselves. OK, so a few are on their second marriage, but have been together 30+ years now. There are even a couple of happy divorcees who enjoy the freedom which the end of their marriages brought.
To survive such long-term relationships, we all have one thing in common – we are independent women as well as being part of a couple. For me, that is the most important ingredient in being content after so many years.
We have never lived in our husbands’ pockets, always earned our own money, always made our own friends, so retirement holds no fear of being stuck in the home with just one person. We both have friends with whom we can meet up and have interests outside the home.
That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy doing things together. Holidays are always a good time to reconnect, away from the drudge of everyday chores, a time to talk and to reminisce.
Of course, times have changed. The first flush of new, young love gave way to the stress of working life, paying mortgages, and then the joy – and sometimes further stress – of having families, illness and accidents.
The distress of losing friends and parents, the emptiness of the children moving out, all have brought strain on relationships.
Looking at statistics for both the UK and the USA, there is a trend towards more couples over 50 divorcing.
Research reveals that since we are living longer, many women just decide they want their freedom after years of caring for children/husbands and want some independence in their autumn years.
That is a very brave move, but the reasons are that our generation is more financially secure, women are living longer, and the social stigma of being divorced is a thing of the past.
Men are not usually the instigators in a later divorce – again, the research suggests that they are more prepared to put up with a marriage which may have run its course.
I’ve been told that the ages of 60-70 are probably the best times of our lives. Most of us are still relatively healthy and active, but without the stress and strain of work and raising a family. While I can certainly relate to that, I do realise that others may not be so lucky.
The loss of a salary can cause financial hardship, and illness and loss can be devastating. Obviously, if this is the case, you may find retirement difficult. But if you have a good support network, good friends and a loving family, this will help you come to terms with devastating life changes.
In fact, it is this time when the children may turn tables and become the helpers to take some of the burden.
I am now semi-retired and have recently taken up yoga – the only exercise I enjoy. I can’t think of anything worse than sweating in a gym to get some exercise. Walking is quite pleasant, as is swimming, but since a serious back injury last year, for me, at least, this is only something I can do in moderation.
I also took up blogging last year – something which I love, since it is very similar to the kind of paid work I used to enjoy before corporate politics took over my career.
My hubby used to be a keen angler before our daughter was born and is considering taking up that again – but neither of these is a spectator sport, nor something we will do together.
I have discovered a joy in travelling – both at home and abroad – which I hope will continue, either with my blogging friend, or my hubby.
So, enjoy the extra time together, but don’t give up on your own lives – whether it’s still meeting those friends and former colleagues, taking up a new interest or hobby, or even getting around to doing the things you never had the time to do while you were working.
But also spend some time getting to know each other again – you are not the same person you were 40 or 50 years ago.
Find whatever it is that you enjoy – and just do it! After all, we’ve been independent women all our lives, so why change now?
What do you do to keep your marriage strong? How do you plan to spend your retirement with your partner? What new activities do you intend to take up during your retirement? Is this the best time of your life? Should you stay in a marriage which is no longer fulfilling? Please join the discussion below!
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