Retirement and Marriage

This topic isn’t only about Panama. It affects all couples facing retirement wherever they live. We plan financially for our retirement years. We decide where and how we are going to live which may involve minimal change, or moving to an entirely different country. But, do we think about what retirement will mean for our marriages and relationships?

I’ve done a bit of reading and found some common threads that are worth considering and discussing when planning for retirement.

  • For many, work is identity. If we shed that identity, then who are we? Where will we get our sense of purpose, accomplishment, and other benefits that came with work?
  • Will retirement change the responsibilities at home? A wife may expect more help with chores. Or, a husband may intrude on what has always been the wife’s domain, and she may not welcome this.
  • What will happen with leisure activities? Will you be expected to join in more of your partner’s activities, will you each have your own separate interests, or will it be a combination of both?
  • What do you plan to do in your retirement years? Travel? Stay home? Take care of the grandkids? Volunteer? Find other work? Lock yourself in the study and write a novel? If your goals and plans are different, how will you work this out so you are both satisfied with the arrangement?
  • How much time will you spend together and apart when you are both at home?
  • What is the state of your relationship now? Have you avoided facing problems by filling your time with work and other activities? Are there things you need to work on before you can coexist happily?
  • How will you handle money and spending decisions? How will you handle your change in income, if this applies?

Of course, the bottom line is communication. There are no rules, only what works for the individual couple. I think most of us get so caught up with the other aspects of retirement planning that we don’t think about how retirement is going to affect our relationships. The good news though, according to my reading, is that even though there may be initial adjustment problems most couples work through them and go on to successfully enjoy their retirement years.

Joel and I didn’t have any serious adjustment problems, but over time we have managed to fine tune our daily routines. We usually have breakfast together, plan any together activities for the day like a bike ride, errands, etc, and then spend the rest of the time doing our own thing in our own spaces with occasional greetings and chats. We come back together for dinner and some TV time in the evening, and then wind down the day doing our own activities.  I think we have a good balance of together and separate that works for us. I tend to spend more time out of the house with various activities, but Joel is out more these days playing music.

We have always shared household chores and thought in similar ways about money, so these areas have been smooth. I have a greater urge to travel though, so this is an area for discussion and compromise. I’m lucky to have a man who is accepting of my need to pursue various interests he may not share, and hopefully I am the same with him.

For myself, I was more than ready for retirement and happy to lay down the responsibilities and stresses of my work. I have enough other interests that work wasn’t my identity, and I have plenty to keep me happy and engaged in life. I know it isn’t so with everyone though. Many are ambivalent about retirement and don’t have a lot to fill the spaces that were their work, so the adjustment can be more difficult.

That’s enough deep thinking for one day! Time for more scenery, bugs, and stories about daily life if I can find time between anxiously waiting for grandbabies and preparing for a trip back to the US. If you all want to fill the space meanwhile, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on retirement and relationships. If you are there, how it is working out for you? What have been your biggest challenges?

Here are links to some of the articles I read on this subject.



About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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11 Responses to Retirement and Marriage

  1. ME BE in Panama says:

    This is an especially important topic when there is a significant age difference, as is our case. The day we arrive in Panama (10/29/15) will be our 187th anniversary! That’s right, we celebrate every single month. Now most are not as elaborate as a trip to the Republic of Panama, but they are all a celebration of how grateful we are to have found and married the beautiful person we did. I will soon be 55, By is 67. I want to hang out with him as much as I can for as long as I can. The reason Panama is so attractive to us is it would afford us the luxury of me retiring early, allowing us to celebrate what we have.


    • That’s something I didn’t even mention. What if only one of you is retired, and how does that affect things? That’s wonderful if you can retire early! Enjoy every day. I’m with you on that one.


      • ME BE in Panama says:

        It does come into affect for persons applying for a Pensionado Visa. They must verify that their retirement income is at least U.S. $1,250.00 per month ($1,000/month for the applicant and an additional $250.00 for each dependent)


        • Yes, this is true. This is why we had to wait until my social security payments started to qualify.


        • For this though, I was thinking more about how does the working spouse feel when the retired spouse is home and no longer working. This was our situation for a little while and oh yes, I was jealous, and expected him to be working at home just as hard as I was working at my job.


          • ME BE in Panama says:

            That is a good question. When I was still working By took over on all the household tasks we previously shared. He wanted to me spend my non-working hours leisurely, which usually was with him because we enjoy doing things together. I know many couples have a big adjustment after retirement when they have little in common.


            • With him taking care of things at home there was more equality, so I can see how this would work out well. I’ve seen the most problems with a retired man who doesn’t have enough to do so he drives his wife nuts at home.


  2. Wayne Drury says:

    Hi Chris
    What a wonderful story. And as Me Be does, with my wife we celebrate every day together. We got together later in life and are making the most of the time we can together. We are also on our way to Panama – Dec 29/15 we land to start our search. We live in Vancouver where I have to work to live and we want to be able to live to work. The wonders of portable jobs, and the time we will have in Panama will be the start of the rest of our life.

    We will make it to your corner of the country early in January and are so much looking forward to it.

    Thanks again for the wonderful story – and did you ever try that trick with the beef and the salt?
    Best wishes


    • It sounds like you have also had previous relationships. As difficult as the past may have been, it sure makes you appreciate the good things you have now.
      How good that you have portable jobs so you can enjoy life in Panama. I hope it works out for you as well as it has for us.
      Yes, I did try the beef and salt trick and you are right. It works! I put some beef aside without salt for comparison and there was a definite difference. The salted beef was much more tender. Thanks for the great tip.


  3. raj484 says:

    Great entry. One of those things that’s different for everyone. My husband and I also joined forces later in life. After a cruise through the canal and looking Into life in Panama we decided that if we sold everything we could afford a comfortable retirement in Panama. We did and have had a wonderful few years of traveling and exploring but no where has captivated us as much as Gorgona, Panama so we made a decision to sign a one year lease and travel from there on short trips when we get itchy feet. We both love traveling but it’s getting more difficult for me with back related issues. I’m glad we found Gorgona and have spent a few months at a time there. I know we will be happy as we are happy everywhere. The minimalist lifestyle we have chosen makes life so much easier for us. Nothing ties us down. It’s not for everyone but it sure works for us. An annual trip to the US to visit kids and grandkids is something we always look forward to. We always go in US summer because we have no winter clothing. Written as I look at Jaco Beach, Costa Rica from our current two week home before our return to Gorgona on November 1. Life is good.


    • You found what works for you and that is all the is important! Gorgona is a beautiful spot and I’m happy it’s working so well for you. I also agree about the minimalist lifestyle. Life is simpler that way. I haven’t managed to avoid winter on my trips back but I do my best. Cold?? blech!
      I spent a night in Jaco on my bike trip and I think it’s about my favorite spot I visited in Costa Rica. Say hi to Condor at the bike shop if you see him.


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