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.