Retirement for couples affects the whole relationship; everything changes all of a sudden. It can be a delightful time, and can strengthen the bond between partners. Nevertheless, it still has to be worked at, and partners need to communicate their needs, and be prepared to make adjustments where necessary.
What Jung said about the "second half of life", might today be applied to the Third Age, and to planning retirement for couples. Due to increased longevity, and early retirement patterns, couples can expect to spend a significant portion of their marriage in retirement.
"Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life... we take the step into the afternoon of life ... with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve as before. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning - for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie." (Carl Jung)
"I remember the shock when our first baby arrived; nothing had prepared us for the (happy) impact it would have. Little did we realize that retirement would have an equally unsettling affect on our home life, and on our relationship. Except that in the case of the new arrival, we were surrounded by friends, family, and peers who were willing to offer well meaning advice and support.
Retirement was different.
There was no one to guide us through this transition. We were on our own, and we didn't even discuss it among ourselves. Nobody seemed to notice we were embarking on a major life transition.
We got plenty of advice on retirement financial planning, from investment managers and pension providers, offering to sell us products, but nothing on how our relationships and personal well - being might change.
One of my reasons for retiring was to have more leisure time with my wife. I had been looking forward to it for years. I saw it as a chance to renew our relationship without the pressures of work and children I wasn't aware that this noble sentiment required considerable effort and readjustment on both our parts."
(Kevin, one of my clients. Read some more couples stories at Retirement Planning Stories for Couples)
Kevin's experience was not unusual. Few couples work to prepare their marriage for this new life stage and some are taken aback by the changes and challenges they experience in their marriage as a result of retirement. When people tell me how lucky I am to be retired, I sometimes tell them that retirement is like golf - it looks easy to those who haven't tried it!
Ideally couples should start broad planning for retirement five years before the event, and detailed planning with a year to go. It is inadvisable to make any major commitments affecting the first year of retirement, such as selling the family home, or moving abroad. Marriages are rarely perfect (and neither is retirement). Couples who get along and are able to talk openly with each other before retirement are likely to have an easier adjustment and enjoy marital satisfaction in retirement
For the most part, retiring couples adjust to this new life stage with few major problems. If you work together on my Retirement for Couples Checklist you can hope become like Darby and Joan, the archetypal couple, "the folks who live on the hill", a devoted couple living out your retirement in fulfillment and contentment - enjoying some of the best years of your life with the person who makes them the best.
A fulfilling retirement can be achieved by working together to create a lifestyle you both enjoy.