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  • Writer's pictureDan Haylett

Navigating the changing relationship with your spouse in retirement

1. Effective communication is key for retirement.

Effective communication is key to a successful retirement. Retirement is a time of change and transition, and it can be a challenging time for couples who have been together for many years. It is important for couples to communicate effectively in the lead up to and during retirement to ensure that they are on the same page and can navigate this new phase of life together.

One of the reasons why effective communication is so crucial during retirement is that it can help couples establish a solid foundation for goal planning. Couples who have a strong foundation of communicating needs, values, and emotions tend to do far better in retirement than those who don't. Retirement can be an emotional time, and having a solid foundation of communication can help couples navigate the challenges that come with this transition.

Another reason why effective communication is so important during retirement is that it can help couples avoid the pitfalls of living separate lives. In many heterosexual relationships, the female partner may have adopted one way of being and relating, while the male partner may have adopted another. This can lead to a situation where the couple has lived side by side but not really together. Retirement can bring these issues to the surface, and effective communication can help couples address them and move forward together.

Effective communication can also help couples navigate the financial challenges of retirement. Money is often a source of tension in relationships, and retirement can bring new financial challenges that couples may not have anticipated.

By communicating effectively about their financial goals, needs, and concerns, couples can work together to create a retirement plan that works for both.

2. Flexible retirement plans are crucial.

Flexible retirement plans are crucial in ensuring that couples can navigate this new phase of life together. As retirement can be a challenging time, effective communication and preparation are vital to make the most of this unique time in their lives.

One of the challenges is the assumption that spouses are on the same path. There is often a dangerous assumption that the other spouse thinks the same as them, particularly the dominant spouse. This assumption can lead to trouble and misunderstandings.

During retirement, many couples may have different ideas of what they want their retirement to look like. For example, one partner may want to be a full-time grandparent, while the other may want to be involved in the community or travel. However, these plans may change, and couples need to be flexible and open to adjusting their plans as necessary.

Having a rigid view of retirement can create a lot of emotion for one or both partners, which can be difficult to navigate. Therefore, it is essential to have ongoing communication about feelings and emotions and to be open and honest with each other. Couples should have regular meetings to discuss what has changed, their thoughts and emotions, and what they want to do over the next 12-18 months.

It is also crucial to have a plan that involves words, not just numbers. Retirement plans may change significantly throughout the first three to five years, and ongoing dialogue and communication are vital to ensure that couples can adjust their plans as necessary. Couples should avoid creating a very rigid long-term plan and instead focus on the next three to five years, especially as they reach their 60s, where mortality is a reality.

3. Be vulnerable, find support.

The ability to be vulnerable in the ongoing process of retirement planning is vitally important. Money is a lightning rod for emotions and discussing it can be difficult, but it is crucial to have open conversations with your spouse, partner and family members as well as any trusted professionals to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Retirement is a time in our lives where facing mortality requires courage and vulnerability, and as humans, we are not wired for vulnerability. However, being vulnerable and having the courage to communicate with loved ones is essential for effective retirement planning and can have a positive ripple effect on communication and finances.

I encourage everyone to find someone they can be vulnerable with, whether it be a therapist, planner, coach, or a trusted friend or family member. By having open conversations and seeking support, individuals can take control of their finances, ensure that they are well-prepared for the future and can enjoy their retirement with peace of mind.

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