Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 41

It could be you....   

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


I’m 54 and I don’t want to go on working

A laterlife visitor writes to say that at 54 years old she is finding the last few years at work very difficult. She feels depressed at the prospect of having to be the main breadwinner until retirement in a job she is completely bored with – even though she says it is a good job and feels she should be grateful. She has worked at the same job for eighteen years and wonders how to keep going without enthusiasm.

Maggi replies…

Like many others, you are counting time and resenting every minute. You have a good, responsible job and know there are benefits. But you have been doing the same thing for eighteen years, are bored and depressed at the thought of having to carry on for at least another six years.

Whatever your job is, it sounds like the rest of your life suffers as a result. The focus of your life will probably have changed over the years since you started this job and first enjoyed the challenges it brought you.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are you able to talk freely about your worries with a partner or spouse, or a friend if you are living alone?

  • Have you adjusted your way of working, ways of doing home chores and ways of relaxing, or kept to your routine but tried harder?

  • Is there any way you can change the format of your work in order to relieve the monotony of it?

  • You do not say what your home life is like. Are you bored with that too?

  • Are you feeling the stress of getting to another stage in life where energy is depleted more quickly?

  • Do you resent being the main breadwinner?

  • Are you happy with how your relationship works or could that too benefit from a few changes so that both feel responsible for what needs to be a joint responsibility?

Think carefully about what the boredom with your job actually means and what is boredom with your life in general. Many people in their fifties find with dismay that they don’t enjoy the things they used to and need to adjust routines.

For women the menopause and post-menopause can have deep and long- lasting effects on health and emotional well-being. Physical changes have a knock-on effect that lead some women to feel they aren’t coping with things in the way they used to.

The symptoms can be mild, with just a general tiredness and heaviness at times when periods used to happen, or a short time having hot flushes or night sweats, but these and other symptoms can prove to be a greater and longer- lasting problem. Sleep that is regularly disturbed results in weariness becoming part of everyday life. Anxiety over health, fitness, weight, sex, career, or a partner who seems less interested, can also trigger depression or relationship problems.

A proportion of women will go to their GP or a counsellor to discuss such matters, some will talk things through with their partner and work it out that way, but some will press on even harder - and blame themselves for losing grip on things.

For men, too, this particular life stage can throw an unexpected googly from time to time. In their late fifties and early sixties many men are looking, with either pleasure or dread, towards the end of their career – assessing their achievements, comparing themselves to colleagues and friends, facing changes in their energy levels and fitness. Some may have given up their more energetic activities and substituted by watching TV instead. They may inwardly begin worrying about weight gain, lack of energy, less interest in sex – or lack of sexual satisfaction, career status, pension and marriage. Like women, they ae concerned about many things – but are less likely to say so.

For everyone, the best way of sorting out how to cope is to talk about it and consider the following:

You have spent many years working hard.

By the time you approach and reach retirement age, whether you worked at home or elsewhere - or juggled the two – your working life will have taken up a large part of your time and energy. You deserve to take things a little steadier if you are able to do so; you need to change the way in which you rest and spend your leisure time at the very least.

You may have less energy now than, say, in your forties.

As we age, energy and stamina levels drop faster. It is important to try to arrange the day in order to conserve energy and rest a little more. We can take more short breaks from what we are doing if our work allows. In those short breaks, it is important to get up and walk around - outside if possible - and to take some deep breaths to re-oxygenate the body. We tire more when there isn’t enough oxygen in our blood. If, and only if, you have a good boss, ask to change your working pattern a bit or stagger working hours – while explaining how your work will benefit.

Think about your nutrition.

Do you eat well or snack on lots of sweet things for energy? If you do, change your snacks to foods which take longer to digest. Sweets and biscuits give your body a fast high that soon leaves the system craving more as they have stimulated the release of high levels of insulin which the body manufactures to regulate blood sugar levels. Have a healthy breakfast of foods that have slow-energy release. Take fruit, meusli bars, packs of raisins and dried fruits, nut and seeds or raw vegetables as snacks. Eat wholewheat bread and avoid refined or salty foods that are processed too fast by your body and then clog it up, making it feel sluggish.

A relationship means shared responsibility.

If changing your work pattern is not possible, then change things at home. For instance, make sure you share the chores even if it means things aren’t done your way. Negotiate. A reluctant partner might fear being de-skilled by criticisms or feel you do things so well there is no need to change. Reassure. Explain that you will both gain through mutual support and understanding. By sharing tasks you will have more energy to enjoy things and your partner will have a greater feeling of being involved in running the home.

There is some sense in thinking of the money.

Most people work to earn enough to live on and raise their family. Any funds over are a luxury. If you have this luxury, use some of it give yourself small but regular rewards so you experience pleasure directly connected with the reason you work.

If you are in a relationship, discuss these issues.

Work out a plan that suits you both and yields joint pleasures. To share a problem, to listen well and offer support, to help find solutions and reap mutual benefits… all these are extremely bonding for a marriage.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page




Advertise on

[an error occurred while processing this directive]