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Planning Retirement Online

 

 

Relationships - December 2012

It could be you ....

 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

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 maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.

 


Retirement Plans: we can't agree...

My partner and I have got into a bit of a mess about how we spend time once we have retired. He retires next spring and I follow at the end of next year.
I have always dreamt of spending more time together, doing a lot more exploring of our country and much further afield than we've been able while helping the children get on their own feet.
We've been together 30 years and have seen both kids through university and they are now in jobs and away from home.
My partner is talking a lot about all the tele he can watch and how it will be great to be a more regular customer at our local. We already go down there every Friday night and occasionally for Sunday lunch. When I tell him what I'd like he says he's worked all his life and has looked forward to doing what he wants for years. I get really hurt as he doesn't seem to recognise that I've been working all my life too, I am a teacher and find working in the modern system very hard indeed.
Should I let him have his way and hope that he gets bored with it after a while? I'm happy to compromise but the way he get annoyed that I don't go along with his plan.

It is all too easy to cruise towards retirement with dreams of stopping all the activities you have found increasingly tiresome as the years have passed. I'm sure you have both earned a less stressed life. You long to spend more time with your partner as you travel around and he longs to be less active but more social. It is true it sounds as though he has forgotten that retirement involves the two of you and that you have been working too. And while we are on the subject of work, haven't you been doing at least 2 jobs? You are a teacher, with all the extra curricular work that involves, but you have been a mother to two children for much of your life together, and you have run and managed a home for your partner to come home to.

It really is time you let him know how this is affecting you and why. Remind him of your contribution and that it needs recognition from him. Balance this, of course, by reassuring him that you certainly want him to enjoy his retirement doing some of the things he mentions, but that will become even more enjoyable when there are pleasures for you both woven into the pattern. Don't leave this until he has retired and sunk into his TV chair as the pattern will soon become a habit.

Talk about retirement as a joint project within your relationship, where each person gets some time doing things they want to do as individuals, and you also do things as a couple, freer to share things which give pleasure to each other as well as to yourselves.

Retirement is longed for by many but dreaded by some. Unless it is discussed and planned for then it risks being a disappointment for people in either of these camps.
A long working life does become a drudge for some people. What was once a lively place to be each week-day might have slowly turned into a dreary 'same every day' way to spend hour after hour. It could be a job which is gradually harder to do as you age and the body loses youthful vigour. Modern working methods might have changed the workplace out of all recognition. We either accept that change or get sidelined by it. For all these reasons people long for the day they retire. It isn't surprising that some can dream about watching TV whenever they want and propping up the bar at their local every lunchtime. To set this as a goal however, is setting the standard of satisfaction very low, and it will soon pall for most people, unless it is mixed with other activities. Without the adrenalin of working, even if it has been tedious or hard, ill health can soon set in without sufficient attention to finding things which keep the mind and the body active.

Alternatively, the workplace might have grown to be as familiar and companionable as home, and then it is hard to imagine being without that companionship. These people have found pleasure in the work they do and enjoy the company of those they work alongside. For them there is a genuine sense of loss as they end their working life. They might have plans but they will be thought of in a half-hearted way and therefore embarked upon in a similar manner. They expect to be dissatisfied, and therefore they will be. Unless, that is, they accept there will be a period of feeling a bit lost and missing their work colleagues, and let it pass as they try out other activities until they find alternatives which give them a new set of rewards.

In either case, if the retiree is in a relationship, their partner or spouse needs to be consulted for their hopes and fear too. If they are both aware of the other's feelings then the transition can be much smoother.

For you, the task is to talk regularly and honestly with your partner about your worries. Ask him what concerns him too. It might be that he sees the house as your 'domain' and is apprehensive about being in the way there. Encourage him by telling him how you are looking forward to having his input and skills around the house as you are finding it harder to do it all. Find things for him that could involve social interaction, like walking the dog, gardening, decorating or shopping, so that his need for being with others can be met in more ways than being at the pub, though he will obviously want to do that too, but perhaps a little less. While you are still working maybe he will become the person who prepares a meal for you when you come home from school, or the person who cleans or shops. These tasks do not have 'Women only' stamped on them.

As a teacher you are used to guiding young people towards their goals. Perhaps some of those skills can be put to good use here. Be firm about there being two sets of wishes here, but that you see the need for each of you to get some of what you hope for. Suggest that you both make a list of what you want. Mark the things on the list you feel are necessary. Include exercise of some sort and talk about what can be shared and what is a solo activity. Keep discussing this until there is some kind of balance. But remember not to try to do it all in one conversation. It has been a long time coming and can't be sorted immediately. Involve the children too. I'm sure they will have their expectations and hopes for you both too.

You could also consider attending a retirement workshop together, where you'd be able to hear other people's ideas and viewpoints and take a look at getting the best retirement for both of you.


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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