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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships with our Partner

When we retire, we have the opportunity to spend much more time with our partner, especially if they are also retired. This will mean that the relationship will change, because never before will you have had the opportunity to spend 24 hours a day with them (assuming they have also retired).

Retirement and Relationships: links

Before they retire, many people express misgivings about the thought of spending so much time with their partner. This is no bad thing, because if we are aware of the possible problems it means that we can do something about them. Our relationship with our partner will be different, so if we acknowledge that and do something about it, we have a very good chance of ensuring that we have a happy relationship.

In theory our relationship should improve, because with more time to spend with each other we should be more relaxed, less tired and more tolerant. However, because we're not very good at talking things through and discussing things (see the first page) it doesn't always work out like that. In fact, sociologists tell us that the three most common tipping points for divorce in this country are Christmas, a family holiday and retirement. You can work out for yourself what those three events have in common! (Incidentally, the top tip on this subject is: Don't retire at Christmas and go on holiday!) Also, since the 1990s, divorce amongst the over-60s has been on the increase, so it would seem that more and more of us are finding it difficult to sustain our relationship in retirement. It may be that more of us are getting divorced because women especially feel able to go their own way maybe because the children have reached adulthood or because they reach pensionable age and therefore feel that they are more secure financially. However, whatever the reason, if there were a sound, happy and satisfying relationship underpinning the marriage, people would not be getting divorced, so we do need to work at it.


Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships: How to Get What You Want in Your RelationshipsSo why do we have these problems? At the bottom of it is a lack of communication. We need to talk to each other about how our new relationship will work. So discuss how much time you want to spend with each other, talk about who's going to do what now that you're not going to work, work out how much you want to help other family members. We won't always reach unanimity, but there is a much better chance of working it out if we are prepared to sit down and talk about it. Apart from that, there are simple do's and don'ts that will help:

Dos and Don'ts


  • Be prepared to compromise
  • Share the chores
  • Give each other space
  • Agree to do some things together and others separately
  • Listen to each other - communication is as much about listening as it is about talking


  • Interfere with the other's routine
  • Try to take over their areas of expertise
  • Assume that you know what's best for your partner
  • Become complacent about the relationship
  • Attempt to stop them seeing their friends

The issue of interfering with the other's routine can be especially relevant if one partner retires before the other. We all tend to get into a comfortable routine and if, when the second person retires, they try to upset the routine that the first one has established for themselves, it can be very dangerous.

Also, when one partner retires before the other it can engender feelings of guilt in the one who has retired and feelings of resentment in the one who hasn't. Again, the only way to soothe these feelings is to talk about it and come to an agreement about how to deal with the situation - sharing tasks and providing a listening ear, for example.

Be careful of RHS - Retired Husband Syndrome. This is the phenomenon whereby the husband retires and starts organising (or trying to) his wife's routine and life. So he suggests things that his wife might like to do, he recommends that she does things in different ways, he asserts that a long holiday in some out-of-the way place is something that she would enjoy. All these things are dangerous for the male because they could well have the result of upsetting his partner. So the man should discuss things rather than trying to dictate or just assume that he knows best. The reverse is also true, of course, although the condition of Retired wife Syndrome has yet to be formally recognised.

Our relationship with our partner should take on a new lease of life in retirement. Doing some simple things, underpinned by communicating with each other, will help to achieve this new lease of life. Neglecting them and not communicating can have the opposite effect. Spending a lot of time together over 20 or more years of retirement can seem a daunting prospect, and it probably is, so we need to work at it.

So read the rest of this Guide by clicking on the links above and help yourself to help your relationships.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.

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