Relationship Success in Retirement: Part One

Jul 6, 2022

Nothing can ruin a successful retirement like a bad relationship.
And nothing can create a bad relationship like not being prepared for retirement.”
The Wall Street Journal

Wow! I just read this statement in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, and it sure made me sit back and think.

I imagine that this quote will resonate not only with those of us who’re already retired but also with those approaching this important and interesting stage of their lives. The quote could possibly also have an impact on those of the younger generation beginning to think about their retirement even though it’s still in the distant future.

Think About It This Way

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re a professional couple on the brink of retirement. You’ve got all your financial ducks in a row and you’re ready for this next stage in your lives together, which will be the culmination of a successful marriage that has already lasted 30 years or more.

During the period of your lives when you both worked, approximately 10-12 hours of every day (except perhaps weekends) were spent apart. 8 hours of each day were consumed by work, while the remainder covers commuting time. Let’s also assume that you both slept on average 8 hours per night. This means that the time you spent actively together each day was about 4-6 hours at most.

In retirement, that degree of active intimacy is at least doubled.

In a Canadian study of couples who had not yet retired – referenced in the illuminating book So You Think You Are Ready To Retire? – it was found that 38% of men surveyed said that, in retirement, they wanted to spend more time with their spouses. Only 9% of wives wanted to spend more time with their husbands!

A disaster in the making? It’s a possibility!

Key Takeaways

We’ll conclude part one of this blog with a summary of the key findings and observations about this challenge written by Dr. Davala and Dr. Mims (professors of counsellor education and supervision at the University of Nebraska) and published in The Wall Street Journal.

A survey and statistical analysis suggest the following criteria as being among the biggest determinants of satisfaction in relationships during retirement. The following “predictors” could be the reasons for success as you venture into retirement or, if you’re already there, help you make some necessary changes if you and your ‘significant other’ aren’t quite hitting it off now that you’re spending more time together.

Strongest Predictors

  • How well a partner is meeting needs and vice versa
  • Unable to imagine anyone else for a partner
  • Strong connection to partner

Other Predictors

  • Frequency of thinking things are going well
  • Years retired
  • Second thoughts about the relationship
  • Confiding in partner
  • Agreement in affection
  • Enjoyment in relationship
  • Years together

Note: Strongest predictors are statistically significant.

Source: The Family Journal; Marissa Davala, Christine Tina Chasek, Grace A. Mims, Jacob Sandman and Alex Hinrichsen, University of Nebraska at Kearney.

In part two of this series, we’ll review the five steps retired couples must consider in order to avoid a retirement that is headed for the rocks. Stay tuned!

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