Sandra’s husband, Jim, recently retired. Initially, she was excited. She thought they’d be able to relax, enjoy each other more, and maybe – finally – do some traveling. But that’s not the way things have turned out. Six months into his retirement, Sandra’s cruising the job boards looking for something new for Jim to do because, according to her, he’s driving her crazy, and a new job is better than a divorce.
Sandra isn’t alone in her feelings.
For many couples, reaching retirement feels like you finally made it. No more stress, you can make your own schedules, and you can enjoy all the things you put off. That’s the dream.
The reality can often be quite different.
Adjusting to retired life can be a bumpy road, especially when the spouse who’s been gone the most is suddenly home. All. The. Time.
Just ask Sandra.
There’s no universal reaction to retirement. The end of career life can be met with joy or grief. As such, processing those emotions and the behaviors that manifest can look different for each person.
That also means changes to relationships when retirement happens will vary too. And in the case of a retired husband and his wife’s reaction to him, what that looks like will depend, among other things, upon which version of retired husband you get.
The most common faces of the retired husband are:
This man has taken Fleetwood Mac’s song and the idea of togetherness to a new level. “Where are you going? I’ll come with you.”
If you’re hiding in the bathroom for private time, this is your guy.
When it seems like his goal is to create just the right tush impression on his side of the couch, and he has declared ownership over the remote, it can appear like sitting permanently was actually his life-long goal.
You’ll understand this one if you’ve been frustrated because your once-productive husband is now content to sit and let you do everything.
Retirement can feel like an opportunity to finally catch up on all those projects there was never time for. But beginning them all at once can frustrate everyone – except your husband.
Tools and half-finished projects everywhere?
If he’s disassembled your kitchen and can never find the right screwdriver, you probably know this man.
When the guy who never paid attention to the dishwasher or the kid’s practice schedules suddenly wants to reorganize things and constantly asks, “Isn’t there a better way to do this,” it can be crazy making.
You’re in good company if you’re ready to scream, “Leave my mousetrap alone!”
It isn’t uncommon for a man who’s entered retirement to feel down and that he no longer has a purpose.
Depression upon retirement can become a serious problem. It can be hard to figure out what you want to do with the next chapter and who you are now that you’re not a “working man.” If your husband is depressed, he’ll need your support and possibly the help of a professional counselor to get to out of it.
Retirement involves adjusting to a new dynamic in your relationship and daily life.
During retirement, the structured routine of work life is generally replaced with a more flexible and unstructured schedule. Adapting to this change can be tough for both of you, especially if one of you thrives on routine and predictability.
There can be several other things that also weigh on your husband that affect his behavior. Among the most common are:
Your husband suddenly has a lot more free time. This sounds nice, but for some men, it can also feel like they don’t have a purpose. This can be one of the reasons he tries to become more involved in household matters or take charge of things you manage. It can also be a precursor to depression if he struggles to feel useful.
Retirement also can shift the balance of roles within a relationship. If your husband was the primary breadwinner, he might struggle with a sense of loss of purpose or identity.
With more time on his hands, your husband might want to pursue hobbies or activities that don’t align with your interests. This can be disconcerting as it may mean less time together. On the other hand, trying to pick up activities you used to enjoy together or start new ones can mean rediscovering each other, but it can also mean he wants to be with you all the time.
Even if you’ve planned for retirement, the change in finances can be frightening. Depending on your financial situation, retirement might introduce new worries about money and budgeting, leading to moodiness, an unwillingness to do things that cost money, or communication struggles.
If your husband’s friends or colleagues are still working, he might feel isolated or lonely during the day.
Finding in your marriage a balance that allows for you both to feel cared about and respected, allowing room to enjoy each other and have some autonomy, takes work.
Just as every relationship is different, so are the solutions that create balance. The tips below can be helpful as you set yourselves on the right path.
Retirement is a significant life transition, and both you and your husband need time to adapt.
If you find the frustrations overwhelming or persistent, consider seeking support from a counselor. A trained third party can help you better navigate these changes and communicate more effectively.
Remember, even if the road is bumpy to start, working together can make this one of the best, most loving, and most enjoyable times of your lives.
Is your retired husband driving you crazy? How many of the faces of a retired husband have you experienced? What have you done to successfully manage retired life together? Please share your experiences with other readers and join the conversation.