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Lonely and Married? Try These 5 Tips for Navigating Marital Challenges in Retirement

By Cyn Meyer December 07, 2023 Family

Embarking on the journey of marriage in retirement requires a nuanced approach to address the unique dynamics that emerge during this phase of life. I see marital challenges come up all the time in my life coaching practice.

For couples who have spent decades together, the abrupt transition from the structured routine of separate working hours to a newfound, extended togetherness can strain even the most enduring relationships.

While common retirement advice mainly centers around financial planning, the intricacies of maintaining a fulfilling and purpose-filled retirement during this period are often overlooked. Which makes the marriage and relationship dynamics on top of that hefty transition even more challenging.

Needless to say, this contributes to the increasing prevalence of gray divorces among individuals over 50. So much so that the gray divorce rate was 8.7% in 1990, 27% in 2010, and an astounding 36% by 2019.

If you find yourself grappling with feelings of disconnection, boredom, or loneliness in retirement, you’re not alone. Many retired adults struggle to discover new activities and sustain connection as a couple during this life stage.

To reignite the flame and navigate these challenges, consider these five tips, carefully tailored to the unique dynamics of marriage in retirement.

1. Rediscover Your Foundation

Embarking on the path to marital rejuvenation craves a reflective journey down memory lane. Take the time to reminisce about the moments that led to falling in love and what has kept you together through the years. Beyond the initial attraction, marriage is a profound commitment that encompasses sharing a life, raising a family, and committing both financially and emotionally.

This introspective exercise aims to evaluate whether your partner aligns with your current expectations and encourages transparent communication about your needs and desires during this important phase of life.

2. Examine the Root Cause

Unraveling the intricate dynamic behind marital challenges post-retirement is a pivotal step. Reflect on the broader picture, and meticulously document your thoughts on what led to the strain in your relationship.

Writing serves as a therapeutic tool for introspection, and it helps you recognize patterns and hidden sentiments. While common reasons for divorce, such as lack of commitment, infidelity, and conflicts, are worth exploring, maintaining a gratitude journal, specifically focused on your spouse, can have transformative effects over time. Delve into details about your appreciation for your partner – from the initial stages of your relationship to the present. It’ll add depth to this practice.

3. Foster Effective Communication

Effective communication stands as the linchpin of any successful marriage, particularly in the uncharted territory of retirement. Be mindful of the time you spend expressing yourself, listen actively without immediate reactions, avoid interruptions, empathize, and validate your partner’s emotions. Much easier said than done, of course.

If there’s any one takeaway to glean it’s to simply hone your skill of listening. It’ll curb tendencies to fly into defensive mode.

Either way, establishing ground rules for open sharing your thoughts and feelings is crucial, especially when you recognize and even expect your partner’s perspectives and preferences to be totally different from yours. This intentional approach not only fosters a sense of being valued and heard, but also acts as a proactive measure to address potential issues before they escalate.

4. Cultivate Shared Interests

The concept of dating should not fade with marriage but should evolve into a continual process, especially in retirement. Engage in shared activities, especially those that are new and challenging.

Research shows that participating in shared activities enhances marital satisfaction. Learning new things together strengthens your bond, creating opportunities for teamwork and vulnerability. So, as much as you can, actively seek out novel hobbies for retired couples to inject new life into your marriage – and may it foster a sense of excitement and shared accomplishment.

5. Embrace Swift Forgiveness

Acknowledging that conflicts are inevitable, the practice of swift forgiveness becomes the antidote to lingering resentment. The success of a marriage hinges on how mistakes are handled.

Of course, forgiveness is a personal journey, primarily for one’s personal peace of mind. If you’re looking for a good relevant read, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt’s The Gift of Forgiveness shares valuable insights into overcoming resentment through forgiveness.

Conclusion

Rekindling passion is a worthwhile endeavor, and with focused effort, it’s never too late to recapture the excitement of your early days together – just expect it to look different. After all, you’re built for growth at every life stage, and retirement is no different.

All in all, the key to a successful marriage in retirement lies in proactive efforts to understand, communicate, and adapt to the evolving versions of you, your spouse, and the marriage in this unique life stage.

Even the sturdiest marriages demand effort, and if retirement has strained your relationship, please consider working on yourself as an individual as well. No matter how you slice it, showing up as a better version of you has to shift the dynamic of the relationship to a better place.

By the way, if you want help working on your own growth to show up as a better partner in your marriage, it’s worth looking into your own sense of fulfillment as an individual – take this fun 10-question Retirement Purpose Quiz to explore more about your own passions and purpose in retirement.

May you prioritize shared experiences, effective communication, and mutual understanding – to navigate the marriage challenges and rediscover the joy of togetherness again.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you separate your own growth priorities from your partner’s? And how do each of you prioritize the couple’s goals and needs?

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Carol Anne Cole

What do you do if you can’t drive and live way out in the country, and your husband is slowly turning into a complete rage case? If you call for counselling and he is listening to your call? He doesn’t seem to have dementia (I have observed that before with family members, so familiar), but can’t seem to have a normal conversation without it becoming an argument. (I mean, it could be me, but……..I don’t think so. Other family members have noticed the same thing). I may end up as his caregiver, but how do you do that when the person seems to lack respect for you and wants to argue a lot? If it was dementia, I know there are ways of coping – just agree a lot. But if the person if controlling and watches everything you do and wants it done their way? (Asking for a friend hahaha not)

The Author

Founder of Second Wind Movement http://secondwindmovement.com, Cyn Meyer offers education + coaching to help seniors transition into amazing next chapters and age successfully in place. She helps them live out active, healthy, happy "retirement" years, so they can better evade depression, loneliness, Alzheimer's and nursing home occupancy.

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