Updated: Nov 23, 2020
I am writing from personal experiences during my first few weeks of being a retired man. I was recently made redundant just before Christmas. I knew it was coming, but it was still a jolt to my system when it happened. The first weeks have been a struggle, the entire situation I find my self in is so hugely different.
Pain in the backside
There are statistics available on the web which I have read. I won't dwell on them, suffice to say that apparently we guys are a pain in the proverbial backside and selfish to boot when it comes to considering the effect of our retirement on others that closely share our lives such as wives, boyfriends, husbands etc. I have to concur with what I have read if I am being honest. I HAVE been a total horses arse since I hung up my briefcase and sold 3 business suits that had hardly had any wear. You see, my wife has not yet retired, she is still teaching at school and here am I left doing precious little in my mind compared to what I filled my days with before. Simply put, if the truth be known, I have started to feel sorry for myself and a little self obsessed and I am more than aware that I am blaming everybody else for the issues I now face. I know how annoying I must sound after interrogating my wife about her working day to then harp on about how boring and pointless mine has been. I know because I see the way she looks at me now. "Is this the same Tony I married 32 years ago," I can hear her asking herself. It is scary, I know because she and I have talked about it, and she finds the whole retirement thing scary too. After all, this is somewhere we haven't been before, it's a place that has new rules or no rules. It is an environment where time for me is irrelevant in the most part because I have no structure to my day other than when I wake and have breakfast with Maria and when I welcome her home at around 5.30pm. It's early days I know but as we have both discussed, something has to change.
There have been many things I failed to consider when I started retirement, purely selfish on my part. For instance, with Maria being at home more often with her part-time work at school and me away at work, she was the decision maker. Along with her own responsibilities and routines she was in charge, she had ownership, she, for want of a better way of putting it, "added significant value to the collective," something of which she is obviously proud. Jump forward to my retirement and suddenly there is a usurper on the premises bringing with him his own corporate business way of doing things, making decisions and in doing so trying to take control. As I say I was totally selfish and unthinking so I have made a conscious decision to change, to work proactively and make this second part of my life, and most importantly Maria's a more fulfilling and equitable one. Let us see how we get on. . . .!
August 24th 2020
Well here we are, 9 months in to retirement myself and Maria has stuck with me and my nonsense. With so much R-Time under my belt, I now feel better qualified to offer positive advice to anyone approaching retirement age. Firstly let me state that having starting to settle into the role I am genuinely starting to enjoy SOME aspects of this new life; I have had glimpses of "getting it right" but am not quite there yet due in the main to my lack of planning as mentioned previously, so it is a case of having to catch up with myself so to speak. However, the mists are beginning to clear and the future is looking rosier every day. I have started a part time job, have found a new hobby and definitely believe I am less of a pain in the arse and more understanding of Maria's position in the new scheme!
Retirement is not easily entered into so my first words of wisdom are to set your expectations with this in mind. You do need to work at it. Secondly, make sure you plan everything you can, not just finances. In my opinion, dreams and ambitions are equally important . Look at what you BOTH want to achieve in the future, what you BOTH see as potentially fulfilling events to be involved with and having decided, sketch out a route based on how you arrive at those goals.
Your Own Space
I would add that you should accept and discuss the need for both to have your personal space and time to follow your own interests. Never think you have to spend every minute of every day together. I know too many people who feel guilty if they are off doing something whilst the other sits at home. Conversely, discuss what gives you the most joy now when doing it together and what, if any, similar activity you could enjoy together in the future. Sharing meaningful activities can help reduce tension.
Have brave and open conversations regularly to discuss how you both feel about the challenges you both face. Don't bottle things up, get them out in the open. You have very important years ahead of you that will not just affect you but your family and friends. Partners who do not share their hopes and fears or this new life stage often have difficulty understanding the others’ actions or attitudes. Communication has always been important throughout any marriage and it is even more so now.
Listen and Hear
You know what they say, "familiarity breeds contempt," and whilst you may, as a husband, think you are not overtly contemptuous of your other half, listening to what she says but not hearing can be most hurtful to your partner. Take the time to listen to what your spouse is really saying. Too often, especially when there is tension, we tend to think we heard what the other said. Alternatively, we don’t listen at all. Stable relationships take a lot of empathy, and that is achieved when we feel the other’s pain, concerns, or desires. If you have gotten this far in your marriage, you most likely value each other’s perspectives. Don’t forget this once your spouse is retired.
Find reasons to be kind to one another. Kindness is contagious. It’s harder to remain angry when another person is nice to you, and kindness helps deepen the bond as couples grow in their love and appreciation for one another. People like to be complimented even after being together for 35 years, so think on!
I have realised that retirement has to be celebrated and cherished in order for me to get the most out of it. Like anything else in life, having a positive outlook will serve you well. It is a big step into a relative unknown, a time that can be most exiting if you only let it. Accept it for what it is and do your very best to communicate your feelings to each other regularly and build a new life together.
Maria retires next year and that will bring with it new challenges. Whilst I was working we spent a certain amount of time together each day. Now I am retired I have far more time on my hands than she does. When we are both in retirement the dynamic that is time spent in each other’s company will change again and by definition increase dramatically. So we have to be ready for this unlike my ill-preparedness in the months leading up to my own retirement. We both recognise that the upcoming time together we shall have when she leaves her job at school might very well upset the balance again. Hopefully, as long as we continue talking it through, we should be OK.