How Do Relationships Change in Retirement? by Bob Lowry
This is one of the questions that blog readers ask most often. After finances, what to do all day, and where to live, what retirement does to relationships is top of mind for most of us. We realize there will be changes in how we interact with others. But, will they be for the better or aggravate problems that already exist? Thinking about this issue before you retire can make a tremendous difference in how smoothly things go.
There are four major categories of relationships that are likely to be affected:
1. Primary relationship: Your marriage or committed partnership will probably undergo the most significant adjustment and become a real study in balance. Each of you wants to spend time together and each of you requires time apart. Just because a job has ended doesn’t mean everything else that makes up a typical day is going to change. We each have certain routines and habits that bring us comfort and happiness.
Short and long-term goal setting is vital in a retirement relationship. Everything from financial adjustments to vacation choices, when to see the grandkids and whether we should get a new dog require a decision. Both partners need to feel his or her opinion is being considered. Communication, always vital in a marriage, becomes even more important when two people are sharing the same space 24 hours a day.
2. Adult children: The toughest suggestion is to accept the differences between you and your grown kids. Your adult child is not you. As he or she grows, life experiences will result in changes that you may not fully approve of. At this stage of the game it isn’t your job to approve. It’s your responsibility to accept them.
3. Grandkids: If you are lucky enough to have grand children and get to see them often enough to have a relationship, you will experience one of the greatest benefits of retirement: being part of their lives in a way that can change them and you in so many positive ways. To see your children have children is an amazing experience. To be able to participate in their lives is a joy that never ends. Frankly, to be able to say goodbye at the end of the day and leave the messy parts of child-rearing to others is also very nice!
Few things can sour a good relationship with your grown child, his or her spouse, and grandkids quicker than inserting yourself into how the children are being raised. Saying something meant to correct a behavior you think is wrong rarely is a smart decision. Talking privately with your child with a suggestion that he or she is making a mistake in child-rearing will not go much better. “That’s not how we raised you” are six words that never produce a positive outcome.
Of course, if there is some form of child abuse in evidence you must take steps to bring it to a halt. But, usually, the problem is simply one of differences: your child has chosen to raise his or her child without copying your parenting playbook. Accept it
4. Work friends: The reality is simple: after a time, you will lose touch with most of the friends you had while working. As a retired person you will move in different circles than they will. Your use of time and schedule will reflect your needs and interests. Moving after retirement is a common (though sometimes risky) occurrence. Without shared experiences at work, you will have much less to talk about. The water cooler gossip will no longer seem important in your new world.
The loss of a circle of friends with whom you shared your life with every day is tough. It is very rare that work friends will still be an important part of your life within a year of the date you leave work. As we age, we often find it harder to make new friends, but the effort must be made. I will admit adding new friends remains difficult for me. I find new relationships through church, and volunteering.
Somewhat surprisingly, what started out as just exchanging comments with some readers of this blog has produced close to a dozen real, in-person relationships where we travel with each other, or visit them when Betty and I take an RV trip.
Honestly, supportive relationships will make more positive differences in producing a satisfying retirement than your financial or even physical well being. They are the building blocks to a happy future.
By Bob Lowry