How to Survive When Your Spouse Retires

Couples with two working adults often retire at different times. This can be because of age differences, unexpected circumstances such as a layoff, or an enticing early retirement incentive package. One partner may feel exhausted and ready to call it quits, whereas the other may be at the pinnacle of their profession and want to keep going.

Regardless of the specifics, marriages with mixed retirement are a recipe for bitterness and tension. You and your partner may be unprepared to deal with living in separate worlds for an extended time. Here are seven ways you and your partner may ease into a new routine where one of you works and the other is retired.

(1) Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule.

The retired partner may like staying up late and welcome the freedom from having to set an alarm clock. You and your partner will become less close and spend less time together if you keep irregular sleep habits. 

Furthermore, getting up or getting ready for bed when the other partner sleeps might cause sleep disruption and discomfort. Finding a part-time job or regular volunteer or activity commitment that requires a comparable start time as the working spouse’s employment may be useful for the retired spouse.

(2) Sort out who does what around the house.

The working spouse might delegate additional responsibilities to their retired partner. The working partner will be grateful, allowing them to spend more time together at night and on weekends. However, the working partner should know that the retired partner may have a different method for completing certain tasks, such as filling the dishwasher or folding the clothes.

When the working spouse believes that the retired spouse isn’t pitching in enough at home, it can be a source of tension in the marriage or partnership. After decades of hard labor, the retired partner believes they deserve a life of leisure. In contrast, the working partner must continue to shoulder the responsibility of going to work and returning home to a long list of duties.

(3) Talk openly about the effects of the income drop on your family.

Retirement funds often provide a lower standard of living than the income of a working life. With less money coming in, you and your partner should discuss how your spending habits will change. This may be especially important for the spouse who has recently retired and has extra time to do things like shopping.

(4) The retired partner has more freedom to pursue their interests.

When you finally have some free time, you probably have many things to do. You can cross some of these tasks off your list if you retire before your spouse. After your partner finally retires, you will have more time together.

(5) The retired partner should not withdraw from society.

It will be much easier for you to spend time together once you both retire. But until then, the spouse who has retired should take measures to prevent spending the day alone at home. Part-time work is a great way for retirees to get out of the home and continue socializing; therefore, many partners choose to work while their spouse is still working full-time. If you are a retired spouse, keep your television and computer time to a minimum, so you don’t develop harmful, sedentary habits.

(6) Consider the needs of your working spouse.

When you retire, you may not be interested in hearing about your spouse’s workday, but they will appreciate being able to share their experiences with you. Remember that the retired partner may be anxious to start activities together, while the working partner may just want to unwind after a long day.

(7) Try to be understanding while your partner adjusts to retirement.

When people reach retirement age, they go through a variety of changes. A retiring partner with a regimented daily schedule may struggle to adapt to the newfound freedom. Likely, the retiring partner won’t see as many familiar faces during the weekdays, particularly if they all used to work together. When one partner retires, the other may feel a profound loss of identity and/or purpose in life. Though it may be challenging to put oneself in the retired partner’s shoes, it would be beneficial for the working partner to have compassion for the adjustments made.