A Webinar Recap on Navigating Your Marriage in Retirement: Potential Pitfalls and Unexpected Opportunities
October 5, 2020

Relationships in retirement

We recently hosted a webinar with well-known cognitive psychologist, Dr. Alicia Farrell, to discuss the ups and downs of navigating your marriage in your retirement years.  We both know from personal experience that as you leave the workplace, without the stress and day to day logistics of managing a family, you tend to have a lot of together time which initially caught us a bit off guard.  More time together is a good thing of course; however, it can also come with some challenges.  Like the old phrase, “I love you forever but not for lunch,” we found ourselves feeling overwhelmed by our togetherness time and had to work out a routine and ways to freely communicate with one another about how best to manage our new-found time. 

During our discussion, Dr. Farrell laid out some basic background about human nature and answered several questions we had about how to move through these years with grace.  Guess what, we were not alone in thinking “everything is going to be great when we retire.” It is common to think, prepare and have reckless positivity and unrealistic expectations about what will happen. There are things we can all do during our planning and retirement life to help create a more realistic balance of individual fulfillment and enjoyment as a couple.   

During the webinar, we discussed several relationship topics and their importance during retirement.  Dr. Farrell had many informative insights to share.  Here are a few takeaways:

Having a growth mindset along with flexibility, grit and resilience will help you to move through significant transitions and events in your life like retirement. 

To keep these mindsets strong, Dr. Farrell suggests that you work on living with purpose and personal satisfaction, both as a couple and separately.  She also stressed the importance of connection with people of all ages.  She quoted a dear friend’s advice “the older you get, the younger your friends should be.”  Other ways to stay strong in a growth mindset are to find age appropriate challenges and suggested that sometimes the challenges may just pick you!  (We can relate to that!) Lastly, learn to sacrifice, go for good enough and not perfection or being the best.  

Dr. Farrell shared how some pitfalls between couples during retirement are not directly related to retirement and some reflect the history of the relationship and are exacerbated by retirement. For instance, established patterns and dynamics.

If you been married any length of time, you probably have some unhealthy ways of communicating. What are they? 

  • Conflict avoidant
  • Passive Aggressive
  • Aggressive/Dominant
  • Co-dependent. 

If these are some troublesome communication habits in your marriage, each individual should consider identifying and working on them; often seeking the help of a therapist can help.

She then offered further guidance on communication related pitfalls during retirement.  Some examples included too much togetherness and collaboration, having different values, expectations, needs and wants, as well as holding your spouse responsible for your happiness.  

How do you navigate these potential pitfalls and conflicts? 

Dr. Farrell suggested some communication tips to help.  She recommends:

  • Learn how to respectfully argue and stated that the things couples argue about do not change that much in retirement, however the content and intensity can be quite different.  “Your ego is not your amigo.”
  • Learn to listen, compromise and collaborate. 
  • Use “I” statements when discussing feelings and problems. 
  • See your significant other as an individual separate from you but connected. She added that you should respect them in the way you did in the beginning of the relationship when you were just getting to know each other.

Where are the opportunities for couples during retirement?

This is the fun part!  Dr. Farrell suggest the 3 R’s:

  • Recreation
  • Re-envision
  • Reinvention. 

Seek out ways to enjoy what you have created and look to find a deeper connection and intimacy in your relationship.  

Mark and I have greatly enjoyed working out a schedule that allows for us to grow as individuals, as a couple and as a family.  We have found that especially now, during these last months of the pandemic, the work that we did to create routines (although some have changed) and make time for meaningful communication has helped us to achieve the life we have dreamed of and continue to explore new ways of growing together. 

In the end, Retirement is meant to be an enjoyable part of life.  Dr. Farrell shared her top suggestions for maintaining and thriving in any relationship over the long haul.  She recommends each individual in the relationship assume good will, know and take responsibility for your individual needs and wants, offer forgiveness (big and small) for yourself and others and most importantly, keep a good sense of humor!

To join us in our next conversation on Finding your Wellness Motivations at ANY age with CrossFit Champion, Joe Ames, REGISTER HERE.

Have something you’d like to share about relationships in retirement? Did you and your partner find a good balance? Or maybe you are working through how to strengthen your relationship during this phase of life? Join the conversation on our free Facebook group where we discuss topics like these and many more.  We also post about our upcoming webinars in our group and encourage you to join us!  

Dr. Alicia Farrell is an accomplished cognitive psychologist, former university professor, national keynote speaker and founder of Clearview Consulting. Dr. Farrell’s mission is to help individuals, couples, families and organizations to find their strength and courage to make healthy decisions and changes in their lives and businesses. She is an expert at translating cutting-edge scientific research into practical everyday life.