CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – Retirement can be the golden years of your life, free to explore your passions without having to go to work, but at the same time, adjusting to that change and the loss of income cam be overwhelming. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Tim Hope shared tips on how to retire stress free.
Tips for Enjoying Retirement
Adjustment Takes Time
For most couples, retirement progresses in stages. At first, couples experience a short-lived honeymoon in which everything seems to come together nicely. As soon as the reality of retirement settles in, however, many find that they are not quite as excited about the prospect of being a senior citizen or “stuck” with each other as they previously were. This is especially true when they’ve been “forced” to take retirement because of corporate downsizing, poor or diminished work performance, or failing health.
Men and women experience retirement differently. Many men have spent more than 40 years honing their identities as providers, are suddenly reliving the identity crisis of their adolescence. Many women have spent much of their lives independently keeping house and raising children, are now confronted with a perceived “intruder” in their ordered world. The challenge becomes how to achieve a peaceful and successful integration of two lives into one living space. This integration depends on the couple’s ability to grow, both individually and together. Adjustment is largely an individual thing; however, the dynamics of the couple relationship vary as a function of each partner’s progression. To date, no concrete evidence points to some magical time period couples can expect to spend adjusting. Most retired couples, however, report high levels of marital satisfaction. So, how do couples more successfully navigate the transition?
Old Dogs & New Tricks
Initially, retired couples may find themselves invading each others space. Homemakers may explore the world hidden under the hood of the car. Outside providers may rearrange the home in attempts to maximize space. Spouses who have previously had little opportunity or desire to explore the other’s domestic spheres find themselves with time on their hands and curiosity in their minds. This curiosity may cause much frustration. If one does adopt a new task, it will most likely be in an area they are more interested in and have a better aptitude for than their spouse. So, this is an opportunity for couples to talk together and re-evaluate the distribution of responsibilities, tasks, hobbies, and work around their home in a way that is mutually acceptable and beneficial.
Communication Is Essential
Wives and husbands have ideas, opinions, likes, and dislikes; attributes that attracted them to each other may now be the very things that spark frustration. Whatever the issue, couples need to talk about it in an open and honest way. If you do not like your partner rearranging the cupboards and linen closets, break the news to your partner lovingly. If you would like to do the cooking your partner has done for years, express your interest and work out an arrangement. A few minutes of heated discussion is better than weeks of repressed anger and resentment.
Capitalize on Interests
Work typically occupies 33 percent of an average day. Without work many find themselves wondering what’s left to do. Everything has been washed, rearranged, waxed, and buffed. You have watched all the TV you can stand, and could not possibly read or knit anything else. After years of a regimented and regulated schedule, many are suddenly faced with a void of activity in which they feel that they are contributing somehow something meaningful. In an attempt to fill the space, brainstorm activities you would like to do as a couple, as well as things you would like to do individually. Look around your community for groups and clubs that you may want to join. Volunteer. Enroll in a college course. Start with the day, then work on the week and month, and finally plan for the years ahead. This is one of the joys of retirement–planning the rest of your life together.
Enjoy the Years Ahead
Stop and think about all the transitions you have navigated together: marriage, having children, raising and launching your children, dealing with a boomerang child (one you sent out of the nest who somehow found his or her way back home), discovering the wonders of being a grandparent, coping with economic uncertainty. Now think about the happiness all of those times have brought you. Realize that there were some hurts and heartaches along the way, too. You are still together, so you must have done something right. Be proud of your accomplishments! Remember the tools that you used to successfully navigate those previous challenges and allow yourself and your spouse time to adjust to this new life phase–just as it took you time to get to where you are today. Remember, as a 65-year-old, you have more than 37 percent of your adult life ahead of you! Enjoy it!