from the American Counseling Association
sponsored by the ACA Foundation
Most couples look forward to the time and opportunities retirement can bring. And they should. It allows couples quality time together and a chance to do things that you've both looked forward to.
But sometimes retirement can also add stress to a marriage. It's important to realize retirement means more than just not working. It always brings very significant changes in one's life.
One change is the loss of identity that often accompanies leaving a job. Most of us, whether male or female, define ourselves with that job title that we use in response to the "what do you do" question. But when no longer being that "vice president" or "department manager," it's common to experience a sense of diminished self-worth because you are no longer "doing" something of value.
Depression can result, especially for someone who has been dedicated to a job and developed few interests or friends outside the workplace. Such depression, and the health problems it may bring, can certainly add stress to a marriage.
Money can also be a source of retirement marital stress. Retirement incomes seldom match pre-retirement pay checks, yet expenses may be even higher. Medical bills might increase, or travel and other retirement activities may cost more than planned for.
Even the extra time together that retirement brings can sometimes be a source of stress. For many wives, retirement can mean "twice as much husband and half as much money." A newly-retired spouse may interrupt the established daily routine of his or her spouse, expecting to be the center of attention now that work no longer calls. Or that extra time together may bring forward marriage problems that were ignored when the demands of a job kept a couple apart for significant parts of the day.
Does retirement always bring stress and trouble to a marriage? Of course not. Most couples handle retirement extremely well and enjoy their golden years together.
But don't ignore the warning signs of problems that retirement might bring. Retirement-related marriage problems won't magically disappear.
If retirement is placing a strain on a marriage, see it as a challenge, and seek help if the problems are serious. There are counseling professionals who specialize in retirement issues as well as relationship issues. What they have to offer can help make possible a relationship in which marriage partners are not just retired, but happy and satisfied.
"The Counseling Corner" is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation's largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more about the counseling profession at the ACA web site, www.counseling.org.