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Spouse retiring but you’re still working? Here’s how to adapt

ELDERLY COUPLE
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Some advice for dealing with this temporary imbalance in the relationship to avoid the stress it can cause. 

“My husband is older than I am and is now retired,” one reader writes in. “He has all kinds of projects planned for fixing up the house, taking vacations and going on trips, while I will still be working for nearly 10 more years. How can we get more in sync?” Many couples find themselves in this situation. 

It is clear that the problem of life choices (which can include choice of where to live) at retirement can only be considered if the couple still loves each other. If there is no love, it is understandable that each one will feel the need to choose the solution that best fits them. On the other hand, an inevitable feeling of rejection arises when love is still strong but desire does not match up. Each partner may feel they are making a sacrifice, denying an important part of themselves if they resign themselves to the other’s choice. What, then, can be done?

Sometimes, there is no middle ground

The most important thing is that each spouse listen, receive, and assimilate the reasons the other presents for their position. So when one of the spouses retires and the other doesn’t, the one who is still working needs to understand to what degree that retirement is an important turning point, a radical change, for their spouse. They need to realize that the other has a strong need to give meaning to their retirement by going back to activities they love instead of sitting around growing bored in pointless inactivity. The spouse who is still working is, naturally, the first to suffer the consequences of this situation. 

On the other hand the retired spouse, for their part, needs to understand that their “better half” is not on vacation. It is not reasonable to expect them to quit their job if it means losing years of retirement benefits, or move to another country if they cannot find a similar job. In this case, there is no middle ground.

There are only two possible solutions: either one adapts, after thinking it over, to what their partner prefers, (which is only viable if the decision is accepted with love and not through a feeling of obligation or resentment); or, each one does what they the believe they should do, even if it means without the other. You don’t have to be together all the time.

Denis Sonet

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