Love And Retirement

By Cheryl Walker

November 21, 2008 5 min read


Relationships may change in this new stage of life

Cheryl Walker

Creators News Service

As we get older, many things in our lives change. Our bodies and minds aren't what they used to be. Neither are our relationships.

After retirement, adjustments need to be made as more time is spent together. When couples are suddenly faced with their partner during most of the day, they find it can be those little annoyances that drive them crazy -- leaving the cap off the toothpaste or dropping dirty clothes on the floor.

This was usually caused by the fact that the roles held by the man and woman for so many years are changing. Empty nest syndrome occurs, or in some cases grown children move back home, which can be even more devastating to the relationship.

It's around this time that they fall apart. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, for couples that were married between 1970 and 1974, 46.2 percent of men and 42.1 percent of women were still married after 30 years. This is in comparison to 20 years previously, when 74.4 percent of men and 71.6 percent of women surveyed were still married. Nearly all of the marriages that failed ended in divorce.

Sometimes men and women become so consumed with their career and raising a family, they tend forget what made them fall in love in the first place. This is the time to take up those activities that were put aside when children were around -- whether it was traveling, playing golf or fishing.

In addition, it's important to keep the lines of communication open, especially when it comes to a sexual relationship. Bob G. Knight, a University of Southern California professor, gerontologist and director of the Tingstad Older Adult Counseling Center, has worked with older couples to maintain intimacy in their senior years.

"In the context of a loving relationship, sex remains important for people as they grow older," he said in a video. "It can play a role in maintaining excitement about life and keeping the love relationship going."

Medical breakthroughs have been a major factor in continuing a sexual relationship in the senior years for both men and women. Since 1998, Viagra has helped men who have experienced a decreased sex drive later in life, with similar prescription drugs following in the years after. While some don't like the idea of taking a drug for something that should come naturally, many have welcomed it. However, it's important to discuss this subject with your doctor first.

Getting older means there are a lot of new issues that come to play in your relationship, according to Maryanne Vandervelde, psychologist and author of "Retirement for Two: Everything You Need to Know to Thrive Together as Long as You Both Shall Live" ($24, Bantam).

Dealing with new elements such as separate beds and/or bedrooms, determining where you should live out your lives, dealing with children and grandchildren and even how to fill time are some of the biggest issues that couples face after they retire. With men and women playing their respective parts for so long, they may have forgotten about their spouse in the process.

?Both people may have been so set in their prescribed roles that they have not thought much about their relationship in retirement,? Vandervelde wrote. ?They have probably been taking each other for granted.?

Although there are plenty of struggles, it's important to focus on what makes you happy. Sheri and Bob Stritof, who have been married since 1963 and have written for regarding marriage, offered advice on how to survive the second half of a marriage from an article on the site. Tips includes:

* Slow down. Don't rush into volunteering for lots of community or church related projects. Enjoy a slower pace of life for a while. Relax!

* Talk about your achievements and the new challenges you are facing. Share your expectations of this phase of life with one another.

* Make some short term and long term plans on how you will spend your money and time. Prioritize the areas, such as your home, travel, career, education, volunteer efforts, family, friends, recreation and pets.

* Let go of your adult children. Treat them as adults. Respect them by not trying to control or manipulate their lives.

* Consider time away to reaffirm your commitment to one another. This isn't a travel trip, but just several days in a quiet setting to truly communicate with one another how you want to spend the rest of your lives.

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