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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spousal / Partner Relationships in Retirement

At retirement, one relationship that often changes is with your spouse or partner. In the early and middle years of a marriage, couples normally don’t spend a lot of time together. As partners, they are busy making a living, raising a family and fixing up a home. In a recent survey, it was found the average married couple spends only three or four hours a week together without the children, and that may be collapsing on the couch and watching TV.

Due to today’s hectic pace, each partner tends to develop his/her own schedule and routine around their work, family and home demands. Then retirement comes and it’s a time to relax and enjoy, which includes spending quality time with a partner. It’s supposed to be the time when we enrich our relationship; when we do things and go places together.

However, a relationship filled with good times is not something that just happens. Like all other aspects of retirement, it requires planning and effort. As part of your client’s plan, it’s important to recognize that partners have built up their own space and privacy needs. Each needs time to pursue his/her own interests, hobbies, tasks or just ‘chill out alone’.

One train of thought is if a client were apart from their partner eight hours a day during the working days, your client and his/her partner should plan to be apart approximately four hours a day in retirement. This enables each partner to have his/her own time and space. Encourage your client to talk with his/her partner about their individual needs and agree on how those needs can be successfully fulfilled.

Frank and Amber agreed that when Frank retired he would participate in activities outside the home three mornings a week. They also agreed while Amber had the house to herself, she would indulge in her hobby – pottery. The couple agreed that twice a week, they would walk to their favourite pastry shop for coffee and once a week have a ‘date night’. This arrangement has worked out well and Frank and Amber have recommended their ‘time and space’ plan to other retired couples.

As part of relationship planning, it’s important to identify to each other what retirement means in terms of roles and responsibilities. By doing this, your client creates a mini job description; it can outline dates, duties, responsibilities and authorities.

Before Dick and Anastasia began their retired life, they discussed who would be responsible for what in retirement. It was mutually decided that Dick would do the grocery shopping, snow shovelling and raking. He would make the bed each morning, prepare for dinner and several other domestic chores. As part of the division of duties, Anastasia would do the cleaning and vacuuming, washing and drying of clothes, folding and ironing. They agreed that household decorating would be done together. This sharing of responsibilities assisted Dick and Anastasia build a harmonious working relationship without one partner feeling he or she is doing the lion’s share of the work.

Though it is easy to take each other for granted, the preparation for retirement provides your client and his/her spouse an opportunity to assess and enhance their relationship. Being thoughtful, expressing appreciation, having a sense of fun and adventure, these are traits among others that add to the quality of a relationship and the satisfaction level between partners.

As part of your client’s spousal retirement planning, encourage him or her to do little things that add spice to the relationship – such things as buying flowers, sports equipment or treating their partner to lunch. Saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way to recognize what a partner does. Spending quality time together and sharing fun activities adds to any relationship.

Relationships are like a garden. They require regular care and feeding if they are to grow and become fruitful.

------- Richard (Rick) Atkinson, founder and president of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in pre-retirement planning. He is the author of Don’t Just Retire – Live It, Love It!. Rick facilitates workshops for clients of advisors and others. He is available for speaking engagements. Twitter: @dontjustretire.