Exiting My Business Shouldn’t Stress My Marriage!

My Wife and I in SwitzerlandWe just celebrated Valentine’s Day, a day known for candy and flowers and romantic dinners. If you’re planning to retire soon, one of the most caring and practical things you can do is to talk to your spouse about the anticipated changes you BOTH will experience when you no longer work 40 – 60 hours/week. We’re not talking about your new-found ability to take off on a Wednesday afternoon to visit with the grandchildren. We’re talking about the everyday changes to your routine. Those are the ones that have the potential to really shake up your relationship.

We think it’s going to be no big deal…sleep in a little, have some time to read the paper over a leisurely breakfast, do a few things around the house, maybe take a nap…. Well, that may sound delightful to you, but your spouse is likely still living the patterns created over years of partnership. Whether your spouse works full time, part time or not at all, his or her patterns will be shaped and influenced by the changes in yours, and if you don’t discuss them in advance, or as they are happening, you will experience tension.

Last August, my husband Jim left his position and is taking some time off to re-evaluate his career direction. This change meant that he (and we) no longer needed to awaken at 5:20am. Yippee! It also meant he would be home. All. Day. Long. I wasn’t sure I liked that.

First, I noticed a subtle (or not so subtle) nudge for a later wake up time – but I still had early meetings scheduled. Later I noticed more meandering in the morning. He took some extra time to play with our dog, eat a leisurely breakfast. I still had deadlines, commitments, schedules -- made months ago -- staring me in the face. When I worked from home, rather than the solitude I had become used to, he would sweetly stop in to say hello or check in with me about what time I’d be breaking for lunch. I found myself distracted by everything -- the music on his iPad, his conversations with our dog, the front door creaking open and shut, open and shut. Arrggghh!

While it took some time, and a lot of conversation and expectations-sharing, we worked things out. I shared my need for quiet time to focus and concentrate; he plays his ipad a little lower. He sends me a text to confirm lunch plans, and I schedule morning meetings a little later. We’ve found a new rhythm.

In Japan, there’s even a recognized condition related to the relationship changes around retirement. “Retired husband syndrome” describes a set of stress-related symptoms and depression that many Japanese women experience in anticipation of having their husbands around more in retirement. This seems to be driving a wave of late-in-life separations, known in the United States as “grey divorce”.*

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The best approach is to foster awareness of the impact the change will have on you and to discuss each of your wants and needs. Ask your spouse what they want their life to look like in the next 3 years and tell them what you dream about. Then figure out how to make it happen.

* For more information on Grey Divorce from Greensboro, NC experts, contact us  (abby@leadershiplegacygroup.com)