Life after retirement – a different focus 111



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Happy Older Couple in Beach Chairs

In response to the article written, ‘More women suffering health problems from “retired hubby syndrome”… Did you?’

In the article, retirement may result in changes in relationship dynamics. The changes in roles can be sudden, such as in the event of unexpected retirement. While sudden changes can be stressful, these changes can lead to positive outcomes for couples. Researchers have argued that couples’ capacity to develop new roles is a factor in retirement adjustment. In an interview conducted with a couple, aged 64 and 57, from Brisbane, Timothy shared how his life changed when he was offered early retirement. Previously, he worked from 9 to 6 daily. Household chores were Hazel’s domain. With free time on his hands, Timothy now does the groceries and takes out the washing when it is done. While Timothy sees it as an opportunity to provide more support for his wife, it is definitely a welcome change for Hazel.

Besides having an extra helping hand around the house, the couple relationship is important in retirement in other ways. This is not conventional wisdom. When people think about retirement, their relationship is often the last thing on their mind. Finances, physical health and cognitive functioning are foremost concerns. How can your couple relationship play an important part in retirement?

Studies show that joint retirement is beneficial for couples. Married retirees enjoy better psychological health, particularly if their partners are retired too. In joint retirement, couples can enjoy each other’s company in complementary leisure pursuits. Enjoying nature bushwalking together is a lot more fun than fending off the leeches alone.

Relationship quality matters in retirement. If you can barely stand your husband when he was working, imagine another 30 years where you will see more of him than ever before! Research suggests that marital quality is reinforced by retirement. If you have a good relationship satisfaction before retirement, your relationship is likely to become more stable in retirement. On the other hand, if your relationship leaves much to be desired, satisfaction is not likely to pick up. The good gets better and the reverse is true.

Retirement is a major life transition that is stressful for approximately one-third of retirees. Having a supportive spouse is possibly one of the most valuable assets in managing possible stressors. From recovering from health problems to improving your physical health, your partner can be a cheerleader for sustaining exercise or improving your dietary habits. The behaviour of couples when they manage stress has been termed ‘dyadic coping’ and contributes to the wholeness of relationships.

It is not just about handling stressors better. Discussing retirement with your partner or spouse frequently improves the likelihood of realising your dreams for retirement. Two heads are better at making good plans than one. With good communication, retirement plans can be developed based on mutual understanding of both parties’ needs and preferences. Based on our resources, your love for quaint castles and my love for adventure sports, will it be a Europe tour or an expedition to the Himalayas?


How will your couple relationship be affected by retirement? Share your thoughts!

Angie Ho

Angie Ho is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology candidate at the University of Queensland. Having recently completed a stint at Alzheimer’s Australia, she is more certain than ever that age is no indicator of youth and vitality. As part of her doctoral thesis, Angie is developing a retirement planning workshop for couples. To be part of this project, go to:

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