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Will Your Marriage Survive Retirement? Or Not?

Will your marriage survive retirement? For most couples, the answer is yes. With all the hype about gray (silver) divorce, it’s only natural to wonder if you’ll become the next victim. The transition associated with retiring can be fraught with challenges that many will struggle with. And who hasn’t heard a painful story of a long-term relationship that suddenly ended for no apparent reason? 

About 40-50% of unions are estimated to end in divorce. In many respects, the baby boomer generation is responsible for this growing trend. The good news is that for those who have made it this far, you’re probably set and ready for the home stretch. Statistically, between the ages of 55 to 64, the divorce rate is 15 per 1,000 which translates to 1.5%.

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The fact that the divorce rate more than doubles after the age of 55 is still a major cause for concern! The common denominator seems to be unhappiness. Our generation has always exemplified pursuit of happiness which hasn’t changed as we got older. With an increasingly longer lifespan, these folks have decided they’re not willing to live out the next 20 plus years in an unfulfilling relationship or miserable.

On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you with your spouse? Do you feel emotionally drained and depleted being around your partner? Perhaps, even those feelings have dissipated, there are minimal feelings and now you’re more like roommates.

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An interesting exercise would be to ask your significant other how they rank their relationship happiness and why. Would that be an open and enlightening conversation or would it be the fast track to an argument? Just something to consider when wondering will your marriage survive retirement.

Happiness is a subjective term at best, yet each of us knows (or should) whether we are happy or not. To the outside world, they portray the illusion that everything is okay. However, many have grown so far apart that their relationships have become empty shells. Surprisingly, even after it's become cold and devoid of passion, you will have your marriage survive retirement. 

Why Unhappy Relationships Seldom Die

Misery loves company might be the best explanation why so many unhappy unions endure. In addition, there are several other reasons to remain in a less than satisfactory marital union. These include:

  • Till death do us part –  a phrase traditionally included in the wedding vows. Even today, there remains a social stigma of failure and that you should've tried harder.
  • Money - membership in the Silver Splitter (gray divorce) club isn’t cheap. After legal fees and whacking everything in half, many retirees are forced back to work just to make ends meet.
  • Fear of change – for many of us “the devil you know” is the safer alternative than the upheaval associated with starting a new single life.
  • Relationships with others – even amiable divorces create tensions and redefine relationships with sons, daughter, and grandchildren. Friendships with other couples become strained as often they feel they need to choose a side.
  • Growing old alone – there is the real risk you could spend the rest of your life alone making it a decision to have your marriage survive retirement.

Several months back, we met two lovely ladies at the resort we stayed at,  Crown Paradise Golden, in Puerto Vallarta. They were childhood friends and every year vacationed together. After a few too many drinks, it became apparent this was the high point of their lives. Each was in an unhappy relationship with workaholic husbands that largely ignored them. It was sad to learn how miserable each of these intelligent and dynamic women had become.

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In short, unless there's a dramatic event justifying divorce, unhappy relationships tend to languish on and on. In a sense, each partner has resigned themselves to accepting it and not pushing for more. And by doing this, you help your marriage survive retirement.

Characteristics of Successful Partnerships

Entire books have been written on the subject. Rather than list a veritable shopping list of attributes, let’s boil it down to a few of the most important aspects. These include:

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The major difference is that both partners make the effort to shape and redefine their partnership over the years. Upon retiring, they continue to adapt and build upon their successes.

Most Common Challenges After Retiring

Most of us envision our golden years as a time for happiness and wedded bliss. This might be spending time with family and pursuing all those things that interest us. Perhaps, for the first time since childhood, we're finally free of all the stresses and pressures of work.

You’d think long-term relationships would be less at risk of marital problems . One would hope, most couples had worked through any concerns that arose. Unfortunately, that's not always the case and unresolved issues may have simmered for years raising the question will your marriage survive retirement. Now that they're together 24/7, everything becomes more “in your face” and problematic.

Growing Apart with Little in Common

The most commonly cited relationship concern for retirees is they’ve grown apart. During their hectic working years, they were busy and more or less took each other for granted.

Unfortunately, the jarring reality stares them in the face one morning. Passion has dwindled and they are no better than roommates. A very scary thought at this stage in life.

Transition Challenges 

Not everyone has an easy time when it comes to retiring. Some of the more common challenges include:

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When you or your spouse is struggling with this transition, it will further stress your relationship. It can be difficult for some to even acknowledge they’re having problems, let alone articulate them. After all, we’ve waited all this time for what should be the best years of our lives.

Too Much Time Together

After leaving work, most retired couples find themselves together far more than they ever previously considered. They’re running out of things to talk about or maybe they never discussed much anyways.

They might be expecting the other to entertain them. After a while of being together day in an day out, they might begin grating on each other’s nerves. This is when they need some private space and respect for personal boundaries. Developing separate interests and friendships further allows some separation.

Spending Patterns

Money management is usually the biggest source of conflict in most relationships. Especially after retiring, income is generally reduced and we need to be more frugal. Retail therapy when one partner overspends can lead to resentments quickly building.

The same applies with major purchases. “Honey, look at what I bought us” when it's an expensive lawnmower, likely you will land in the doghouse.

Division of Household Duties

Who’s responsible for doing the household chores, such as making meals, cleaning up, doing the laundry, etc.? It’s going to wear thin in no time if one of you is doing the bulk of the work.

Likewise, any annoying quirks are going to fester and, potentially, explode one day. Especially if your partner has repeatedly requested you to do or not do something that bothers them. For example, picking up after yourself (not leaving clothes laying around) might actually be in your best interests, unless you like to live dangerously!

Will Your Marriage Survive Retirement?

Instead of wondering will your marriage survive retirement, we should be thinking how we can improve our relationship. If it has been neglected over the years, it'll take time and effort from both of you to improve it. Just like learning how to dance, it takes two to tango.

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