Retirement Issues For Couples

Marsha B. Sauls, Ph.D.



The common cocktail party issue for retirees is joked about as being the fact that a wife will have her life imposed on by her husband who is now “around the house”.  This is an obvious change in the household dynamics of most retiring couples, unless the wife works too, but one most people find a solution for without too much difficulty.  It is one that is recognized and therefore able to be discussed.


There are other retirement issues less easily identifiable that cause distress for couples.

They usually arise because many retirements do not occur/begin as planned or because one person is not as ready or willing for the changes that will occur in the family as a result of the retirement.  If you as a retired couple find yourselves angry and unable to productively discuss the  issues you have to resolve about living retired, it may be you are in one of the above mentioned categories.  Each category has its own difficulties and they are complex.


A good first step in having more productive discussions is to identify what situation applies to you.  Then have a discussion with your spouse about the feelings you have about either having to retire early or not being as ready to move into ‘retirement mode’ at the same pace as your spouse.  In the first case there is often much mourning to do before moving on.  In the second, one person is usually not ready to or can’t move into a lifestyle of maintaining rather than production while the other is ready to do so. This last situation creates a situation in which a couple has incompatible goals.


Both mourning and having incompatible goals are barriers to fruitful communication.  Both must be dealt with and processed first.