My husband has just retired, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it. He makes messes everywhere he goes and thinks housework is beneath him. We fight all the time now — do you have any suggestions on how to survive this?
Most couples go through an adjustment period after retirement. It was easy to get along when you were away from each other 60 hours a week. Retirement totally changes the dynamics of the relationship.
Now you are going to have to do something you should have done long ago — learn how to communicate and accommodate each other. Or you can come up with new and creative ways to avoid each other. Remember, retired couples generally fall into three categories.
1. Those who realize they can’t stand each other and split up. 2. Those who realize they can’t stand each other and live out their remaining years in misery. 3. Those who decide to work through their issues and create a wonderful, rich relationship.
I recommend, as a couple, you commit to creating something better.
It is time to learn how to have open, honest, validating conversations, honoring and respecting your differences. It is time to eliminate habits that bother your spouse and create a lifestyle that meets both your needs. To do this, both parties must be committed to the effort.
Here are some tips for re-inventing your marriage after retirement:
1. Make sure your spouse knows you unconditionally love them. This means giving them room to be “a work in progress.” This is a big adjustment in your life, and you both need time to figure out who you want to be now.
2. Learn how to have validating, open and honest conversations. Here is a simple formula to make good communication happen every time.
Mentally decide to set your thoughts and feelings aside upfront. Make this the first part of the conversation about showing your spouse you care what they think.
Ask questions and listen to your spouse’s thoughts and feelings about the issue. Spend some time here listening and do not interrupt. Do not say anything. You must honor and respect their right to think and feel the way they do.
Then ask if they would be open to hearing how you think and feel. (Wait for a yes.) Then speak your truth in a loving way. If you follow this formula, you should be able to talk about any issue with love and respect.
3. Decide together to eliminate behaviors that bother each other. Each week ask each other this question, “What could I do different or better to make this relationship happier?” If both of you are committed to making your relationship better, you can do it.
4. Treat each other with respect and kindness. When you want him to do a chore, ask him in a respectful way, “Honey, would you be open to helping me with something today?” (Wait for a yes) “Would you be open to washing the dishes while I do the shopping?” Asking permission questions like these shows you care how he feels. Demanding help often produces passive aggressive behavior.
5. Divide up household chores and make these decisions together as a team. Every decision should be made by joint agreement.
6. Be affectionate. Bring back the romantic gestures from when the relationship was new. Leave love notes, hug and kiss more often and do small acts of service for each other.
7. Find some common interests and have fun together. One couple goes on road trips where they flip a coin at every intersection to decide which way to go. They love the spontaneity of never knowing where they’ll end up. You could also volunteer or take up a hobby or sport together. The couple that plays together stays together.
8. Balance your time together with some time apart. It’s healthy for both of you to have friends and activities of your own. That way, when you do spend time together, it is all the more precious.
If you are the only one committed to making your relationship better, here is a tip for you:
You cannot change your spouse but you can encourage him to want to change himself. This approach is a little sneaky but it works. Figure out how you would like him to behave and thank him for behaving this way … and say it often, even if he isn’t actually behaving that way yet. Praise is a better motivator than nagging or begging. If you constantly thank him for helping you around the house, I promise he will eventually decide, on his own, to be the man you think he is.
Remember, all adjustments take time, but with love, humor and patience you and your spouse can enjoy this time and even make it the best time of your life.
You don't stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.