February 2014


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Caution: Retirement may be hazardous to your relationship

By Marianne Oehser

Anticipation of retirement - or as many prefer to think of it, your "post-career life" -- is often filled with dreams about all the fun things you are going to do, all the places you are going to visit, and all the time you will have to do exactly what you feel like doing. And then one day reality sets in.


Many couples who are moving into this new phase of their lives do not realize the impact this significant life transition will have on their relationship. Robert Bornstein, author of How to Age in Place, puts it this way "Retirement is a major stressor on relationships because people are so preoccupied with setting the financial bedrock of retirement that they don't think about interpersonal challenges." Even if you have a fabulous relationship and are looking forward to a never-ending second honeymoon, retirement will change the dynamics of your relationship.

One of the most obvious changes is going from spending only a few hours a day together to 24/7 togetherness. Regardless of how good your relationship is this requires adjustment.

Many have a big picture vision of their post-career life and the things they want to do but have not talked or even thought about how everyday will look. Something as ordinary as responsibility for household chores is more important than many couples realize. If one partner assumes that old patterns will continue while the other assumes duties will be shared more evenly, resentment will build and conflict is just around the corner.

Spending more time together also means an increased need for joint decision-making. If you are moving from two separate careers where you are used to making independent decisions to sharing more responsibility for what you do, you may need to hone your relationship negotiating skills.

Regardless of what your career was or what level you attained, leaving the work world usually means a loss of identity and purpose. For many of us our identity is described by the title on our business card or by being an achiever, or by feeling useful. One of the greatest challenges in post-career life is redefining who you are now. Not consciously addressing this often creates a new mid-life crisis because you feel like you don't matter anymore and then anger that you may not even be aware of builds up. Sadly, the anger is often unconsciously taken out on your partner.

When the demands and distractions of the working years or reduced, issues in a relationship that may have been ignored for years become more apparent and are harder to ignore. Over the years you may have gotten used to different routines and feel as if you have grown apart or no longer have much in common. Some couples look at this time as an opportunity to constructively renew their relationship. Others either create new separate lives or visit a divorce attorney.


  • No matter how good your relationship is, go back to the basics. Just like your car, relationships don't work well if they are not maintained well. Every relationship benefits from a periodic brush up on the skills that make them work well.
  • Work together to understand each other's needs and create a clear, shared vision of what you want every day to look like.
  • Find the balance between being together and being apart that works for both of you.

  • Have an "Expectation Exchange." Unexpressed and misunderstood expectations about both the big and little things of your new life usually lead to conflict.
  • Find meaningful activities that give your life structure and purpose. It might just be playing golf every day or it might include some new things.

Copyright © by Marianne Oehser and The Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Marianne Oehser assists singles and couples build and maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships. She focuses on helping people who are going through significant life transitions - retirement, empty-nest, single again in mid-life. Marianne received her certification from Relationship Coaching Institute. She holds a Masters in Management and Marketing from Northwestern University in Chicago. She is a regular contributor to e Bella Magazine and ExpertBeacon.com. www.Between2Hearts.com

Ask Our Coaches

How can I make this Valentine's Day really special?

woman_scale Dear Coaches,

Valentine's Day is coming up. I have been dating a woman who I am really into and think she's the one for me. I'm not such a romantic guy, but I want to make a great impression for Valentine's Day. I want to do something very different and special for her. I want it to be the best Valentine's Day she's ever had. I want her friends to say, "Wow!" when she tells them about it. I already know she isn't impressed with expensive gifts. What suggestions can you give to me?

~ Jonathan from New York

Susan Ortalano

Dr Dar responds ...

It is so exciting to have the desire to plan an out of this world Valentine's Day for your partner. Given that she is not impressed by expensive gifts, my favorite idea requires no money upfront and tremendous presence. Listen carefully to everything she says between now and Valentine's Day. Any time you hear her say 'I love xxx' 'I want xxx' 'Wouldn't it be nice if xxx' or some other flavor of these statements, make a note of it. Once you have amassed several of these, review them. Find ways to make those statements come true on Valentine's Day. The greatest gift you can ever give your partner is the gift of you listening coupled with follow through in action demonstrating you heard her.

I wish you both the best Valentine's Day Ever!

Dr. Dar | www.LoveHimLoveHer.com

Barbara A Williams

Barbara responds ...

If you already know she's not impressed with expensive gifts, then it sounds like you may know she's not one that can be bought, or isn't in need of having to be lavished upon. What is it about her specifically that makes you think she's the one for you?

I don't know how long you have been together, but you mentioned that you're not such a "romantic guy"; I would like to think that by now she knows this and wouldn't expect you to be something you're not. If you do this on this one special occasion, and that's it, how great of an impression will it really be?

Be you! If she feels about you the way you feel about her, and she hasn't put in any special requests, go with what your heart impresses you to do; after all, this day is filled with heart ideas. The difference is, these hearts are connected, and it needs to come from yours to hers.

Barbara A Williams | www.barbaraannwilliams.com

Carol Page

Carol responds ...

I think it depends partly on how long you have been together and the stage that your relationship is in. Whatever you choose to do, how about building a level of anticipation and excitement by putting little notes or clues that take her to the next place to find whatever it is you will be doing together? For example, you might send her a single red rose with a note attached, leading her to another gift or an instruction to go somewhere or do something. You could keep this going for a few days, up until Valentine's Day, when you have some special event lined up that you know will really please her.

For the special event itself, that depends again, on what you are both into. How about a trip in a hot air balloon, a weekend away somewhere really special or tickets to a show, fashion or sporting event that she would be wild about.

Think about the things she likes to talk about. What is she really excited about? Has she expressed a longing to do something special? Perhaps you can plan your event around that.

I hope you have a fabulous time.

Carol Page | www.new-relationship.com


Dr. Denise responds ...

Wow-ing a woman is more about hitting her "sweetspot" than it is about spending an exorbitant amount of money, showering her with unlimited attention, or accolades.

The "sweetspot" for a woman is usually connected to the special people, places, milestones, or events in her life that the late Dr William Glasser refers to as, her quality world. A woman's quality world has only a few spots and they are usually tied into treasured values and memories.

It is more important to find out, through her friends and family, what those treasured events/memories are. By evoking powerful emotions, connected to happy memories from happy times in her life, she will undoubtedly realize you did your research and that may mean more to her than any gift.

Let me give you some ideas. You could wrap her favorite childhood toy and candy. You could also take her to her favorite girlhood place, like an ice cream place or movie theater tied in with a warm, happy memory. Perhaps it was her favorite childhood park that her parents took her to. In other words, something nostalgic that tells her you want to connect with the little girl, the teenage girl, and the adult.

Dr. Denise Wade | www.sweetharmony.net

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here www.relationshipcoach.org/ask-the-coach and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.


Helpful Tips

How to create a wonderful Valentine's Day for your partner...

Customize your own 'Coupon Book' for your partner. Little crafted slips of paper, each letting your loved one out of a chore, or granting a nicety - your treat!

Ex: One FREE 'Walking the Dogs' coupon, or One FREE 'Breakfast in Bed' ... make it fun!

Make a scrapbook for him/her - even if you're not crafty. It doesn't have to be big, and it doesn't even have to be a 'book'. It could be a poster board, or a computer slide show. It's the content, and intent, that counts. Include memories from this past year. Pictures, activities that were special, etc.

Let him/her know that you don't just love him/her today, but all year!

Terri Hase | www.BetterYouProject.org

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