The majority of couples and individuals look forward to retirement. They may envisage a time of relaxation, the opportunity to pursue interests and hobbies, to travel, and to have the choice to decide what they will and won’t do, as their circumstances allow. Retirement can be a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience for many couples but it can also present challenges for individuals and couples.

Many retired couples acknowledge that one of the major changes retirement brings is the fact that they now have more time to spend with each other. This can be a wonderful experience for couples who have more time to spend together and they can plan and do many things they were unable to do together previously.

The reality of adjusting to retirement however can often prove to be different to what was envisaged. Retirement often has an unexpected impact on relationships. This can occur when one or both partners retire. Many couples find that retirement may not live up to the expectations they had and this may cause difficulties for them in their relationship.

Some people may not have looked forward to retirement and when it comes may find it very difficult to adjust to the change in status and lifestyle. Some retirees and their spouses find it very difficult to adjust to their new situation. A spouse who retires may have an expectation that the other spouse, who has worked in the home, will be available to them all the time. The partner who has worked in the home can find the retired partner’s presence around the house all the time very discommoding and stressful. All such changes can be a menu for a build up of frustration and dissatisfaction.

There are other challenges that may accompany retirement. Loss of familiar routines and structures can be difficult to adjust to. Retirement can also have a significant impact on individuals’ identities, as they are no longer defined by their role in the work place, and they have to adjust their identity accordingly. Self-esteem can be affected by the ending of employment, changes in income, and perhaps status. The ongoing ageing process, and for some, its limitations, including physical and health issues, none of which may ever have been anticipated, can also be very stressful for retired couples and impact on many aspects of their relationships. In some situations the desire to help out adult children and to assist them financially and with childminding can also add to a couple’s level of stress and oftentimes cause friction between a couple.

Individuals and couples experiencing difficulties in their marriages and relationships following retirement may find it difficult to acknowledge such difficulties and may hope they will right themselves over time. A better option, in such circumstances, is for both partners to acknowledge and take action, such as seeking counselling, to try to resolve their issues. Seeking help is a wise option. This can be done by attending Marriage and Relationship counselling. Working through the challenges presented by retirement in a safe space with the help of a professionally trained counsellor can help couples create a lifestyle that they can both enjoy and that meets both their needs.

ACCORD counsellors are trained to work with couples and individuals in marriages and relationships and will be very sensitive to the needs of retired couples and individuals who attend counselling for help and support. Couples and individuals of all ages attend ACCORD for counselling at many different stages in their Marriages and Relationships, before they marry, when they are rearing their families, when their children have grown up and when they are adjusting to retirement.