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Has this happened to you?
You are busy and doing your thing, whether you’re retired or still working. And things go well till your spouse retires to the couch and grows roots. He complains all the time or nags you about stuff he never mentioned before. It’s like he hates being retired. Is he having difficulty adjusting to retirement? How can you help?
By the way, I’m going to say “he” for the spouse, but it could apply to either gender. Yep, I’m doing a shortcut. And yep, I’m often the grumpier one in the couple.
Chances are this is a phase he’s going through. Newly retired means suddenly not doing what’s been normal for the past 45 years or so. Not having the same people, the same expectations, the same stuff to work with and do. It’s a loss. And loss makes grief.
Your spouse might be withdrawn or out of sorts for a little while, but don’t let him get stuck that way. Try involving him in some other normal thing he didn’t lose by getting done with his job, preferably something social. Try not to nag or overload him. The activity doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be consistent.
Some ideas to start with.
If you are churchgoers, make sure he gets out to church every week. If he always goes golfing with a friend Saturday morning, keep him going to that. When his club meets, make sure he’s there. He needs to keep at least some social connections outside of work, something familiar that didn’t change. What if he isn’t a joiner? By now he must have one friend somewhere. Have that friend over for dinner.
Meanwhile, if he grouses that housekeeping isn’t up to snuff, ask him to help. After all, if he is critical of how you mop the floor, he might as well show you how to do it better. If he complains about meals, invite him to help plan meals or grocery shop. It may be excruciating having him along the first few times but if he’s genuinely interested in food, he might as well get involved in the process.
No matter how grumpy he is, try not to launch right into reciprocation. He needs positives in his life. If he grumps, he might be surprised out of it if you joke with him. It’s hard and not too real if you NEVER snap back, but if you’re harping at him a lot it won’t help and just drags you down.
More on adjusting to your spouse in retirement here.
Add some structure.
With some structure like weekly activities and connections with people independent of that old job, your dear one has a start on setting up his days so he can better enjoy retirement.
Keep a routine for yourself and keep encouraging him to join in. Regular mealtimes are not only healthful, they’re a good start to an organized day. Throw in something he has to get dressed for and a regular chore or two. Something that doesn’t take all day and that helps you out. Helping you could be important to him, after all.
How about a walk after supper? You’ll both benefit from the exercise. Plus it gives you time to talk about whatever.
Then, if he has specific programs on TV he wants to watch, he can work that into his schedule. You’ll need your “me time” too, after all. And this is America, where we have a TV habit. Moderation is the key.
Build enjoyment in.
Retirement is a time to enjoy life. Have some fun and include your spouse in planning and doing fun things. He’ll adjust to retirement more easily if it’s fun.
Where you have interests in common, work out ways to share those interests. Maybe you used to go to the movies together and really liked it, but then it all turned to Disney while the kids were growing up. Well, maybe there’s a show he’d like to see. Start dating again and go see it together. If you can find a drive-in, it might be fun to go.
On a larger scale, plan with him to go see relatives or old friends. Maybe he likes road trips, so have him find an interesting route to take. Be sure to bring the camera so there’ll be plenty of pictures!
Your spouse has had interests over the years that later on fell away because of increased demands on his time or other issues. See if he would like to try to revive one or more of those interests or build on them. Ask your woodworker’s advice on the best construction for a bench, if you want one, and get him involved in either picking one out or, better still, making one.
Social ties are important too.
In my neck of the woods, retired men meet at the restaurants for coffee in the morning, spending an hour or so with old buddies, just chewing the fat. My father “adopted” a bunch of gospel singers at a restaurant where he liked to do weekend breakfast. He got to know them and they him, and they had many interesting talks.
Make sure your spouse has some connections to draw on. If the two of you are out and run into one of his friends, at the very least make sure they have one another’s contact information. That way they can get together over whatever shared interest they have, on their terms.
Include some friends in activities you’re having. Plan to meet up at the baseball game or bowling alley. Have lunch together. Do a barbecue supper or have a Super Bowl party. And at some point your spouse will be going off with a buddy to see a show, whether it be antique cars, hunting and fishing gear, or garden equipment.
More on getting social here.
Still not adjusting?
Maybe your dear one is ill. No, really. He might be medically worn down somehow, or he might be depressed. He will need to be checked out by a doctor to see what’s going on.
And if it is depression, he can have medication and/or therapy. Therapy is really good for getting through times of adjusting to new situations, like retirement. The tough part is, getting your spouse to accept treatment. But if he will go, great–support him in whatever he needs to do.
More on depression here.
Some people don’t have the knack for being happy, but they’re thankfully in the tiny minority. Most likely your spouse will come around and begin to find his way to satisfaction with his retirement lifestyle, making it truly his own. And that means you get room for your retirement dreams too.
Have you encountered difficulty adjusting to retirement in your spouse or other close person? Share some of your tips!