Connect in your golden years and make your last years together your best years.
Planning for retirement can be an exciting and terrifying proposition. There’s all the exit planning for leaving your career, there are financial worries; then on the flip side, there is all of this time ahead of you that you’re not sure how you’re going to fill.
How will you keep busy? Will you feel as though you have a purpose in life? There are all those projects to finish, all of those places you’ve always wanted to go. What about your partner?
You’ve been in a routine with your home life for many years and all of that is about to drastically change. As you plan for retirement, you begin to realize that you are going to be home with your partner a whole lot more. What’s it going to be like to be spending days and nights with them for the rest of your life?
I hope you see this as an opportunity. Even if your relationship or marriage is only ok, or pretty good. I suggest that you can plan for retirement and still work; on your relationship with your partner. What better pursuit can you find than to strengthen your bond, deepen your connection and increase intimacy with the one you love? This might be the most rewarding job of your life!
Time to spend
As you plan for retirement, think about all the hours you spent at work. When you came home to be with your partner, what was missing in your interactions? Did you spend too much time watching TV or on your phone; did they? How much time did you actually spend in positive and loving interactions with your partner? Right now, today, how much are you interacting with one another beyond the nuts and bolts of running the household together? When was the last time the two of you spoke about things that matter to each of you? When was the last time you truly connected?
Now is the time to remedy this. You are looking forward to a lot of hours that you can spend with your favorite person. I’m not saying you have to spend ALL your time together, that’s a bit extreme, but wouldn’t it be great if you could spend some of those open hours with your best friend?
Places to go
Many people look at retirement as this vast open-ended timespan that can be scary as hell. Again, I want you to have the perspective of this retirement period, however many years it may be, as something exciting. This is an adventure that you and your partner can take together. Think back to the days before mortgages and family obligations. What was it that you enjoyed? Where did you and your partner like to go together? Did you travel? Do you wish you had?
Now is the time. If you’re physically and financially able, to go see those places that you always wanted to. You’re on the downhill side of life, that’s certain. Don’t waste any more time wishing you could go. Just go.
You and your partner can share new experiences that will make memories to last the rest of your lives. You don’t have to travel far. There are always interesting and beautiful places to be seen in any locality. Plan for retirement to be the time you finally get to see those longed for places. Warning: You may have to do some compromising. Your partner may not always want to see the same places as you. My advice is to see one place that your partner wants, then you see one that you want to see; then you can decide on the next one together. Make it fun and not a chore. Do all you need to do to make beautiful loving memories that will sustain you at the end of your lives; take pictures, keep a journal and videos; all of these wonderful memories are yours to share.
Deepen your connection
No matter what the status of your relationship is now, good, bad or indifferent; plan for retirement to be the time of deeper connection and a renewed passion for each other. Your relationship might have settled into a calm and friendly routine where you’re polite and kind to each other, but it feels more like a comfortable friendship than a marriage. You’ve both changed a great deal over the years, and this routine you’re in works for you both. So why change it?
Maybe you’ve lost a spark for your partner and think you may never be able to get it back so you’ve given up. Perhaps you’re living in a state of cold war, where past hurts and resentments have built a wall between you and you feel estranged from each other, even sleeping in the same bed. These are not uncommon scenarios for couples in their retirement years. I’m here to tell you, you don’t need to continue to live this way. There is a deeper, more loving and passionate connection available to both of you. This is where the “work on your relationship” part comes into play.
You can find and restore your connection. Show gratitude and behave in loving ways. Tell your partner daily just how important they are to you. This may be a new habit that seems strange at first, but if you really think about it, why wouldn’t you express the deep love you have for each other? The more positive interactions you share, the deeper your connection becomes. It’s nice work if you can get it, right? You can do it.
Use more loving words; reach out with gentle touch and loving (non-sexual) contact. Begin to change the dynamic towards a generally more loving and positive connection.
What about intimacy?
You can plan for retirement to be a wonderful time of renewed self-awareness and intimacy with your partner. If you’re in that roommate or cold war mode, intimacy may be a thing of the past. It doesn’t have to be. Intimacy comes when two people feel safe together. When you and your partner are together are you able to be vulnerable about how you feel? Are you worried that you will be judged or rejected by your partner? Intimacy is not about sex, though good sex has intimacy as a powerful component. To be intimate with your partner means to strip away all the masks, tear down the walls and really let your partner see you and they do the same. This may require that you rebuild trust and create a climate of security that may be missing now. This is some of the work you need to do in order for intimacy to be present between you and your partner. Then you can work on your sexual connection.
This doesn’t feel like work!
It’s not necessarily going to be easy to get back into a vibrant and passionate loving relationship with your partner, but it is possible. Get into the habits of creating positive and loving moments. These moments add up to days and years of loving one another. It shouldn’t feel like work. Your plan for retirement should include a passionate and electric sexual relationship with your partner as well. It’s a myth that people in your age group cannot be sexual. Your mind still creates those feelings; your body may just need some adjustments. You and your partner can adapt to physical limitations and sexuality can become even more a part of your interactions than it has ever been. Don’t neglect this part of your relationship because you think you’re too old. Being old is a mindset. Keep ahold of the attitude that says “life is an adventure”! Now go live yours.
After a while, you’ll find that your entire relationship is being transformed into a priority that you’re more than happy to work on. This can be the best time of your lives together.
Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.