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Is Your Relationship Ready For Retirement?
Written By : Dee Cascio 
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It is complicated and challenging enough to think about retirement for ourselves, but it is even more challenging for couples to plan for retirement. Many complex retirement needs are unique to living with a spouse or partner. To have a successful retirement, each spouse needs to be able to compromise and cooperate with understanding and empathy while still maintaining his or her own autonomy in a relationship.

My success is not your success

The way we navigate this next stage of our lives will be a very personal process because it requires introspection, thoughtful planning, communication and cooperation if you are a part of a couple. What defines success in retirement for you may not be the same for your spouse or partner. How will you handle the challenges of this reality as you look forward to slowing down and taking time to explore what will bring you purpose, meaning and satisfaction? Some spouses will be looking for variety, intellectual stimulation and travel while the other spouse might be more interested in physical activities, hobbies and more social stimulation. What process will help you to find a common thread to weave together the different interests that you might have into a tapestry that reflects who both of you are together and separately?

Opposites attract

You know the old saying, "Opposites attract one another." Introverts often attract extroverts, early birds attract night owls, a serious person might be attracted to a partner who is funny, and an intellectual may be attracted to someone who is emotionally expressive. However, during the course of the relationship, a healthy couple deepens their love, commitment, understanding, trust, and respect in spite of these differences. A healthy couple can communicate and stretch into unexplored experiences at their own pace. Their differences will not disappear but a couple will come closer together with understanding and empathy. In other words, the differences soften as a spouse offers the other a glimpse into their own world to discover what part of their world might also fit for them.

Where to live

Couples sometimes differ regarding where to live permanently or where to buy a second home and these differences may create conflict. As the time nears to make a decision, an impasse may develop without warning. I know of several couples who have struggled with this decision and my husband and I are one of them.

My husband, Tom, and I have always been good communicators about many issues and challenges that have come up over the years. But when the time came to buy a second home, I found out something that I had not known about him. During some of his college undergraduate years, he had enjoyed living in the city environment of Baltimore, MD. Fresh out of college as a young engineer, he had hopes of continuing to live in the city. However, because of anticipated family responsibilities and raising children, he felt it was best to move from a city apartment to a condo in the suburbs.

When Tom retired, he wanted to be back in a city environment because he liked the fast pace, interesting attractions, and the excitement that a city offers. I wanted to be by the beach or by some body of water because I find that very relaxing. However, we did agree on one thing and that was we both wanted a warm climate! As we talked more about what each of us wanted and began to explore the options, it became clearer what would really work best for us and we began to look for it.

Initially, we had no idea how our choice would turn out, but we continued to talk, respecting what the other needed. We made a number of trips to Florida before we found a condo in Downtown Tampa, Florida that overlooks Tampa Bay. From the nineteenth floor of our condo we have a dramatic view of the city skyline and the bay. Fortunately, the entire process was a positive experience and we had a happy ending. I am now also enjoying the benefits of being in a city and Tom loves to watch all of the activity in the harbor.

Some spouses may want to be closer to friends and family, while the other may want to try a new environment. Some spouses may want to travel while others like to be at home where things are familiar. Many couples will have differences about whether to move to the beach, the mountains, a lake, the river, or the desert. The main goal is to go to a place where both of you can feel comfortable and fulfilled. The challenge is to find a place in the middle so that both of your needs can be met as best as possible. This only happens when you keep the communication open and keep a shared vision in site.


Over the years I have had many opportunities to help couples to communicate in healthier ways, hear what each other wants and share understanding and empathy for each other's needs. These are important skills in the discussions that you will have during this phase of life that I can help you with. Remember that love, intimacy mutuality, commitment, trust, and communication are keys to a successful marriage and a successful retirement for couples. Remember to keep your relationship nurtured throughout your whole life.

Find out more about: retirement
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