How to Retire without Getting Divorced

Photo by Max Harlynking on Unsplash

How do you retire without getting divorced? Why is that when You've finally raised the children, finished work, and have your whole future ahead of you, some couples realise they don't like each other any more, while others retire happily ever after?

Kia Handley and The Sugar Doctor talk about how to keep retire without getting divorced.

[Full Transcript Below]

You can listen to the show live on Monday mornings from 9:30 am on ABC Newcastle at 1233AM or stream live here.

[Original recording on ABC website here]

Kia Handley is: Not a car! Presenter ABC Newcastle. Loves vintage, Eurovision & great stories.

You can also find the incredibly talented Kia Handley on ABC  Newcastle Mornings here, Twitter @kiahandley  Facebook kiahandleyjourno and on her podcasts: This Retro Life & Let’s Talk-  Rural Mental Health, PLUS even more amazing gems here.

Episode Transcript:

You work and work and work all your life thinking of that golden moment when you can say I’m retired! Time to do the things you love making things, volunteering, walks on the beach when the kids aren’t there, traveling, starting that hobby farm you’ve always dreamt of…

But what if retirement is maybe just that little bit harder than you thought? What if you haven't done the work to retire without getting divorced?

If that dream of getting to spend more time with your partner, your friends, doesn’t quite go to plan. Tara Whitewood, Relationship Coach with The Sugar Doctor, good morning.

Tara: Morning, Kia

Do We Have Unrealistic Ideas of Retirement?

Kia: Do we have this grand golden idea of what retirement is going to be?

Tara: I think we have a grand golden idea of what retirement is going to be, without ever really putting any substance to it.

[Both laugh]

A lot of people know that it’s coming, and that when we get there, yes we’ll have all of this time now, the luxury of time to do the things that we do. But they haven’t put any content in what might those things be? And they haven’t talked about that with their partner. And they don't realise they might not retire without getting divorced.

Why Do Relationships Struggle as they Approach Retirement?

Kia; Do relationships, can they go through a bit of a rough patch once both people go from decades of working and raising kids to just being… together?

Tara: Yeah, absolutely! And what we’re seeing at the moment is a rise in what they call the Grey Divorces. That generation that are heading now into retirement, the Boomers, and what happens is people have spent all their time and energy and attention on their careers, on raising children, on saving towards their retirement, and a lot of people haven’t spent that much time investing in each other.

So the kids move out, there’s no more work, and all of a sudden you’re spending ALL of your time together. And you realise that maybe you don’t even know each other that well anymore, or maybe sometimes you don’t even really like each other. And maybe it's tricky now to retire without getting divorced.

Kia: Or don’t like the same things!

Tara: Yes!

Kia: So filling your time together becomes a challenge. Because, “don’t like that”, “well I don’t like that!”

Tara: That’s right, and you realise that the routines and the habits and the things that you didn’t maybe notice when you were “doing”.

Kia; Busy.

Tara: Busy, doing doing doing… suddenly become magnified and those little things that weren’t that annoying suddenly become very, very annoying.

What Happens if You Discover You are Not on the Same Page?

Kia: I imagine that can become quite confronting.

Tara: I think it is quite confronting. I speak to a lot of people at the moment, it seems to be a bit of a theme. That people have had this image of... really it’s the final chapter.

That the final chapter, which is now one of the longest chapters with the way that our health is going and our longevity. Retirement could be thirty years, it could be forty years. It’s really a significant portion of your life. And I think people are finding it very confronting that they’re getting to that transitional stage. They’re transitioning from work into fun,

Kia: Into leisure,

Tara: And suddenly the rug is pulled out from under them. So, particularly for people who have built a life together financially, and in terms of their assets, that can be really devastating to find yourself single during that transition. They expected to retire without getting divorced.

How do We Plan to Retire Without Getting Divorced?

Kia: Yeah, so let’s say that we’re retirement might be a couple of years, 5 years, 10 years away, what do we do to try to work towards that now, as a couple?

Tara: I would be having lots of conversations, as always, my number one advice is to have lots of conversations.

Kia: [laughs] let’s talk about it!

Tara: Just talk about it so that you have clear expectations about what each of you wants, so that you can retire without getting divorced. And you can look at how do you see your personal retirement and then how do you see your retirement as a partnership. Because one of the things that I think a lot of people do, is they expectations that they’re going to do everything together. And then the other partner doesn’t have those same expectations.

Kia: No, no, no, you are NOT coming to bridge with me.

Tara: Get out of the house!

Kia: You cannot come to my quilting club!

Tara: So to continue to nurture the relationships that you have, the friendships that you have, and the social connections that you have at that time so that you don’t find yourselves transitioning into retirement with only each other to keep yourselves company.

Kia: And what do those conversations look like? Does it start with “how much time do we want to spend together when both of us aren’t working”?

Tara: Yes, I think it’s nice to do a review of some different categories, and of some different types of energy. So the different types of energy I’m talking about are Starting, Maintaining, and Finishing.

1. Plan Things You Would Like to Start.

So, what kind of things do we want to start? What are the new things that we want to try now?

Because if you still have 40 years now post-retirement, that’s a lot of time! Ten rounds of mastery in something, you know maybe you want to learn how to paint, maybe you want to learn a new language.

Kia: Dancing lessons together.

Tara: Whatever it is. So, what are the new things you’d like to start? And what are the new things you’d like to start as an individual, and also as a couple.

So you can write a big list and then see “oh hey, we’ve got a lot of the same things” so you can focus on doing those things together. Then pursuing some of our individual interests separately.

  • So that might be projects you want to do,
  • it might be travel you want to take,
  • things you want to learn,
  • people you want to meet.

2. Decide What You Would Like to Maintain.

Then you look at the second energy which is in maintaining.

  • What is working really well for us?
  • And what do we want to continue to do? Rather than just doing it because it’s habit.
  • What’s really valuable for us, what is making us feel really fulfilled?
  • Who are the people we still want to see?
  • Do we still want to play bridge? Or go to the club?
  • What are the things that are working, that we like?

Kia: That bring us joy.

Tara: What are the things that we want to bring into our retirement with us?

3. Agree What You are Going to Finish

Then the third energy to have a conversation about is the finishing.

You know;

  • What are the chapters that we want to close?
  • What are the things that we do that aren’t’ working?
  • Maybe projects that we want to finish?

Kia: Or maybe they’ve been connected to working life or children that now we don’t actually have to. We don’t have that obligation anymore.

Tara: Exactly right. A habit that you are doing for the sake of the habit, that maybe no longer needs to be there. And it just has become such routine that you forget, “oh, that’s right, we started that because Kia was in kindergarten and she needed…

Kia: And we were at the canteen, and then we never stopped… even though they’re now 25!

Tara: [laughs] exactly that!

4. Decide How Much Time to Spend with Family & Friends

Tara: And then you also, probably for a lot of retirees, want to be thinking about how much time do we want to spend with our families? How much time do we want to spend with our grandkids? And also does that work for them? So how are we going to navigate those relationships as well?

Because I think that the diversity in your social network is really key to staying friends.

Kia: It’s twelve minutes to ten on ABC Newcastle and we’re talking How to Retire Without Getting Divorced. My guest, Tara Whitewood, Relationship Coach with The Sugar Doctor.

5. Discuss How Much Time to Spend with Each Other

Kia: I feel like this is getting quite complex as well, because not only are we retired for longer, but we also have the choice to work for longer, so I know that there are conversations in my In-Laws house at the moment. My Mother-in-law would like to retire soon, and my Father-in-Law would like to keep working. So how do we make that work for us?

Tara: How do we balance that?

Kia: While one of us is retired and getting to, not “do what they want” that makes it sound wonderful. But have a bit more time and flexibility, while the other one will still be on the clock.

Tara: Yes. And it really is a negotiation. And a similar negotiation to the ones that you have throughout your entire relationship. And that is, “How much time do we really need to spend together, in order to make that quality time?” So, if your mother in law is wanting to spend time with your father in law

Kia: Sometimes just weekends is fine!

Tara: That’s right! How much time do we actually need to spend together so that we feel connected and like we’re enjoying each other’s company? How do we retire without getting divorced?

6. Consider Whether You Want to Work, Volunteer, or Contribute to Your Community

Tara: Because a lot of people who really get a lot of satisfaction and joy from their work don’t really ever want to stop doing that. And that’s what keeps them really juiced and excited. Many people retire and then come back in some sort of consultancy capacity because they realise they just don’t want to stop being involved in that kind of work.

So you know there’s ‘work’…

Kia: And it’s been their life work for a reason.

Tara: That’s right. It’s really separating out;

  • “What is just work and I’m really just doing it to pay the bills?” Maybe I’m not really that involved in it, and maybe I don’t really love it that much, and I’m looking forward to leaving that.
  • And then what’s the kind of work that is really enriching and fulfilling and provided contribution to the world.
  • A lot of people find that in retirement. Through volunteering or being part of a charity, through being involved in community groups… so I think also maintaining that link to work is really important.

7. Pursue Separate Interests

Kia: Kerry in Muswellbrook on the text says “I think it’s necessary to have separate interests as well as doing things together. Time apart gives you something different to talk about.” Says Kerry. You’re bringing back your different stories.

Tara: 100%. You see those people who have been married for a very long time, and they’re sitting over the dinner table, and they have nothing to say anymore! Because it’s Groundhog Day, you know? No one is trying new things, no one is watching new things, no one is learning new things. And it becomes very boring. Very samey.

And what people say, the words that they’ll say,  is “we’ve lost the spark”. And I appreciate that that might seem how it is, but what you’re actually doing, is you’ve stopped trying.

Kia: And the question back would be “but what are you doing to reignite it?” And if you’re not doing things, individually or together, then of course there’s no spark!

Tara: And why are you relying on your partner to bring that energy, when you can bring that energy to your own life. Go out! Make new friends, and try new things, and do new things. And even as introverts you can do  that, maybe in a library without anyone else [laughs] you can still bring that new and refreshing energy into your life without relying on others.

Kia: That’s a great point. It doesn’t have to be big, it could be as simple as trying a different book genre that you have never read because you didn’t think you liked it.

Tara: Exactly right. And then you might…

Kia: And then when you’re complaining about it [laughs]

Tara: And then you can say “oh my gosh, I’m reading this amazing book! And it’s terrible, or it’s wonderful, or I learned something new today on this podcast”. Just bringing something new to your partner, to contribute that energy back into your relationship, it is so crucial.

Do These Conversations Help All Relationships?

Kia: So we can do it before retirement in the lead up so we can retire without getting divorced, but we can also do it at the moment. If right now someone is going “oh, that’s us” there is a way to reignite that, and bring yourselves back together?

Tara: Yeah, absolutely! And I think this is a really exciting time.

I call this the Winter of a Relationship. It’s at the end, at the close of a cycle, when everything is… you know.

If you imagine you’re in the middle of a winter in the snow and you’re locked inside and everything has stopped, nothing new is happening, you’re just waiting. It’s a really good time to think about what are your hopes? And what are your dreams? And what are the things you want to do?

[Read more: What to Do in the Winter of Love.]

So that when you start moving into the spring which is the next relationship cycle. Even if you are moving in to the next stage where the kids are going to school, or you’re starting a new marriage, anything that is the close of a chapter, and the start of a new chapter, is when you can be having these conversations.

What do we want to start? What do we want to maintain and keep doing? And what do we want to finish? So that the next cycle of our relationship stays fresh and exciting and we enjoy each other’s company.

[Read More: What are the Seasons of Love?]

Kia: I feel like anyone can take those three things in a relationship, even in a friendship, and start reassessing after decades.

Tara: Yes! And I love using these kind of concepts in many areas of my life. Whether it’s my health, or my business, or my career, just really being aware of what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s something new I can try to stretch myself and keep things interesting.

They say variety is the spice of life, right? And it really is. It’s the people you live the same day everyday who find that maybe things just aren’t that interesting anymore.

Kia: Alright, well it’s time to finish our chat, but we’ll maintain it next week. [both laugh] Thanks Tara!

Tara: Cheers Kia.

Kia: Tara Whitewood there, from The Sugar Doctor.