It’s easy to get in a rut with our relationships over the years. We may not even notice what had evolved into comfortable, known patterns are now more of a rut. As we individually travel down our life journey, our needs change but our relationships don’t always evolve along with them. If we haven’t moved or changed jobs for many years, our circle of friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances may not have changed too much.
As we change our status from employed to retired, it dramatically affects our relationships. Let’s look at some of those relationships, how they will change, and how to re-create them during this time of change.
Relationships with Your Spouse or Whoever Lives in Your Home with You
You will likely be spending much more time with the people in your household during retirement even if they still go to a job each day. Take some time before you retire if possible to discuss what this change will mean for all of you. Here are some topics you may want to look at.
+ Household maintenance responsibilities. What are your expectations of how that will change; what are theirs? Especially if they still go to a job, their expectations may be that you will have time to do all of the cleaning, cooking, etc. That may not be your expectation. Discuss this and negotiate if necessary.
+ Household expenses and budget. Be sure you’re on the same page about this as soon as possible.
+ Any hints that there are new issues caused by your new status. Raise them sooner rather than later. This can be an exciting time of reformulating and renewing your relationship.
Relationships with Other Family Members
You’ve probably anticipated that family members who are still working will be thinking or saying, “S/he is retired now; s/he can do that.” It may be planning the next family gathering, taking a larger share of caretaking or support for an elderly relative, taking care of grandchildren or other children in the family…you get the idea. To minimize the friction about such issues, be proactive in informing family members what your intentions are as you move into retirement. Let them know what you will be doing with “all that time.” If you are willing to take on some additional things as noted above, say that also. If there are not-so-positive responses, it’s better to work them out early than to have tension and negativity. Invite them to celebrate your new status and plans. You will also be modeling how they can make the transition themselves
Relationships with Your Former Co-Workers
You probably spent more hours with them in a given week than with any of your friends and perhaps even family members, and now they will be outside of your daily orbit. At the farewell lunch or party, you will probably talk about getting together regularly as a group or at least with a few of your closest friends. This can be a good transition strategy for you because abruptly cutting off all of those relationships can be an emotional loss. Unless you are leaving under negative circumstances, keeping some contact with the organization and the work may be a positive move.
As you continue relationships, be alert for any signs that this has become an obligation on either side rather than a genuine desire for contact. If this happens, you have a couple of choices: decrease the frequency of get-togethers or together redefine your relationship. Rather than the occasional lunch during a workday which tends to put the meeting in the context of work, do something else together in the evening or on the weekend. Develop new shared experiences this way.
Relationships with Friends Outside the Workplace
Maybe you have retired friends who will assume that you are free and ready to spend lots of additional time with them now. If you agree on that, great! If you want to spend your time differently than they do, however, here’s another opportunity for early direct communication. Have a conversation focused on your transition to retirement, your plans and dreams and how your relationship with them fits into that. You will build the foundation of the next phase of your relationship and could even inspire them to be more intentional about their retirement lives.
As you are transforming your retirement into that joyful, meaningful time, you will also meet new people and form new relationships. This can be one of the greatest parts of these years.