I experienced this myself when my spouse tried to retire the first time. I could not believe how sad he was when he found out I wasn’t staying home to talk to him all day. I remember thinking, honey I have a life. I don’t sit around all day waiting for you to come home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my spouse very much and he knew I was busy but what he didn’t completely understand was that while he was climbing the ladder and I was taking care of the kids and the household, like him, I had created a separate life. I had created a life without him, to fill the void and possible loneliness of him working all the time. Your spouse may have had their own daytime routines without you, perhaps for many years even when the kids were around. I believe God makes teenagers more independent so that their parents can adjust to becoming one again. Especially when you are both retired and together much of the day at home. If I can give you some advice, please be respectful of the habits that you have each developed. Spend some time talking about how your partner likes to spend their days, their schedule, and look within yourself to discover the routines and habits that you most enjoy and communicate them with your spouse. Once you have your own self-knowledge on what you would like your day to look like, it will be easier to find ways to merge your schedules in ways that are mutually acceptable. This is where patience comes in to play. More on that later. This may take time and good communication to come to a place where we can create our individual and together lives so we can have the best marriage imaginable.
Life is so different when the kids aren’t there. When it’s just “us” sitting at the kitchen table finding things to talk about. A Midlife and Beyond Marriage can be an emotional roller coaster. Especially once you are both retired and looking to each other to fulfill our needs. This time can be a time of renewal or a stressful time. You get to ultimately choose. Even when you planned to become an empty nest for a long time and couldn’t wait for the last child to move out, you can feel stressed out knowing that now you may have to create a new life with your spouse. Times like this require us to be more kind and patient with each other. Your marriage will adjust, you both can become interesting again. It will require patience and intentional thoughts, feelings and actions to get those amazing results in your marriage. Everything good takes time, work and effort but the byproducts you will receive in your marriage will be worth it. I promise, just be patient with your spouse, give each other a little extra compassion and the benefit of the doubt. Remember this is a big transition for both of you.
Are you eating more, drinking more alcohol, shopping more, spending more money, or getting upset more easily with your spouse or others? Are you more tearful and emotional than usual? Frustrated with yourself and the direction you are perceiving your relationship is going? How about your spouse? These can be signs that one or both of you is finding it hard to adjust to life after the kids have left the house, and/or you have retired. Your relationship changes in your marriage and you need to come alongside it. Question those negative thoughts that are causing it and decide if they serve you, will get you the results you want and are even true. If not, decide to change the way you are thinking before those negative thoughts take root.
Something I suggest my clients do (yes, even the men) is to try journaling the story that they keep telling themselves about their circumstance. Pull out all the facts from the story, the thoughts you are telling yourself. You will find there are very few facts but the thoughts will seem so real that they feel like the facts. You may find that most of your story about your spouse, this time together or thoughts about your future are false and causing you to stress about something that will never happen. Be gentle on yourself, this is a normal thing that the brain does and you can change the way you think. I also suggest to my clients trying meditation, prayer, praying together, spending time in nature, or seeing a coach or therapist to help them through their transition. If you notice your spouse having any serious troubles, you might suggest the same.
Many people are so busy when they are raising their kids or working that they have forgotten how to take care of themselves or spend their free time. Sit down and write 25 things you want to do before you leave this world, include everything, like biking, hiking, baking, cooking, playing an instrument, organizing a room, joining a health club, learning how to golf so you can hang out with your spouse, gardening or taking a trip to someplace you have always wanted to see. Start creating in your mind what you want to do and prioritize them.
Not working anymore, it’s a great time to think about how you really want to spend all your leisure time. What activities have you always meant to try? Write them down on your list of 25. Look for activities that you will feel productive, get you excited about life, get exercise to stay healthy, and give you a sense of enjoyment, mastery, and purpose. Be curious and willing to even surprise yourself. Be open to discovering new things and new activities. Think about things your spouse likes to do and consider trying them. This is a gift both to yourself and your spouse. Who knows, your partner may be interested in your new activities and may even wish to get involved as well.
I see so many of my clients make important decisions without a long-term vision. This time can be emotionally challenging, you may want to jump in and change a lot of things or buffer to avoid the pain of what you think the circumstance is whether it’s “losing the kids” or “losing your identity once you retire” and make a quick decision that will affect you and your relationship in a negative long term way. Trust me, be cautious about making any major life decisions. One spouse may agree to something they regret later to please you in the moment to avoid an argument. It’s so common to argue more often in the months after the children leave or one or both partners retire, and it will be tempting to let the brain loop on negative thoughts that the marriage can’t survive or you want something or someone different. Money may also now be an issue and that will add stress and cause arguments if you act too quickly.
Take your time and create a long term vision for your marriage. Promise to each other that you won’t make any major life changes for a certain amount of time (I suggest at least six months to one year). Over time, all of these options can be discussed with each other and don’t be afraid to consult a coach or counselor to guide you through this transition and help you to create a plan. Give both you and your spouse time to adjust to these changes, to make gradual changes, and to think through potential solutions.
It is easy to assume that you know each other inside and out. Unfortunately, this can lead to boredom or a feeling of content. Those feelings lead to feeling unhappy or stuck in your marriage. Curiosity creates more positive feelings and allows you to still find your spouse interesting. Thoughts like “I find something new about my husband every day. Negative thoughts and making assumptions about our partner’s behavior like, “he or she can’t or won’t ever change” is a marriage killer. An attitude like that can be counterproductive, as the weight of another person’s expectations can make it hard or impossible to change. In a situation like that, small and large positive changes often go unnoticed and leave your spouse feeling unappreciated and helpless.
Instead, give each other encouragement and some space. You are combining two lives now into just one. Most of you have spent many of your waking hours apart when you were working. You may not have noticed certain things about your spouse that are now glaring because you were busy raising kids or climbing the ladder. So, there will be a lot of things about your spouse that you have not seen, do not know, and may even annoy you. It is your time now. Time to rediscover what your marriage can be. Time for you and your spouse to become the best version of yourself for your marriage. You can grow together in faith, love, and trust. Always look for the best in your spouse, look for what is working and build on that. Find ways you can support, encourage, and stay curious about each other. You and your spouse may find that the love you finish with is much deeper than the love you started with.
Lori Giovannini is a Certified Marriage and Family Life Coach, a Couples Weight Loss Coach, and a Certified Brain Health Coach with Amen Clinics. Lori served as the Executive Director of a large Catholic Women’s Nonprofit before becoming a Coach.
Not only is Lori an experienced Relationship and Brain Health Coach, she has 20 years of experience facilitating marriage retreats, workshops and seminars with her husband Lou, a Deacon in the Catholic Church.
Her heart has always been in the prayer and healing ministry. She helps both spouses and married couples grow mentally, emotionally, intimately and spiritually through private coaching, group couples coaching, courses, bible studies and retreats.
She has proven coaching tools and couple’s techniques to help spouses at any stage or phase of their marriage. Today she helps couples successfully BLOOM in to their second half of married life with love, purpose, passion and fulfilled faith.
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