Who better to age with than the love of your life? If your mate is also your best friend, even better! Couples that are mutually endowed with long life can benefit from the emotional, mental, physical and financial support that comes from a long-term commitment.
Long-term relationships and marriages start out with the best of intentions and are usually defined by romance, passion and commitment. Recognizing that there are distinct stages of growth necessary for a successful marriage may be the ticket to celebrating your golden years together. After settling into the routine of a happy marriage, the reality-of-life stage takes over and personality differences emerge. Couples that get past the usual conflicts that can arise long after exchanging vows tend to focus more on their common ground, and don’t sweat the differences. We all know that marriage is about give and take. A successful commitment also requires trust, honesty and the ability to forgive each other for past mistakes. After decades of surviving through highs and lows, such as sickness, financial concerns, and family conflicts, a relationship built on mutual respect has a solid foundation to succeed through every stage, including the final farewell.
Whether you are a newlywed or celebrating your golden anniversary, the basics remain the same. Retirement and marriage doesn’t always sync up as easily as love and marriage did in the beginning of your relationship and may require a period of adjustment. Without proper planning, it can turn into the relationship from hell that ends in divorce court.
Give your spouse or significant other the gift of space and time to adjust to a major lifestyle change, such as retirement. Honey-do lists and personal agendas should not define the start of retirement and can certainly wait a few months. Retirement timetables may not always be in total sync, as often one spouse exits the job market several months or years before the other. View the transitions as stair steps to testing the waters and preparing the boat for the dual journey ahead.
Avoid the onset of retired husband syndrome, a recognized affliction that can disrupt the daily routine and order in a household and manifest in the form of physical and mental distress for some stay-at-home wives (I am quite sure it applies to stay at home husbands as well!). When spouses are unaccustomed to spending countless hours together, they sometimes encounter gaps in communication and intimacy – two important building blocks of a relationship. This can be exasperated when a husband with decades of bread-winning behind him experiences a dramatic shift in his daily schedule that may leave many weekdays open with no specific destination or reason to venture out of the house. Suddenly thrust into full-time, domestic life, a retired spouse may create additional work just by hanging out, while remaining oblivious to the extra mess he creates in the process, and thereby cause stress levels to rise within the household. Left unchecked, this type of scenario can sometimes lead to illness, conflicts and possible divorce.
The Population Bureau reports that “Although older women today are more likely to be married than they were 50 years ago, they are still much less likely to be married than their male counterparts. Among the population ages 65 and older, about three quarters of men, but less than half (44 percent) of women were married in 2010.” With more professional women leaving the active job market than ever before, this trend will probably continue.
To avoid the onset of conflict that comes with spending endless days and nights under the same roof, make a plan to share the brunt of domestic chores. Evaluate the household duties, such as yard work, cooking and cleaning to re-distribute lopsided chores that were performed with habitual ease throughout active career schedules, and which may require a revamp to accommodate less-demanding lifestyles and less-nimble bodies.
Since retirement is supposed to be fun, take the calendar out once a month to strategize enjoyable activities that give equal consideration to the individuals, as well as combined preferences, and strive to include several family-centered events in the itinerary. Separate vacations once in a while may help ease the confinement of too many hours spent under the same roof together while giving the relationship breathing room to appreciate each other’s absence.
The plus side of staying together for a lifetime is immeasurable. Besides offering emotional support through life’s tragedies, including sickness and the death of loved ones, the lingering effects are less painful when shouldered with a spouse. Marriages that stand the test of time through raising families and beyond are positioned to reap the benefits of their long-term commitment. Double-income families create double-income retirement and pension funds which can translate into living upgrades and more frequent travels.
By developing a watchdog approach for each other, longevity becomes a mutual goal for long-term success. Develop new habits with a buddy-system approach that keeps you both on track for fitness and diet goals. Watch for early signs of disease that your spouse may not easily notice, such as sleep apnea or other sleep-related disorders, and become pro-active toward each other’s good health.
Discuss the changing landscape of the aging process with your spouse to ease the transition for both of you. Communication levels are triggered by sharing quality time and meals together. For instance, breakfast is the perfect setting to mark the day’s beginning, plan trips, discuss current events and offer upbeat, emotional support for personal issues, such as fading eyesight and receding hairlines.
It’s an often-held belief that sex is a by-product of a fertile mind. Intimacy comes in many forms, including spooning beneath the blanket and giving each other mutual massages and back rubs. Physical contact keeps couples connected with empathetic hugs and shoulder squeezes that offer unspoken affirmation of the ‘you’re okay – I’m okay’ validation we all appreciate. Aging well together includes a gradual shift in the closeness and intimacy levels that may have once defined your marriage.
Love takes on new meaning in later life, including the frequency of lovemaking. Although the fireworks may not go off every night, older couples can still ignite the fires of passion with great satisfaction. To maintain a healthy sex life, sync up your libido with your spouse and go for quality over quantity by arranging romantic trysts in your candlelit bedroom or perhaps by checking into a luxury hotel. Focus on each other’s good qualities and ignore the rest.
The key to longevity for most people is to remain happy and optimistic and enjoy the company you keep on a regular basis. Researchers in the Journal of Marriage and Family agree that when the happiness factor is present, basic needs, such as proper sleep and healthy diet become a natural component of couple longevity. Their findings offer proof that couples who don’t argue live longer and happier lives. A team-effort approach to a relationship is particularly important in later years. Winning the race to the 100-year finish line requires a relationship tune-up once in a while, since you are both running on the same engine from start to finish.