Anyone who’s heart still skips a beat when thinking about a partner may have celebrated Valentine’s Day last week. Regardless of the obvious commercialism connected with the annual day of love it’s worth considering that relationships are always affected by major change.
In the case of retirement, the impacts primarily relate to our changing role and environment as we move away from full-time work, and the effects of more concentrated time spent with our spouse or partner if we have one. Relationships may also change with our adult children who sometimes need to be ‘trained’ to understand that we have not retired to become on-call babysitters.
If we are to manage and enjoy our relationships to the full in retirement, we may have to revisit skills such as effective communication and listening together with the skills needed to calmly assert our rights, either within relationships or in dealings with our suppliers of goods and services.
Just as important is being able to support and assist our partner. in addition to sharing the work load, we also need to identify sources of emotional support should we need them at any time.
In this blog, we discuss the ingredients of effective healthy relationships through good communication practices. We look at the role of assertiveness in establishing our rights and we learn why it is important to be able to manage all of the duties and functions in a household. Finally, we look at the area of emotional support, both giving support to others and finding sources of support for ourselves.
For many people, retirement offers positive benefits that enhance existing relationships. For example, you and your partner may now find that all those plans you have made to travel or to become involved in community work, can now be put into action.
Your adult children may breathe a sigh of relief as they see you reaping the rewards of your hard work, and your friends will enjoy the social opportunities that your newfound freedom allows you.
For other recently retired people, however, retirement can bring with it subtle pressure which may conspire to disrupt otherwise functional relationships. The good news is that most of these pressures can be easily reduced by taking a few simple steps.
We’ve listed some of the most commonly recurring relationship issues raised below;
For possibly the first time in your lives, you and your partner may now find that you have each other’s undivided attention twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. While many couples revel in this situation some initially experience a few teething problems.
A situation humorously known as the ‘underfoot husband’ is in actual fact no laughing matter. Typically, the underfoot husband was the bloke who had not yet organised his social life and had put few or no purposeful activities in place.
Finding himself at a loose end he would follow his wife around the house, offer to make her endless cups of tea and accompany her to the supermarket. In short, the underfoot husband smothered his partner with attention simply because he had not yet found anything better to do with his life. Once he had settled in to his new lifestyle and had purposeful activities of his own, the ‘problem’ usually evaporated. These days the term ‘underfoot husband’ could equally apply to ‘wife or ‘partner’.
Another commonly recurring relationship issue centred around the right to be an individual who is able to spend some time alone. Soon after retirement, some people find it difficult get away for an hour due to their partner becoming lonely. Others who embark on their chosen hobby or past-time found that their partner either found this past-time inappropriate or resented the money their partner ‘wastes’ on equipment.
Most of the relationship issues concerning adult children centred around their parent’s perception that they were now being taken for granted. Unfortunately, some adult children seemed to treat their newly-retired parents as a convenient source of unpaid babysitting, house-sitting and a ready-made dog and cat boarding kennel during school holidays.
what can I do if some of these relationship issues are impacting on me negatively?
During our lives, we all develop unique ways of behaving in relationships. Some of us seem to be better than others in maintaining smooth running, effective relationships. This was certainly the case as we examined the relationships of participants on the research. It soon became clear that those people whose relationships were functioning well, were skilled in two areas known to be vital to success in relationship building and maintenance.
Firstly, their interpersonal communication skills were well developed and, important, put into practice! Most significant among these skills is ‘active listening’.
ipac hints and tips
- make regular eye-contact;
- don’t get distracted by other things that may be going on around you;
- allow the talker to complete their sentances without interrupting, or worse, finishing them;
- Check from time to time to verify that you correctly understand what is being said;
- finally, even though you may not agree, respect the talker’s right to hold their opinions and do not ‘talk-down’ to them.
The communication skills of active listening appear to be very easy in theory, but to take considerable practice to put into action. Very few of us are ‘naturals’ in this area but some people may question why examining these skills is important after many years in a long relationship.
However, considering that in retirement you and your partner will probably spend more time together than ever before, applying good, functional communication methods can only improve the quality of life for all concerned.
A second skill displayed by those in effective relationships is that of assertiveness. True assertiveness involves asking for what is rightfully ours in an intelligent, straightforward and unemotional manner. As in the case of active listening, being assertive is not always a naturally acquired skill and some people may feel uncomfortable being assertive until they have practiced it on a few occasions.
What do I need to do to obtain my rights assertively?
- make steady, confident eye-contact;
- speak clearly, evenly and confidently without mumbling;
- Use matter-of-fact ‘I’ statements, ‘These shows are faulty and I would like a refund please.’
If you look around, you should be able to find short courses on both communication skills and assertiveness which may help if you believe extra assistance is needed.
how will this help me with my relationships in retirement?
For a start, problems with an underfoot partner, undue criticism of your chose activities, and adult children who attempt to load the grandchildren on you at a moment’s notice, can now be effectively handled.
These simply communication processes are important. The alternative may see you having your rights trampled on and becoming resentful and depressed, or putting up with the situation for a while before finally blowing up in a fit of rage.