23 November 2021 By Victoria Tomlinson
We recently ran a fantastic two-day workshop for partners coming up to retirement, in an international professional firm.
At the dinner on the first evening, I sat next to a partner who said, “Will you cover what I should say to my wife – and how to say it?” Yes, I said. We cover the whole issue of relationships, the discussions you need to have and some of the issues you might want to cover.
But I realized that I don’t usually cover the detail of what and how. So here I share stories of the issues that hit people post retirement – with partners, families and close friends. And some suggestions as to anticipate and pre-empt them.
Here are a few stories I have heard over the last few years
What are the themes here? With the kitchen, I could imagine the husband for years thinking that he could organize the kitchen better and would love to help his wife when he had time. On the other hand, the kitchen had been her domain and he was trampling all over what she had proudly run for most of their marriage.
The danger is that both sides of a couple or any relationship, have their own views of the future. And they may not match.
My suggestion is for all parties (which may include children, elderly parents, close friends and others) need to write down how they see or would like the future. In a lot of detail. And to articulate what they are worried about – such as a partner ‘hanging around’. The old phrase comes to mind, “I married him for love, not for lunch”.
Some ideas of what this can cover
Once you have each written down your visions of the future, you can share them with each other – and spot the clashes or where you are well aligned.
Don’t avoid discussing the hardest clashes – you know that is where resentment will build from. Almost certainly you will need to find compromises and it may take days, weeks, months to find ways that both of you are happy with.
The one thing I increasingly realise is that retirement has for years been seen as a dreamy time of doing what you want, having fun, seeing who you want. But actually it can be a time of great misery and tension. Retirement is a form of bereavement for many.
The more you think ahead, plan and try to anticipate areas of conflict, the more likely you are to create a time that is joyous – for you and those around you.
Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.