Live the dream or run from the nightmare?

Retired husband syndrome and what we should know. Part 2

Qualified Life Coach
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28 January 2015

Tips for a smooth passage through early retirement

How to find HAPPINESS at this life changing time:


Heaven or hell or somewhere in between? How would you find the sudden onset of 24/7 with your spouse?  Laughter is forgotten when tension is running high yet maintaining a sense of humour about our own shortcomings and taking ourselves less seriously helps to maintain a healthy perspective.

If you are failing to find the humour within, try seeking it ‘outwith’ even if it’s revisiting the ‘Grumpy Old Men’ and ‘Grumpy Old Women’ TV series!


Awareness of the potential issues and acceptance of the life change may well contribute to an easier transition. One of the greatest benefits of age is that we tend to be more self aware, know our values and understand what makes us tick.

This is the time in our lives when we can potentially explore and enjoy the benefits of that awareness whilst recognising that we may have hurdles to cross. If you are struggling with this change, do consider asking for support from a counsellor or a life coach. It is a major transition and normal to feel a level of discomfort.


Financial planning is naturally a primary concern when faced with the inevitable change in income. Good financial advice in advance, together with a realistic spending plan are crucial to ensure sufficient resources for outgoing expenses, lifestyle requirements and healthy wellbeing.

It is equally important to consider planning the change that comes with new found freedom. Some companies offer retirement courses and there are numerous resources available via the internet to help people prepare.

Planning more time together as a couple to re-establish connection before retirement may also ease and hopefully enhance the transition. (see Needs below).


After years of working on a daily basis, the sudden loss of a defined role can take its toll on self worth.  A sense of purpose naturally increases wellbeing and according to research can also increase our life span. (

This is an ideal opportunity to explore all the things that time at work did not previously allow e.g. learning a new subject (which also keeps the brain sharp and can help keep memory active).

Consider volunteering for a charity you believe in (such as our local and very inspiring 80 year old lady who has just won an award for record fundraising!), teaching skills you have learnt in life or delving deeper into existing hobbies. Some people choose to continue working but on a part-time basis to maintain a sense of structure and ensure a comfortable level of finance as they adjust.


Early retirement can lead to a sense of isolation, especially in men who by nature tend to seek time alone when they are under pressure.

Establishing social connections in advance of retirement through shared interests, local groups and existing friendships can be invaluable with more free time available. There is such a wide choice available now and resources such as the library and internet give details of Rotary, political, networking, gardening, creative, ecological groups etc.


An honest discussion about individual and mutual needs is so important between both people in a couple.

Ideally this should not wait until the free time of retirement but be a relatively regular discussion to ensure a happy and fulfilling relationship and future together. I love the saying  ‘expectations are resentments waiting to happen’ and without discussion or understanding of  needs, expectations can wreak havoc in a relationship. All attempts to communicate, being patient and willing to listen and compromise where needed, will pay dividends.

Identify your individual strengths and learn how to build on them to form a stronger connection. Chat about things you have in common as well as things you like to pursue separately. Acknowledging that there are going to be issues that you might disagree on and being honest about your feelings will go a long way to ensuring a smoother passage.


The benefits of exercise are many: increasing endorphins which enhance mood, keeping the body flexible and mobile, helping heart and circulatory health, maintaining a healthy weight and generally looking after physical wellbeing.

This is also important at a time when emotional and mental pressure can run high as  physical exercise helps diffuse tension and stress. As retirement approaches it can be reassuring to book an appointment for a health assessment to double check levels of fitness and tackle any underlying concerns.


After years of spending hours apart, the sudden ‘living in each other’s pockets’ can be challenging.  There is wisdom in maintaining a balance between time together and time alone. Allowing each other  personal space to do or be whatever is needed is a sign of a healthy relationship, provided that it is not just an avoidance technique used to shut the other person out.


One of the biggest challenges to mental and emotional health can be the lack of structure that we take for granted during a working day.

Who doesn’t dream of free time and yet know the reality of not always knowing what to do with it when there is plenty available? Creating a schedule for routine chores, daily tasks and leisure time can help the mind adjust.

If you have been through this transition in life we would love to hear about the gifts and challenges you have experienced.  There is so much potential for happiness in retirement and whether one or both people in a relationship are retiring, both will need to make adjustments and be affected by the change.

We are all human and all have vulnerabilities. However, if we can remember that love, laughter, planning and honest communication are available to us all, then a positive outcome hopefully awaits us.

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