Marital bliss is one of those things we all aspire to. Everyone will experience challenges along the way and will your marriage survive retirement captures some of these. On a more positive note, tips for a happy marriage after retirement is a guest post from Steve. He shares his perspectives on achieving and flourishing in the next stage of life. In his own words…
As a career corporate animal, with nearly four decades working in that environment, I often give work related advice. As the Farmers insurance guy says, "I know a thing or two, because I've seen a thing or two", at least in the world of work. When Shannon asked if I'd consider doing a guest post on marriage, I thought, well, why not? We’ve been married for 42 years; I must’ve learned something.
Your Best Friend and Partner
So, here’s everything I know about marriage in no particular order. First and most important, marry someone you are natural friends with. OK, that's some earth-shattering wisdom, right? I am right about that I'm almost certain, because often people get married based on nothing more than physical attraction, infatuation and raging hormones. Sure, you go through all those things the first few weeks when you’re getting to know a potential partner but that’s not the time to decide to marry. Take some serious time and honestly figure out if this person is compatible with you. Do you share some hobbies or can you find some hobbies to share? When I was dating my wife back in college, she learned to play tennis because I was a tennis player. I took her on a ski trip and taught her to ski because it was one of my passions. We went hiking and camping and we found we loved doing that. We already both loved fishing.
Later in life after I had been running for a few years she picked up that hobby, too. In fact, at 66 she’s signing up for her next full marathon race in March. When she suggested a small fishing boat light enough for her to carry one end of, for our first anniversary present, I knew I’d found compatibility. And as the years passed, we found we loved cooking together, exploring for Arkansas waterfalls and, recently, pickle ball. What I already knew about her, before we married, was that she loved active outdoor hobbies, was always willing to try something new and didn't particularly like shopping or spending money. I could’ve described myself in exactly the same words. We were naturally compatible. We shared the same faith, the same political views and the same natural frugalness. We both wanted kids, but not right away. We have three grown ones now. In retirement she remains my best friend, my fishing partner and lifetime girlfriend.
Agree on Basic Rules for a Happy Marriage After Retirement
Another suggestion is to have some informal rules. In our case those are things like this, neither one of us will spend over $100 on something discretionary without talking it over first. I can't think of a single time either of us ever objected but we still do it today. It’s kept me from buying some things that were kind of ridiculous when I realized there was no way I could explain them to her and not sound like an idiot. We also have a "last one out of bed in the morning makes the bed", rule. OK, that's silly but we do it anyway. We decide what occasions we’ll have gifts for each other and which we’ll skip. We also decided that it was her decision on how much of my work life she'd be part of. I attended a lot of after-hours events and parties because I was a high-profile employer and political animal. She didn't particularly love those and only went to the few that were of her choosing. It was my career, not hers. And likewise, it was up to me which of her family events I attended. No pressure either way. On the other hand, she helped me on work projects sometimes, helping draw out complicated flow diagrams because she enjoyed doing it with me. It was her decision to be a stay-at-home mom when we started having kids and her decision to remain a homemaker to this day.
We agreed on giving 10% of our gross income to the church and on what we gave to various charities or people in need. We agreed to be absolutely resolute and solid in handling our children. There was no going around one parent to influence the other one. And when we laid down the law and the consequences, we stood together, even if those consequences drove us to tears later. And our three grown kids are now great adults. We’re very proud of each of them.
Have your own life, too. You cannot do everything together and you shouldn't. I have fishing, baseball and football trips with the guys. She takes vacations all over the world with her girlfriends and plays on her tennis teams while I play on mine. It isn't healthy to be totally dependent on one other person, even if they remain your best friend forever. Also, find other couples you can do things with. We have couples we hike with, ride off-road trails with and play tennis with. They add a different dynamic to our lives.
Communication and Compromise are Key
Never stop talking and communicating. Share your fears and your goals. Don't wait until one of you has cancer or is facing losing their job. Talking about small problems makes talking about larger ones easier. And trust me, you will face larger problems at some time in your life.
Learn to compromise and to give in. You simply cannot have your own way all the time. Learn to have a good time doing things with her that don’t naturally ring your bell. Often, you'll learn to enjoy some things that you assumed you would hate. But even if you don't, be a good sport and let your spouse enjoy the experience. That might be a movie you don't care about or eating out at not your favorite restaurant. It might even be spending time with your spouse's family, though that’s not a problem for me. They’re awesome.
It could be something major. My wife grew up on a small farm in a rural area. Most of my job offers were located in large cities like Houston, Texas. One really cool one was for a job that would involve living in Chicago for a year or two then traveling the world. If I was single, I might’ve taken that one instead of the small town offer I accepted, but it wouldn’t have been the right thing for my fiancée. That was kind of major but I never regretted it because we were engaged and I was no longer in the position of making independent decisions. We were one team. Besides, I ended up spending my entire career in that little town working for that company and eventually ended up running it. It was truly a dream job.
Celebrate the Good
Apologize when you’re wrong or have hurt your spouse's feelings carelessly. It isn't fun but it is healing. And you’ll inevitably hurt each other's feelings, it just happens. And have fun, often! Celebrate your wins at work together, celebrate your kids' accomplishments. Make your home a fun and warm place full of laughter for each other and for your kids, if you decide to have some. And personally, I'd recommend having some kids. They added immeasurably to our family experience and we never found them to be as expensive as advertised. But do not have kids until you both are certain you want them. They tend to be permanent features of your life for the next 21 or so years.
I guess that's about it. You would think in 42 years of marriage I could write a longer post, maybe even a book. But, on the other hand, I think it’s a good thing that a happy marriage can be summed up in just a few words. Because it really isn’t that hard to do marriage right if you’re committed for life.
Anything you think I got wrong? Marriage is a complicated topic and I'm just an irrelevant, OK Boomer, kind of guy.
So, what did I leave out? Do you have some marriage tips you'd like to share in the comments?
A fellow blogger, Steve shares his insights and experience at Slightly Early Retirement.
He started out as an entry level engineer, just like everyone starts out at an entry level, but didn’t stay there for long. Within a couple of years, he rose up through the ranks with more and more people reporting to him. By the time he retired slightly early, he was responsible for 711 employees.