Our world may be changing in many ways but the set-up between couples at home is still much the same: the female takes care of the (internal) household and the male takes care of the (external) house including the maintenance and repairs, even more so when children are added to the picture.
Women are brought up to take care of the emotional needs of the family and to manage the home in addition to their professional careers so when retirement approaches and they face the impending loss of their work roles, they can rely on their roles at home to continue. And of course there is the tendency for women to talk about their losses and emotional issues with each other that helps them get support during this life transition.On the other hand, men’s identity is largely connected to their work, their professional role(s), their work status and income. They’re brought up to manage others outside the family and their value in society is derived outside their home. And they don’t usually go around sharing their problems with their buddies so they’re unlikely to feel supported too.
So what happens when men retire? Not sure. After doing some research to find out what’s out there written by men – websites, blogs, and books – there doesn’t seem to be much. A lot of what is available is written by retirement or financial advisors about how to retire with financial success. There is very little written by men going through retirement themselves and its impact on their relationships, sense of self and life purpose.
And what’s the impact of retirement on couples when they go from being apart most of the week to being in each other’s space almost 24/7? In fact this transition can really test couples and their commitment to each other as they meet their partner on the other side of their child-rearing, career-focused selves. Relationships splinter as couples realize that they have grown apart.
Like all of life’s transitions, retirement is a time of loss and endings as well as new beginnings and possibilities. Honouring both is what makes for a successful transition.