Patricia McBride

     Articles                         Ghost Writing

          Fiction                          Courseware

Me and my Partner

(Goldlife Magazine)

‘I don’t know what’s going to happen when I retire.’ Tom said with a nervous laugh. 'My wife and I have had nothing to talk about for years. What will we do together all day?’

     Tom’s comment is not unlike many made on pre-retirement courses.

     One counsellor from Relate said ‘It’s sadly not unusual for couples to separate soon after retirement. Of course, many people enjoy spending time with their partners, but others have coped by basically not seeing much of each other.’

     After all, work takes about half our waking day. More if we add travel time and overtime. Count in the time spent on separate activities and relaxing in front of the television and your total hours of ‘quality time’ together may be less than you think.

     So what can go wrong?

     Perhaps the most obvious difficulty is when partners simply grow apart. Maybe their careers have taken them in separate directions or one partner has been engrossed in his or her job while the other has developed different interests at home.

     This was the situation with Jack and Mary. Mary retired five years before Jack and had built up a busy and active life for herself. She played golf, visited friends and woke in a charity shop. Together with the housework and cooking, she was kept pretty busy and enjoyed her life.

     When Jack retired he found it difficult to adjust. He resented his wife being so busy when he was still working out how to spend his time. Mary, on the other hand, found herself torn between wanting to keep her current lifestyle and wanting to spend time with Jack.

     This sort of problem can be heightened if children leave home around retirement time. Many people breathe a sigh of relief when teenagers finally go, but with them goes a centre of focus, a major topic of conversation. And, if the relationship has been good, one-third of the adult conversation around the house vanishes too

Sources of friction

     Then again, there may be disagreements about housework. Maybe the wife has her own routine and doesn't want it disturbed. Or she may be thinking: ‘Thank goodness. Now he’s got more time he can do half of this lot!’ - yet her partner has other ideas.

     Lastly, there’s finances. Money, or worrying about it, can cause a lot of friction. If you are coming up to retirement you are probably feeling uneasy about how you’ll manage, especially if you are waiting for final details of your pension.

     Work out the reality of your financial situation. Under the headings: ‘Unavoidable outgoings’, ‘Possible savings after retirement’. ‘avoidable outgoings’, extra outgoings’, and ‘income’ write down all your incomings and outgoings. You may not be 100 percent happy with the answer but at least you’ll know what’s what, and that’s better than fear of the unknown.

     Sounds gloomy, does it - but all is far from lost.

     The secret is to get talking and keep talking. Sit down and discuss exactly what your expectations are. The questionnaire on this pages gives you clues about topics to discuss. Tell each other your hopes and fears. Listen carefully to what your partner has to say. Be flexible and willing to reach a workable compromise.

     So he may not tackle the cooking the same way as you? Leave the kitchen and leave him to it!

     So she’s slow to learn chess? Persevere or join a chess club.

     She likes to spend time with friends regularly? Find a hobby or voluntary work you enjoy.

     It can also be a good idea to look for interests in common. Are there any old hobbies you can return to - perhaps walking or ballroom dancing? If not, you could look for new ideas. A look at the evening and daytime classes on offer in your area may suggest activities you had never previously considered. And it’s a good idea to have some shared interests and some separate ones. That way you have something different to talk about.

     Relationship habits may be hard to kick but with openness and a lot of talking to can look forward to many happy years ahead.


My partner and I:

a)     have several interests in common

b)     Have just one or two interests in common

c)     I have no idea what his/her interests are

2.     Concerning housework, my partner and i:

a)     will/have continue(d) as we always have

b)     Have discussed who does what and are happy with our arrangements

c)     One person does it all

3.     When it comes to money my partner and I:

a)     Have worked it all out and are clear about our finances

b)     Keep avoiding even thinking about it

c)     Are a bit worried

4.     Regarding time spet with family:

a)     We agree how much time we spend with family members

b)     Family, what family?

c)     We sometimes don’t see eye to eye on this matter.

5.     On holiday, my partner and I:

     Get on okay, although if I’m honest we get a bit bored with each other after a couple of days.

b)     Enjoy having the time together away from everyday life

c)     Well, what’s a holiday without a row or two each day?

6.     When something is worrying me:

a)     I prefer not to talk about it

b)     I like to chat to friends about it

c)     I always talk through problems with my partner


1.     a) 10     b) 5     c) 0

2.     a) 5     b) 10     c) 0

3     a) 10     b) 0     c) 5

4)     a) 10     b) 0     d) 5

5)     a) 5     b) 10     c) 0

6)     a) 0      b) 5     c) 10

If you scored 0-20:

How have you managed all this time? You and your partner need to get talking fast!

If you scored 25-45:

It seems that some areas of your life together are in harmony, but there is still work to be done.

If you scored 50-60:

Brilliant! You and your partner clearly have a good relationship.