According to research, retirees with healthy relationships, close family ties and good friends, live a longer, happier life than those who don’t. So redefining your close relationships as you grow older will be a critical aspect of your long healthy happy life.
When we “retire” everything in our life changes, and that will include our relationship with our partner. During our working lives our relationships and identity were defined by our careers, bringing up our family and our relationship with our partner. Now the career has ended, our children are probably grown up, and our relationship with our partner will inevitably need to be redefined as we spend much more time together than we ever did in the past.
Our relationship with our adult children and their family will also be very important for us as we age, and potentially the source of great pleasure and happiness for both us and them. Making sure these relationships evolve in a healthy way will determine how strong those relationships will be.
Close friendships also contribute significantly to your well being. But as you grow older, you need to become very discerning about the people you choose to maintain close relationships with. Numerous studies on social behaviour have confirmed that on average you tend to become the average of the five people you hang out with the most.
Your relationship with your partner
A happy and intimate relationship with your partner is a truly wonderful gift, and will promote a long, happy and healthy life as you grow older; so both you and your partner will need to think carefully about and discuss this new reality and how you would like your relationship to evolve to suit this new situation.
Men will need to find something to do that will maintain their sense of purpose in life, whereas most women will already have a group of close friends that they are used to spending time with on a regular basis, so they might not want to upset that arrangement just because you are no longer at work. In fact, the reality might be that your partner will find your constant presence in the family home a negative rather than a positive development.
You and your partner would be well advised to consider addressing the new situation up-front and before it becomes a problem that negatively impacts your long-term relationship. Ideally having an open and honest conversation will be possible for you both, and you both need to be able to acknowledge that you are not only intimate partners but also separate individuals with your unique, needs, interests and social lives.
It is important to remember that loving someone is a conscious choice we make. It is a decision we make, not a reaction. Of course the opposite is also true. We don’t just fall out of love either, it’s a choice we make.
So whilst you and your partner might have drifted apart during your marriage as other important responsibilities took priority; but it is never too late – you can both make a choice to revitalise and renew your love – to share the third phase of your lives together and enjoy the little pleasures that you never shared earlier in your relationship.
Doing this will require effective communication, and that requires both parties to listen carefully to what the other is saying. Only by listening carefully do we discover the real meaning of what is being shared with us. (A tip on listening: If you find yourself planning your response as your partner is sharing with you – you are not really listening – you cannot plan your response and listen carefully concurrently; we all try to do it – but it has been scientifically proven that this doesn’t work. So listen carefully, then pause to think, and then respond thoughtfully).
So, in order to be an effective communicator you must be a good listener. A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that most married couples don’t communicate with their partners any better than they do with strangers.
One problem is that when communicating with our partners we make too many assumptions. Because we feel so close to our partners, we tend to overestimate how well we’re connecting; so we leave out important details that we assume he or she knows about us, even though we may never have actually told them. So don’t make that assumption about something that is important to you.
I personally believe that it’s never too late to start again, as long as both parties are willing to make the conscious choice to do their best to revive the love they once shared. Unfortunately, too many couples simply don’t understand that they have the choice.
Also remember that you have all the basic requirements to rekindle the flame; you share love (at some level), memories, children, grandchildren and friends. If you do decide to go your separate ways, all of those close relationships will also change and probably become more difficult and awkward for you and the other party.
P.S. when making that choice please remember that the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side” rarely apples in the case of loving relationships.
Your relationship with your adult children
Inevitably, as you grow older, the relationship between you and your children will also evolve, as the bond that existed when you were responsible for their upbringing and well-being ceases and they become adults responsible for their own lives.
At times, during their teenage years and beyond into adulthood, the relationship can become more difficult for all concerned, and maintaining the bond can be challenging.
Both you and your children will have their own life challenges – your transition to retirement and their concerns about their personal relationships, career and the future will all have some impact on your relationship with them.
It is really up to you to make this transition as smooth as possible if you want to maintain a close relationship with them and their new family. You need to see them through different eyes; they are now fellow adults, not your dependent children, so don’t treat them as if they are still children. they need to make their own decisions independently, and if they want your help or advice, chances are they will ask for it – in which case be there for them with unconditional love.
When you are with them and have the opportunity to talk, try not to restrict the conversation to family issues and your problems. If you think of them as friends and fellow adults, talk about the things you would talk to friends and other adults about; things of mutual interest – what’s happening in the world, your country or local region, sports that you share an interest in, hobbies and interests that you once shared can be revived, and as with your relationship with your partner, listen to what they are saying to you, that will provide clues about their aspirations and concerns and fertile areas for ongoing communication.
Never criticise their partner, and never try to discipline your grandchildren; this will cause resentment and undermine your relationship with them.
I am not saying this is easy, I know from personal experience that it can be difficult, and for many reasons, often beyond your control; as with all close relationships, problems and issues will arise. How you deal with them will determine the long-term relationship you have with them.
Finally, you must always respect their independence; that is their right and their destiny, but at the same time always be there for them unconditionally when they seek your help or guidance, and you will have done your best – and to be honest, the rest is up to them.
Your relationship with your relatives and close friends
Close friendships also contribute significantly to your well being. But as you grow older, you need to become very discerning about the people you choose to maintain close relationships with. Numerous studies on social behaviour have confirmed that you tend to become the average of the five people you hang out with the most.
So who you spend time with, and their mindset and attitude to ageing will tend to determine your own mindset, state of health and longevity. There will almost certainly be some among your social groups and even family members with a negative or pessimistic attitude, and if you spend too much time with them they will gradually undermine your own state of mind. Chances are, you know exactly who those people are, so if you feel you are being dragged down, or in an environment where making healthy lifestyle changes is resisted or even ridiculed by those around you, take steps to move away from those negative influences as quickly as possible.
The good news is that if you associate with positive, health-conscious people, their traits tend to rub off on you and stimulate your own wellbeing.
Redefining your close relationships as you grow older will be a critical aspect of your long healthy happy life.If you have good healthy intimate relationships, close family ties and good friends, you are likely to live a longer, healthier and happier life than those who don’t.
When we “retire” everything in our life changes, and that will include our relationship with our partner, adult children and their families and close friends.
How you nurture these family relationships, and choose your close friends is therefore one of the most important building blocks to your long, healthy. happy and wealthy life.
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