We have a relationship with retirement.
And as with human relationships, it can be characterized by everything from infatuation to abiding love to discomfort, hostility, and sometimes despair. We can take it for granted without thinking much about it. Or we can take care of it and regularly examine the quality of the relationship, checking in with it.
“How are retirement and I getting along these days?”
I like this thought because it suggests that like our human relationships, our relationship with retirement shouldn’t be taken for granted. Circumstances change. We change. Love can grow or flag. Frustration can grow or disappear.
This thought was inspired by an email from The Gottman Institute, a beacon of extra-strength, cut-to-the-chase, evidence-based relationship thinking.
In “The Marriage Minute,” a brief, regular Gottman email, the subject line recently was, “Difference doesn’t have to be painful.”
The email begins with this: “Most issues in a relationship are not solvable.”
Few of us would say it like that, or even admit that’s true. But John and Julie Gottman say we are hard-wired through our personalities to have differences with our partners that just won’t get solved. Introversion versus extroversion. Messiness versus orderliness. Fundamental differences in worldview.
Acceptance is vital to survival. Stubborn resistance is asking for trouble.
“Prioritize dialogue instead,” reads the email. “Not simply conversation, but an actual effort to understand your partner’s point of view.
“That means learning to be curious and compassionate and creative about your perpetual issues.”
Likewise with retirement.
We might not like certain things about the post-career life. And those dislikes might be unsolvable. But we are in a relationship nonetheless.
Our best chance of having a healthy relationship with retirement probably relies on curiosity, compassion, (for ourselves at this stage of life), and creativity.
All three are skills that usually pose as traits. All can be sharpened throughout life. How sharp are yours? Keep sharpening.
Endnote: The Gottmans have also wisely said, “Happily ever after is not by chance. It’s by choice.”