How couples can create a satisfying relationship for retirement
You don’t do retirement alone if you’re part of a couple. I spoke to marriage therapist Bryan Craig about couples preparing for retirement and he suggested there are three areas that can be worked on to help create a satisfying, happy relationship.
That’s to develop the kind of relationship and experience a couple would want in their retirement years. In any years, actually.
1. A positivity about the relationship
The first is what he calls ‘a positivity about the relationship’. This is a relationship where a couple has a sense of trust and respect for each other.
It’s a relationship where innermost thoughts and feelings of love and affection are readily expressed. Where mutual respect leads not only to self-disclosure but removes the fear of the possibility of judgement, exploitation or betrayal.
These elements are important for developing a satisfying and happy relationship.
2. Openness within the relationship
The second is the degree of openness or availability in the relationship. This is about being emotionally available to each other by hearing the other.
‘John Gottman [head of the US Relationship Research Institute] said it this way,’ says Craig, ‘“Turn toward each other by giving full attention.” It’s like your heart is ready to give your full attention and concern to your partner. That’s the kind of attitude that builds intimacy and relationship.’
Craig adds that this implies a willingness to give the time needed to build the relationship.
3. Affirmation within the relationship
The third is affirmation or responsiveness within the relationship. This is about sharing and responding to each other.
What this does is demonstrate acceptance and being affectionate to each other, sensing each other’s needs and understanding each other’s heart.
‘Even after 46 years of marriage,’ he adds, speaking of his own experience, ‘I discovered there was still a need to grow and deepen the relationship by renewing the sense of love and emotional commitment to each other.’
A good place to start
It comes back to each person in the relationship taking responsibility to help the relationship grow by first recognising your own emotions and feelings. Craig notes that it’s almost impossible to share and connect with your partner at an emotional level if you don’t know what you’re feeling.
Here’s how you can start: Just ask yourself, ‘What are the messages that run my life? What is my inner dialogue.’
If you have difficulties with this, you can simply spend time together and talking—sharing.
Not sure what to talk about? asks Craig. Answer: Begin with the events of the day, but make sure you express how you feel—the emotions you have—about what has happened. This simple step can help open the doors of communication.