One important aspect of retirement that a lot of people don’t prepare for is all the time you’re going to be spending with your spouse. Now, I work with my wife, and I go home with my wife, and I go to bed with my wife and when I wake up, there’s my wife. We’re together all the time. This can be challenging in terms of what we should talk about. I can’t go home and say “this is what happened at work today,” because she was there. She was already a part of it. So, I have to work really hard and I think she has to work hard at having meaningful conversations about things that are not work-related.
When you think about it, so much of what we talk to our spouses about (if we don’t work with them already) is all about work: what happened at work, the people who visited our workplaces, everything related to work. It’s easy to have conversations about that if there is no mutual sharing of the experience. We are sharing brand new experiences with that person; it would be a brand new experience to hear it. When you’re retired, though, you lose that conversation topic. You have to think about how to really grow that relationship. How do we really have a meaningful conversation that is something that’s not only enjoyable, but something that makes a difference to the way we think, or how we feel, or identifies a difference that we ought to talk about? A topic that is interesting and stimulating, that brings us closer together rather than just passing the time?
"It’s surprising to them that the bulk of their communication is about work."
I find that when we talk to retired folks about where their meaningful relationships are going to be, and where the meaningful conversations are going to be, I ask them to think about how often they talk to their spouse or partner about things that are totally work-related? How often do you have conversations that are not? It’s surprising to them that the bulk of their communication is about work. People at work, things at work, people who visited work. But, if you’re going to retire, you have to be able to know--what are you going to talk about?