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Happy older couple sitting on couch together, petting their dogTips for building a happy marriage in retirement

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Retirement can be enjoyable and satisfying as couples are able to spend more time together and grow closer. But it requires planning and committing to each other to maintain a happy marriage in the retirement phase of life. The following are some suggestions to make the transition easier and to help with creating meaningful and healthy relationships in retirement.


Open communication


Couples are less likely to have a happy marital relationship when they don't talk about their different expectations of retirement. It takes time and effort for couples to create a retirement plan that they enjoy. Communicate with each other about thoughts, concerns, hopes, challenges, dreams and expectations of retirement.


Talk to each other openly about changes that retirement may bring and options to make adjustments. Mutually agree on roles, expectations and how household tasks will be shared. Being flexible to negotiate and willing to share and compromise with each other can help ensure the transition goes smoothly and strengthen the relationship. Continuing to keep open lines of communication is an important part of the journey.


Quality time and boundaries


Couples need to spend time together to enrich and recharge their relationship. However, lacking personal time can create stress, frustration and strain. Both time together and time apart are important for couples in the retirement stage. They need to discuss and agree on how much time they want to spend with family, grandchildren and friends, doing hobbies, volunteer work and community activities. Establishing a balance between couple time and personal time is vital to maintain a happy marriage.


Physical boundaries around the house can also help reduce conflict. For instance, separate offices or space for hobbies can be helpful. Setting boundaries to protect couple and personal time and respecting each other's schedules and space can provide a sense of fulfillment, structure and satisfaction in retirement.


Being active and connected


Retirement provides many opportunities for couples to be social and connected to the outside world. In order to maintain good health as individuals and as a couple, it's very important to get out of the house, be active and stay connected. For instance, take a walk, join clubs, take classes, learn new languages, do hobbies with friends, travel, do exercises in a group, help with service projects, volunteer, or get involved in your church and community activities. However, it's also important to avoid over-scheduling or over-planning.


Overall, keep a positive and optimistic attitude, a sense of humor, and be patient with each other to secure and enjoy a happy retirement together.


Baumgardner, J. (2010). Retirement and marriage. (accessed on August 15, 2014)

Price, C. A. (2003). Marriage after retirement. (accessed on August 3, 2014)

Smith, S. Family relationships in later life. (accessed on August 10, 2014)


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Last Updated 04/15/2016