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Coping with relationship in retirement

Community Member

Hi. I hope there are some retired people out there who can relate to this. I am in my early sixties and retired from a busy and stressful federal government job about 2 years ago. I have been unable to find part-time work in my field of expertise (which would be the ideal scenario for me). My partner of 20 years is still working, from home. I am pretty bored, filling in my time with finishing a major house renovation, walking our dogs, art classes, minding step-grandchildren etc.

I am finding the strain of being around my partner for so many hours per week is taking a heavy toll on my feelings for him, and my lack of a meaningful role does not help. I find him so irritating, negative and critical. When I talk about my unhappiness his response is to turn it around and criticise me even more. We have six adult children between us and he has four small grandchildren. When his children want a baby-sitter we oblige but of course he disappears to his study to work and I am left holding the baby (literally lol). I am very fond of them but would like to enjoy them together.

I feel like we are living like brother and sister and there is no love and affection. I find myself wondering more and more often what it might be like if I just left him. The thought of setting up my own place is very enticing - not having to compromise over every tiny thing - yay ! I also hate the constant arguments and his knee-jerk reactions to everything. Engaging conversation between us has also become non-existent. I think perhaps we are just very bored with each other. Well, me anyway. I just bury myself in solo pursuits as much as I can.

I think he would be appalled that I am thinking of leaving but I could be wrong. He is awful to his ex-wife and I imagine he will be awful to me too and try to prevent me having an ongoing relationship with his kids and grandchildren. It won’t be pretty.

4 Replies 4

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear Sunline

Welcome to the forum. I hope we can help you manage your new life.

I retired at 64 and wondered what I was going to do with myself. Fortunately I was already engaged with volunteer work and was able to expand this. I left my husband eight years before retirement for pretty much the same reasons that you find upsetting.

How you and your husband will get on if you separate I do not know. It was a huge shock to my ex. I moved some distance away. I think it was a good move but I did fall into a huge depression. Never been depressed before. I think it was as big a shock to me to live alone regardless of the relationship difficulties. It was something I had not considered.

I needed a purpose in life. I suppose going to work every day gave me that purpose though truth to tell I felt just as alone as before I left. When I retired I found I had no natural supports. I trialled many activities for a short time until I found something I was passionate about. This was the start of learning to live a satisfactory and fulfilled life. We all have different needs and this is what helped me.

What satisfies each of us is individual. Once you know what gives you purpose I think everything else falls into line. You may decide to stay with your partner because it is convenient for both of you. Or you may believe it is better to separate. There is no right or wrong answer. Whatever you do I think needs to be thoroughly thought through before taking any action. Where will you live? Access to the children. Finding a new home or your partner moving out. What about finances.

Hope that is helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions.


Thanks for your input. I so agree with you about having a purpose - I think that is my main problem and it feeds into everything else. I do try things and get interested for a while but then drop them. I guess I am used to being driven by the demands of work. Being self-motivated is harder !

Definitely agree about self motivation. It's one of the biggest problems when we have with conditions such as depression. We all want to get well but as the saying goes, "Our get up and go has got up and gone".

I tried to find activities by going to anything I felt may appeal. Bit of a scattergun approach and not very successful. Technically I was on long service leave and it did feel as though I was on holiday. I found it very enjoyable to potter around and come and go as I pleased. I also had a pretty high stress level job. I live on my own which makes my situation different to yours but I believe the principles are the same.

I really had to think about what gave me joy and satisfaction. Was it being with people, helping people, engaging in something that was solitary. I think the major division is whether you want to be part of something that gives you personal enjoyment or take on a role to help others. Very simplified I know but to me this is how it seemed. What satisfied my soul. So I joined a meditation group, was invited to join a book club group, was asked to be part of an organisation which worked in the community, and I was off.

Managing deadlines is a great motivator. However, I think it motivates us to get something completed and we then walk away to another challenge. This keeps us interested and excited. No boring perpetual re-runs. Retiring does not usually offer frequent changes. Instead we need to look into ourselves.

Have you tried Mindfulness? This practice helps us to focus on what is before us, what we are actually doing, whether we enjoy it or not, rather than working on one thing and thinking about the 24 hours. It is quite amazing how it alters your perspective. You would have done some of this at work when carrying out various aspects of your job. A very narrow focus on what you are doing and not getting distracted with what comes next. There are all sorts of books on this and as many web sites. Google Jon Kabat Zinn and mindfulness. I suggest this as a way to centre yourself and give yourself time and space to make decisions. It's also good for our mental health even when we do not have poor mental health.


Hi Sunline

I'm quite a few years off retiring myself, so I can't really add much to this, but I did read your comment about being driven by the demands of work, rather than being self-motivating. Would an option be for you to join a volunteer organisation in a management committee role? There are so many clubs and organisations out there constantly looking for people to take on organisation management responsibilities that a lot of people in FT work simply can't do. Depending on what organisation you join (sports, animal rescue, social justice, whatever suits), this could provide the purpose you are seeking? Sometimes it's not enough to get out of bed in the morning for just ourselves, but when other people are relying on us, this can make all the difference to our sense of worth.

I would definitely have a chat with the bank and a lawyer if necessary if you are thinking about separating from your partner, particularly if superannuation may be an issue. It is often far more expensive to live alone than people realise, but this isn't a reason to stay, just a reason to be more prepared and plan ahead for all eventualities.

All the very best